Desperately Disappointing Apple event

I was sat on my sofa with a cup of tea in my hand and a piece of cake, looking forward to the Apple event for autumn 2016. I never believe any of the rumours flying around in the months prior to one of these events. It’s preferable to wait until the actual announcement is made by Apple themselves. Even so, it was highly likely that a new thin strip of a screen was going to appear on the body of the MacBook Pro and be configurable. Sure enough, that’s what arrived and not a lot else. I was so disappointed at the end of the long event, about 90 minutes, I felt that Apple had wasted my time. I almost feel violated.

Microsoft 1 – Apple 0

Just a day or two before the Apple event Microsoft had an event and introduced a Surface Studio which is a huge touchscreen computer. It seems you can use it with the screen upright and directly in front of you. You can also fold the screen downwards and towards you to have a angled screen which is just perfect for artists and designers to work on. This is the sort of innovation you would expect from Apple, but instead it came from Microsoft. I would not be at all surprised if there were many art and design professionals who will be getting themselves one of these Surface Studio computers and leaving Apple Mac behind. The Windows operating system is much better than it used to be. While it might not be as gorgeous and delightful to use as the Apple operating system, it could be good enough in conjunction with excellent innovative hardware. I feel like Apple was given a bloody nose by Microsoft this week. The Surface Studio is quite expensive though.

Hats off to Apple for accessibility

Apple have been good in the area of accessibility for its users for a long time. At the start of the event they showed a movie being made by a person in need of the accessibility features within the operating system. Apple announced a website specific to accessibility users and we can’t praise Apple highly enough in this arena. The video showed Mac users can get as much benefit from accessibility features as can users of iOS.

Layers of TV content and controllability

Apple introduced an app called TV. Rather than having this as an extra layer between the applications and the user interface why didn’t they just make this the interface for the Apple TV? The answer to that question must be something to do with not all of the app makers wanted to be within the new TV app. It seems that some application makers such as Netflix prefer to be separate and not in the same realm as other app makers. This works out as a poorer experience for the users by there being an added layer to negotiate when watching TV. It will be okay if everything you want to watch is within this TV application, but for many they will have to jump in and out. This will be a fractured experience when it comes to choosing and using video content from the Apple TV. I’ve only just got into using Netflix and I’m loving it. So I for one I’m disappointed with Netflix not being a part of this new TV app from Apple.

See irrelevant tweets alongside your football game

Apple also announced this thing where you can give over part of your TV screen to messages coming in from Twitter. This was shown as being something you could do with a sports game or it could be something to do with a political event taking place. It could even be something you’d see within an Apple event. The extra information coming in is not coming in from your own Twitter accounts. From what I’ve heard so far, it seems that this is basically a curated list of tweets. This kind of defeats the point of the way Twitter is supposed to be used. If you have tweets coming in, you want to be able to interact with them. I don’t expect many people will use this feature as it makes the TV screen too busy and confusing to watch. Many will decide to go the route they go now, which is to use an iPad or iPhone as a second screen. It’ll be better to see tweets coming in from people who you’ve decided to follow and with whom you can interact.

 

What we were all waiting for – Is that it?

What most people were interested in with this Apple event was hardware. The majority would be watching this event for the new and innovative, marvellous and fantastic new Apple computers. What we got was far short of that. Apple gave us two and half computers with a new MacBook Pro. The main feature on two of these MacBooks was the function keys being removed from the keyboard and replaced by a strip of a touchscreen. Microsoft came up with a large computer which was all touchscreen and Apple gives the users just a little strip at the top of the keyboard. What is going on here? The half of a computer is a version of the new MacBook Pro with the old style function keys.

The Apple Touch Bar

touchbar1

The good thing about this Touch Bar is it also gives you a fingerprint reader. We’ll be able to use this to log into the computer and we’ll also use this to pay with Apple Pay. Providing the app makers add it to their applications there will be extra controls for the app on the Touch Bar. Adobe was shown off at the event as having started to integrate this into Photoshop. The Apple applications will all have this and it could be very useful in the Photos app and also in Final Cut Pro. The developer for Day One has said he will be putting it into that application. I think I may have also spotted that Affinity will be adding it to Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. Until we get using the new Touch Bar were not really going to know how good and how useful it is to us users. Maybe it will be fantastic and inspirational and a great way to interact with out computers.

Thinner, Smaller and Lighter

It was to be expected the new computers would be thinner, occupying less volume space and would be lighter. That’s what Apple does. Of course it’s nice to have a computer that is lighter to carry around. It’s lovely to have one taking less space upon your desk. There’s not much of anything else though demonstrating innovation. The other changes to the computer is the removal of most of the other ports on the MacBook Pro. The 3.5 mm audio jack is still there, but everything else is gone. All the other ports have been replaced by USB – C ports. From these ports you can connect up your Thunderbolt, monitors, external hard drives, power cables and so on. For many people this is going to be a time of change denoted by having to buy extra dongles in order to connect older devices. No worries though, this is par for the course as nothing ever stays the same with computing. I like the track pad being larger. That’s good for giving us more room for gestures.

macbook-pro-2016

Nothing for the desktop class computer

The Mac Pro, the iMac and the Mac Mini were all ignored and forgotten about. Will Apple come up with a Bluetooth keyboard with a Touch Bar included? Will Apple make any updates to any of these desktop computers in the near future? This is another area where pro users may defect to Microsoft and Windows due to lack of updating of the desktop computer models. It’s possible that these computers are being neglected because they’re not bringing in the sort of money being brought in by mobile computing devices. For a large proportion of the computer buying public computers have been good enough. There’s been no need to upgrade computers on the desktop because they do well enough the jobs being asked of them. Maybe this is why Apple have been neglecting their range of desktop computers. I foresee there will be much complaining and gnashing of teeth within the Apple community over the next month or so. It is to be expected that the Apple podcasters and bloggers will have plenty to say about this lack of innovation.

What do we want to see from Apple

Of course we are going to want to see the Touch Bar being available for the desktop computer users. Is this something that’s going to possible with a Bluetooth keyboard? I sort of doubt Apple might come up with something such as a extra large device being a mix of an iPad and a iMac. This is what would be needed to compete with the Microsoft Surface Pro just announced the other day. It’s likely this would be too small a market for Apple to enter into. Personally, I think this is the sort of thing Apple should be doing. They should be making devices like this which are cutting-edge and different. Some of the things to get made in this way would not be successful, but somethings would be fantastically brilliant and would filter down to the ordinary computer users. There would be a trickle-down effect as the best and most useful innovations are incorporated into the day-to-day user’s computers.

The report card for the autumn AppleEvent 2016

Could do better and not trying hard enough. Apple is losing ground to competitors as far as innovation is concerned. We expect Apple to try harder and come up with the goods. Apple filled up the Apple Event with too much filling and fluff. They told us about stuff we knew already and wasted our time rather than getting it all done in a half an hour. Apple should be more respectful of our time. In future I will be wondering whether I should bother watching the Apple event on my Apple TV. I could be better off waiting till the next day and watch one of the videos on the Internet showing the main features in 5 to 7 minutes. I did see a video this morning which did exactly that. If you leave in some of the demonstrations you could pad the event out to 30 minutes. Come Apple get your finger out. This autumn Apple Event is best describes as insipid.

Customising Your Mac Using SuperTab App

Let’s get into using SuperTab

We all want to have our computer setup just the way we like it. I doubt if there are many amongst us who like to use a vanilla computer as soon as it comes out of the wrapper. There are certain applications which we have to install to make a computer our own. These can be applications of high functionality for storing files, such as Dropbox. Another application of extreme use would be 1Password. I just have to have these applications on my computer as soon as I set it up from new otherwise I can’t get into any of my web logins or use some of the other applications I like to use. I keep all of my application serial numbers within 1Password making it a vital app. Then there is TextExpander which is a must for me even though I don’t necessarily make so much use of it due to using dictation frequently. Let’s not forget the utility applications of Keyboard Maestro and Hazel. These applications for me are in the second line of must haves. The ones in the first line have to be there to help me do the basics and these ones are for customisation and extreme utility. Maybe you could be using SuperTab to control your computer.

A new addition to my personalised Mac setup – Using SuperTab

I seem to remember using SuperTab a couple of years back and I didn’t feel like it made much sense to me. I can’t remember exactly what it was I didn’t like about it, but now I’m starting to get it. Perhaps it’s because there’s a new version offering more functionality. One of the extra functionalities is being able to control it using your voice. That doesn’t bother me quite so much because I can already do that to a certain extent using Dragondictate. I’ve also noticed that there are one or two things it does which I can already do with other applications. For example, there is a clipboard manager and I already have that available to me with the applications Copied, Keyboard Maestro and Alfred. In the past I was using one called JumpCut. I changed over to using Copied because it synchronises clipboards across to my iOS devices.

What else can using SuperTab do for you?

SuperTab also does screenshots and for this I’ve been using an application called Snappy. In the past I was using an app that connected up with Evernote, but that stopped working quite so well so I got rid of it. Another thing with SuperTab is Auto Types which again is something I can already do with Text Expander. There is even a setting within the system preferences allowing this sort of text replacement of a larger piece of text by using a short code. TextExpander is the one to go for even though they have recently changed their payment model and made it more expensive. I’m wondering if SuperTab have something not available already?

So what is SuperTab good for?

The user functionality in SuperTab is in speed. You gain quick access to a range of functions using a keyboard combination shortcut. Using the combination of Cmd and Tab or Option and Tab without SuperTab gives us access to other applications running. It is a quick way of switching between one application and another. It’s a keyboard combination that every Mac user should know and use often. So it only makes sense to give us other uses when we’re using that keyboard combination anyway. Every time you’re changing application from one to another using Cmd and Tab you’re getting a reminder of all of the other things you can do with SuperTab. So you are more likely to go back too it for other things. The whole app becomes more persistent, whatever you are doing.

What does SuperTab Look like?

Instead of seeing a line of just the active applications you a whole lot more. We also see another line of applications you have in the Dock. There are rows of icons for recent apps used and recent files. There are rows for clipboard history and a row for custom items. Still with your hands on the keyboard you can move around these rows of SuperTab options to get things done. Make the tabs stay there by changing the settings and you can use keys on your keyboard to move around quickly. Using the letters A or Z you can move up and down. Use the H key to hide a selected application. With the Q key you can quit a selected application. You also have the arrow keys on your keyboard for moving around to choose what you want to do with SuperTab. I like using SuperTab on my iMac.

Making Supertab persistent on screen

You do need to have the SuperTab application itself to persist on the screen to be able to use these keystrokes. I have it set up so that it stays there if the cursor moves after I’ve initiated SuperTab. If I haven’t touched the Magic trackpad then SuperTab disappears. One way for me to keep usingSuperTab on screen is to keep holding down on the command key. I can move around within SuperTab and as soon as I let go of the Cmd key I get switched to whatever I’ve chosen. That could be a file, an application, a recent document, a command to take a screenshot or an item from the clipboard history. I’ve set up to tab rows for clipboard history. One row is for clipboard text and the other is for images in the clipboard history.

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Navigating folders using SuperTab

If you have folders that you regularly go to, to get items you can have these as permanent fixtures on one of the SuperTab rows. For example you could navigate to your pictures folder or another specific folder for images. When you get to the image you want, you get the option to show in the Finder or send by email. It’s possible to move the file to your Dropbox and you get a preview if it’s an image. I was somehow expecting I would be able to click and drag and drop a file from SuperTab to somewhere else. That hasn’t been working for me so it seems you have to go to the Finder to get that job done.

Clutter free folders with SuperTab

I do use the application Hazel to keep my desktop and downloads folder clean and tidy. I have a number of Hazel rules which will activate if I put certain types of file onto the desktop. This makes it nice and easy to always have my desktop clutter free. I like to have all of the files in their proper places.

SuperTab does something like this also. The folder has to be one you’ve added to your SuperTab rows. Right click on the folder or use the configure button and choose Manage Content. This is where you tell SuperTab to move files based on how long they’ve been within the folder. Something that’s been placed in the folder five days ago will get moved into a saved items folder, if that’s what you want. This can be very handy if you have a working folder and you only want to see the files you are working on for today. Everything from the previous days will be tucked away in a folder called SuperTab Saved Items. There aren’t many options as to where you can have these files and folders moved to. It’s not like you could choose to send files to a specific folder within Dropbox for example. This doesn’t really matter if you have Hazel also working for you. Have Hazel watch the SuperTab saved items folder to do a secondary cleanup. The main thing is that you have the options so that you can work the way you want to work and get things done. I just love having all of this customisation available to me and I can get the computer to do half my work for me. At least by using SuperTab by itself you’ll still have easy access to the files that have been moved. It’s just that it will be nice and tidy in the folders where you have it set up.

Using SuperTab for quick access to websites

I generally use Safari is my favourite or preferred web browser. What I can do though is to have YouTube open up in Chrome browser from a link contained within SuperTab tabs. Chrome is better for YouTube or for other sites that rely on Flash. Saves having Flash installed on your computer. It’s even possible to be automatically logged into iCloud by using the Auto Type function. I don’t recommend that unless your computer is secure and only you have access to it. It is a useful option in SuperTab to access websites.

Using your voice to control SuperTab

This is a fairly new addition to SuperTab and only to be expected with the arrival of Siri on Mac OS Sierra. I’m talking to my computer all day long anyway so it makes sense for me. With SuperTab I can use the keyboard combination of Control-Option-Cmd – a three finger salute – to get SuperTab to do something for me. I could for example tell SuperTab to take a screenshot. I didn’t find this worked very well for me and I could get the job done better using DragonDictate software. Well I thought it wasn’t working very well, but I was wrong. I expected the voice control to work after just pressing the three keys. What I should have been doing is to hold the three keys down and then speaking. Now it is working perfectly and am finding it a useful option for when I haven’t got a DragonDictate operational.

Customizing your mac

Taking screenshots with SuperTab

There are keyboard shortcuts built into the operating system allowing you to take screenshots. The only problem is, I can never remember what those keyboard shortcuts are. In my menubar I have two third party screenshot applications. The one called Snappy is one of been using for some time and is very useful. It has some basic tools to allow me to put text and little drawings on top. I also like the fact that the screenshot persists on the screen until I double tap on it to get rid of it. I can then choose what I want to do with it and there are some built-in options accessible from a menu. Then the other one I have just recently added to my iMac is called Screenie. This application is useful because I can drag-and-drop from the drop down menu from the menu bar into applications. Using SuperTab for taking screenshots has the extra functionality of allowing me to choose which type of screenshot I want. I get all of these choices.

  • Selection of a portion of screen
  • Selection of a portion of the screen after a delay
  • Manually selecting a window
  • Manually selecting a window after a delay
  • Automatically capturing the front most window
  • Capture the entire screen
  • Capture the entire screen after a delay

SuperTab will automatically hide the icons on your desktop if you want a clean screenshot. This is particularly useful if you haven’t used the clutter free desktop options with SuperTab. Or if you don’t use Hazel to do the same thing.

There are a number of options available, such as where you save the screenshot. If you need to take screenshots of more than one area on your screen if you hold down the Cmd key you can take one screenshot after another. Little extras making me think I will keep SuperTab around.

Accessing your screenshots

You can get access to the screenshots from the SuperTab icon in the SuperTab rows. That gives you options such as copying to clipboard or opening in Preview. You can even send to trash if you want to. Use SuperTab to open up the folder containing the screenshots. Or have a special row in SuperTab to automatically display your recent screenshots. SuperTab will also work hand-in-hand with Snagit to give you extra functionality. I’ll not be doing that as Snagit is too expensive for my liking.

The Mac 20 Q verdict on SuperTab

Customising Your Mac Using SuperTab

After spending some time with SuperTab I’m getting to like it. There are a number of things within the application I have already got sorted out with other apps. It doesn’t really matter because SuperTab just gives me another way to access my computer operations. There will be times when it will be preferable to use SuperTab and other times a different app. SuperTab will be continually popping up in front of me every time I use the keyboard combination, so I can see me getting more comfortable with it. There will be the constant reminders of what the app can do.

Changing from one application to another just by using the keyboard will be extremely handy. Being able to get to applications not presently open, but are in the list of recent applications or are on the dock will be useful. When I’m working with images with various applications the pictures get put into different folders. I’m going to set up SuperTab with a Meta Folder so I’ll have all of those folders quickly available.

The other functionality haven’t explored yet is the control over applications. You can auto ensure certain applications are running at specific times or always. You can auto hide applications when they’ve been in the background for a specific period of time. This would help to keep your desktops clean and tidy. It’s also possible to set applications to auto quit if idle. I can see there will be some automation I can set up using these features of SuperTab.

I like the voice control available within SuperTab and I plan to experiment more with what I can do with it. I’ll try using it to open websites and take screenshots as well as hiding background applications.

SuperTab is not an expensive application and I think it’s worth having. It’s certainly worth giving a try and you can use it for 30 days in the trial mode. You’ll find on the website for SuperTab a few intro videos plus lots of other information to help you get started.

Writing with the DragonDictate application V6.0.1

DragonDictate Professional for MacThis is with an update to the crappy first version came out with version 6. It’s still not showing the commands window and I’m a bit surprised because it’s supposed to have been fixed. It’s the same as before when I click on the show commands in the status window (That’s the right-hand of the three icons), nothing happens at all. The dictation seems to work quite nicely and the words are popping up on the screen quickly. Maybe I should try to do this with a new profile for this version and see if that makes a difference. I do already have a different profile that I could try that’s been created with version 6 of DragonDictate and maybe that will be good enough. Who knows, will have to wait and see. I did some tests to see if it would start working if I switched some of the other things off-line the correction window and the guidance window. It didn’t make any difference at all. I will have to send some emails to the people at nuance and ask them what’s going on. I don’t really have much hope for getting any help from them but it will be interesting to find out if they at least try. I suppose I could always do that thing where you turn it off and turn it back on again and see if it works then. It does seem to be the cure-all for many technological problems. I wonder if they have to do things like that when they’re in the space station in orbit. There would have to be be worried that it might not start again properly.

Loving Scrivener againScrivener

In some ways it’s quite nice to be using Scrivener again although I have got rather used to using Ulysses. The version of markdown is very good within Ulysses and the application also allows me to publish directly to WordPress. Sometimes that ability doesn’t work too well, especially when I’m trying to do it from one of my iOS devices. Something else I quite like about using Scrivener is the fact that it gives me the word count and character count at the bottom of the screen. I don’t get that when I’m using Scrivener I have to press a key combination to see how many words I’ve written using the voice dictation. The key combination is Command and 7. I am pretty sure I don’t get the ability from within Scrivener to upload directly to a WordPress installation. I can export out to a HTML text formats which will go directly into the text to side of a WordPress post within Safari. I used to use the application Marsedit for all of my blogging. It was pretty good as a way to have all of my blogging in one place. Then on the other hand I have the actual text of the blog posts within Ulysses and could also do the same within Scrivener if I want to. So the Marsedit application has kind of fallen by the wayside for the moment. One of the problems with using Ulysses as my method of posting to WordPress is that I don’t get any choice for how I want to set the images within the post. When I’m using Marsedit I can set the position of the image to the left, to the centre or to the right of the page and have the text flow around the picture. What I’ve done to get around this to a certain extent is just by putting in larger images and just having them all centred on the page. Quite a lot of the blog posts I make are long posts and having large images within the proposed works out pretty good. I don’t need to have text flowing around images to make the blog post look longer or more interesting.

Testing of DragonDictate for Mac version 6

I should have set up a timer to see how long I’m doing the dictation for. If the application does crash all start working improperly then I’ll know how long it took for Dragon Professional Individual version 6 to fall over. I really don’t know why they had to choose such a long name for the application. Nuance that made the name of the application sound like it’s a Windows program. It seems to me to be quite ridiculous and over-the-top as a naming convention. Dragon for Mac is what they called it with version 5 and before that it used to be just called DragonDictate. I think many people will still call the application DragonDictate because that is kind of what it is known as within the dictation community. There are a whole other people on Facebook who like to get together and discuss how to get the best from the application. Many times the questions are the same and get asked over and over again. Simple questions and often questions that indicate the person doesn’t really have a clue as to what they’re doing with dictation and using DragonDictate. Many and seem to want to do the transcription type of dictation where you record whatever it is you want to say into some type of recorder. That might be a specific electronic device meant only for transcribing speech or recording audio to be played back at a later stage. It can also be an application you use on either your iPhone or your android phone. I have tried to talk into one of these devices as I’ve been walking the dog and it doesn’t really suit me to dictate that way. I can’t get used to the idea of the silences I need in between saying one thing and the next thing. Sometimes I need some thinking time. When on the front of the computer and dictating directly into the application also get the opportunity to look over the sentences I’ve just dictated. This is particularly useful when I want to check to see that the speech to text has done a good job of converting what I said into text on the screen. DragonDictate does seem to be a rather good application for converting speech into text but sometimes there will be one or two words it doesn’t get exactly right.

There are still problems with this Dragon Dictate and it isn’t working quite right.

After writing 1000 words I took a break to watch a football game and when getting back to the computer I used DragonDictate to write into the application Day One. It didn’t take long before Dragon format started messing around and misbehaving. I decided it must be that it didn’t like that particular application. In the past it has worked well with Day One. So went back to work with Scrivener and immediately the problems continued. Within the space of dictating one sentence DragonDictate crashed and had to be restarted. One of my much used commands stopped working it wouldn’t let me Cache Document. I think I shall have two write a stern email to Nuance pointing out the continued bad quality of the software they’re putting out. As users we should keep on their backs to improve this software and get it to a decent standard. Especially considering the amount of money we paid to buy it and upgrade it.

How the best software behaves – Not like DragonDictate V6

This latest session of dictation I’ve put in a couple of hundred words and everything is going okay again. Whatever software you’re using for doing whatever task really needs to get out of the way to let you get on with the job in hand. If you spend half of the time worrying about whether the basics of the software are going to continue working it does tend to knock your confidence in the credibility of said software. I suppose we could just take a pragmatic approach to the use of Dragon dictate and to love it when it’s working well and we are able to write three or four times faster than if we were using a keyboard. We can take remedial measures to reset it ready for further use after the application has started to misbehave. Since my latest restart I’ve written another 300 – 400 words and everything is lovely in DragonDictate land again. We just have to look upon DragonDictate as a flawed but brilliant diamond.

There is a possibility that the document is getting cached but it’s not actually showing it. In the previous version it would look like it was selecting the whole of the text and put the cursor at the end. Now when I issue that command it looks like nothing is happening at all. I can see in the guidance window that it was able to recognise what it was I said correctly but there is no evidence as to whether it actually did what it was told to do.

The joy of using Siri on Mac to do stuff

When I saw that the GM version of the beta was available I decided to take the plunge. There’s not much loss in terms of time to install the operating system on the top of what was already there. If I decide later I want to do a clean install I still have the installation disk I made ready to use. The first thing I tried after setting up macOS Sierra was to ask Siri to find all my files from yesterday. Siri was able to do this and tell me in a male voice that files had been found. I will have to change this to a female voice because I prefer that. Siri also showed me the list of files found and I was able to see that as a section in the Today/Notifications area. Cool to save that search and use again any time. I thought if I looked at that search again the following day, it would give me the files I’ve been working on today, the new yesterday. Looking at the saved search it was still showing files as shown on the day the search was performed.

The next command I gave to Siri was to open Ulysses and that also worked as it was supposed to. I can use Dragon to do things like opening applications although this morning it worked better to use Siri when I wanted to get to the system settings. I have now changed the Siri voice to a British (Female). In the system settings you can change the keyboard shortcut. The default shortcut is to hold command space and then start talking when you hear the familiar Siri ping sound. I was quite impressed that the settings was able to use my best external mic as the microphone input. I had thought it would perhaps default back to the internal microphone on the iMac. You can choose if you want Siri to talk back to you and I like to have the audio feedback.

Siri and Privacy

Within system settings there is a button for finding out more about Siri and privacy. It tells us that Siri will send some information to Apple in order to process the requests. Siri needs to know your name and nickname as well as names and nicknames in your contacts. It’s nice to know that when you are requesting documents from your device the names and content of the documents are not sent to Apple. The searches performed locally on your Mac.

You can decide whether you want to have location services turned on or off. If Apple knows the location of your computer it can help with the accuracy of the response to your requests. It really depends upon sort of requests to make and whether series needs to know where you are. If you’re going to ask for something like “Where is the nearest pizza restaurant?” Then it’s going to better if Siri knows your location. It’s not going to be much use if you get given a restaurant in Cupertino if you’re living in a completely different country.

There are more details within the privacy information and I think there’s enough there to give you peace of mind regards your privacy and security when using Siri. If you decide to turn off searing then Apple will delete your user data as well as your recent voice input data. Some voice input data will be retained for a period of time which is generally used for improvements in Siri, dictation and dictation functionality in other Apple products and services.

I feel confident that Apple has our privacy and security looked after properly. They have made a lot of noise about how they don’t want to know about whatever we get up to while using Apple products. They’ve done this even though it is to the detriment of the functionality of the service. Other companies like Google and Facebook want to know everything about you and are happy to use that information to sell you to advertisers. Not so with Apple and this extra layer of using voice-activated computing on our Macs is not going to make anything worse.

What can you do with your Mac using Siri

The best way to finance what Siri can do for you is to ask. Use your keyboard shortcut and pose that question to Siri. You’ll get a list of things you can choose to do or ask. The first question I asked was when was the next Barcelona football club game taking place. Siri was able to tell me correctly that the next time was at 8:30 this evening and which team they were playing. (Barcelona lost at home 1:2 – Useless!). I then asked Siri to tell me my sons phone number. It asked me to choose which name because there was more than one George. I told to read the name I wanted to use and is read out the phone number to me. The whole process was a little bit slow and you could almost have done it quicker by opening the application and doing a search. Only worth doing with Siri if you really just didn’t want to use the keyboard at all. It could be due to the slow Internet I have because the data has to go out of the computer first and the answer has to come back again. I have a particularly slow Internet connection outwards so it’s no big surprise it was a little bit slow.

Siri on mac

Launching applications with Siri is quick and effective. It’s possible to do things like increasing the brightness of your screen by telling Siri to do it. Perform quick calculations such as telling Siri to multiply one number by another to get your answer. Quicker than getting out the calculator and keying in the numbers.

The Mac 20 questions verdict on using Siri on Mac

I am well used to talking to my computer because I use the Nuance Dragon dictation application to write just about everything. It’s pretty easy for me to tell Dragon to go to sleep and then press command and for a short while. I think I could get into the habit of using Siri to do things and to answer my questions. If it’s going to be easier and quicker using our voices to control our computers then certainly we are going to take that option. Apple have been using the marketing term of machine learning with it being applied to making Siri better. It’s going to be interesting to see how that affects the overall working of Siri on Mac. Theoretically, the more Siri on mac gets used then the much better it will get. The only thing we’ll have to worry about is if Skynet get involved!

Do you miss your Mac sometimes?

During the summer I don’t get to spend so much time at the desk with my Mac. Summer time is working time for me to earn some money to buy more tech to play with. I’ll be working six days a week and I’ll just not have a spare moment to use my Mac and the apps I like using. Of course I can still do some computer stuff with my iPad Pro and the iPhone. Not as much time with the mobile end of computing either. I get visitors in the summer too. Last week my sister was here and I really wanted to spend time with her. Even less time to do some writing or working with photos on the Mac. I did show her how I write by using Dragon Dictate. She was definitely impressed by the speed and accuracy of turning my spoken words into text on the screen.

By the way, I got an email from Nuance, the makers of Dragon, to say there is a new version coming out. Supposedly faster because of making use of deep learning. Deep Learning could just be marketing speak for saying – We have made improvements to the way it works already. The cost of the upgrade is $150 which is a bit steep, but par for the course with Nuance. I should be getting a better discount for the upgrade because of already upgrading twice. I’ve gone from version 3 to version 4 and then on to version 5. The upgrades have been problematic, needing a couple of months and some point releases to make the software usable. Will I trust them this time not to make me a beta tester and pay for the privilege? Nuance are changing the name of the product again too. Is it getting a more Windows program sounding name. Dragon Dictate was OK and Dragon for Mac was alright too. Dragon Professional Individual for Mac is getting rather wordy, don’t you think? Since writing the bit above I got an offer from Nuance to buy for $99 plus the vat. I went with that and now I have to wait eleven days to get the download. The release date is 1st of September. It seems a little weird to pre-order and pre buy, but anyway… Fingers crossed the new Dragon will work properly with macOS Sierra when it is released.

Thinking about macOS Sierra and the beta version

I was toying with the idea once again of updating to the latest beta version of the upcoming operating system. The only way I would do this though would be to put it onto a separate SSD drive. This way I’d be able to boot into whichever operating system would be best to use. All of my documents are on discs other than the boot drive so it doesn’t make any difference to my digital content. The only problem I could possibly foresee would be the backing up of the drive I’m booting from. I use SuperDuper to give me a daily automated backup. I have one backup set to do the Thunderbolt data drive and the other one backs up the system drive. I might have to turn off the automated back ups of the system while using the beta of macOS Sierra. I get halfway towards thinking I’m going to do it and then I back off and tell myself to be patient for a little while longer. It’s not as if I have the time to do the clean install I’m planning to do on Mac OS Sierra. I’ll need to make a list of all my applications and the ones I want to reinstall. I’ll need to doublecheck to make sure I have all of the necessary usernames and serial numbers for each of the applications. One or two applications will require the installation file, Dragon Dictate will be one of those. I have those kept safe on one of the backup drives.

Is there much coming in Mac OS Sierra?

  • Siri for Mac (There is extra functionality even though I can do much with DragonDictate)
  • Memories in Photos
  • Apple Pay on the web (not available yet in Spain)
  • Auto Unlock with Apple watch (I don’t expect this to work on my iMac as I don’t have the latest Bluetooth.
  • Universal Clipboard (I use the application Copied which already gives me this functionality)
  • iCloud Drive (I use the application Hazel to keep my Desktop completely clean. Could be handy to have my documents folder in iCloud though)
  • Optimised Storage (I would be worried how this feature might affect my backup strategy)
  • Fancy twiddly bits in Messages (Fun for some people but not exactly earthshattering)
  • New Apple Music experience (I’m not a subscriber to Apple Music)
  • Tabs in some applications (It will tidy a few things up, but won’t affect me much)
  • Picture in Picture (More useful for people using a smaller screen. I have two 27 inch inch screens to work on)

I do like to have the latest version of the operating system on my computer. It’s a good idea especially for security considerations. I expect I will wait until the final version is released. After going through the above list, there isn’t really anything blowing my skirt up, as they say! Have you gone for the beta of macOS?

Apple News is a Joke for a supposedly International company

I’ve had content from my websites being sent to Apple news using RSS for about a year now. I don’t have any information about how well the articles will been read there but I’m sure it’s got some extra eyeballs. I recently saw a update to the Apple News publishing format and I watched a couple of developer videos showing how to create the articles by hand to add extra jazz to them. So I went in to News Publisher via my iCloud and I did the suggested thing of changing from the RSS feed to the news publisher format. This was a bad idea!

Have to submit to Apple

From then on the articles have to be submitted to Apple. Maybe it is the case that once you have had a couple reviewed after that you can just publish your stuff. Who knows? I didn’t get past the submission stage. I find it hard to believe that a supposedly International company with the resources available to Apple only puts the news publisher in the USA, the UK and Australia. I live in Spain, but I write in English because I am British. So my content is all for the English speaking markets. I was dismayed to find Apple disabled my account because of my geolocation.

Apple News

Why isn’t Apple able to roll this out worldwide right from the start? Why can’t they see when content is in English that it should be getting published anyway? Why are they using such a ham-fisted approach to putting Apple News on to the devices? Yes I am a bit miffed with Apple News and how they are handling it.

Not enough people on the job

It took about a week for them to make their decision. When they did it they didn’t say why. They obviously don’t have enough people working in this Apple News department. Apple knows there is a problem here because they put up a message to say that it might take a long time to get feedback from their support department. A sure sign there’s not enough people working in this area for Apple. You have to wonder whether Apple are serious about this news format.

A coders format

There is a web-based application allowing you to add text and photos to put in to a Apple News article. Unfortunately, there is no way to tweak the settings for the article to add some of the fancy extras possible within the Apple news of format. It might be possible to download the code as you can with articles converted to the format by the WordPress plugin. No way to get the handcoded files back in the system.

Good looking content

You can and animations to the content, whether it be the text or the photos. It’s possible to make the photos, galleries, pull quote text and other elements animate on the page. There are nice little tricks such as parallax viewing, fade in and sliding in from the side. Adding motion to an article will instantly make it more interesting and fun to read. It makes it more interesting for the reader because it is different from your usual plaintext.

Comparison with Adobe

Adobe have a product allowing you to create news articles as webpages. It doesn’t have the app for viewing as does Apple News. The look of the articles is great with the parallax viewing and it’s easy to publish these articles. There are even iOS applications available to create these on your iOS devices. There doesn’t seem to be any restriction as to where in the world you can be in order to create Adobe Spark Pages.

I just spent 15 minutes creating a Spark page using the app on my iPhone. It was quickly and easily done and the finished result looks great. I was able to see in the preview of the page the parallax affect of pictures moving at a different speed behind text. Captions for photos were sliding in from the side and the whole finished webpage looked great. To do the same with Apple news publisher would have taken much longer and would have required me to roll up my sleeves and get in to coding. With the Adobe Spark Pages there is a limit on what you can make the pictures and text do. But the app gives you just enough and it’s very easy to use. It isn’t possible to put in line links into the text but you can have button links in between blocks of text.

There is a full set of Spark applications for making images with text, video and webpages.

Not impressed with Apple News

At some point in time Apple will make the Apple News publisher format available in other countries. I suppose I will allow my content to be published there when the time comes. In the meantime I can do little more than just wait. I did wonder if it would be possible for me to use my UK Apple ID to get access to Apple News. I opened up iCloud to see if it was available and there wasn’t The same set of facilities available.

Having to use code, Really?

It’s not particularly difficult as far as code goes. Even so, it’s not very good having to resort to hand coding using JSON to do anything interesting. I suppose the web application will improve over time. I certainly hope so! I would also expect to see an Mac application and an iOS dedicated to producing content for Apple News. Either that or I would expect to see an export to Apple News format from something like Pages or iBooks Author.

Ulysses WordPress Publishing on your Mac or iOS computer

Update to Ulysses writer software

Ulysses WordPress Publishing on the Mac. I tried out the update on the iPad Pro first and I was pleased to see that the Ulysses WordPress Publishing works pretty good. I tried it with putting pictures into the blog post and the picture didn’t get uploaded with the post. I don’t know if it is supposed to be sent with the text. I’ll ask the developers. It works quite well that I can send to WordPress as a draft and do the finishing off on the actual website. This will allow me to set up the SEO preferences for the post using the plug-in for SEO. I want to checkout and find out what other updates are included within the latest update to this excellent application for writers. Ulysses is one of the great Mac Apps to use alongside an iOS version.

Ulysses WordPress Publishing

To get this set up all you need to do is to put in the URL to the WordPress website along with the username and password. It takes a little while to log in and then after that you can do your posting directly to WordPress. This works with your own hosted WordPress site and will also work with WordPress.com. One way to set this up on the Mac is to go into the preferences. Go to the accounts tab of preferences in the same place where you have your Medium account if you have that set up already. At the bottom of that left-hand side click on the plus button. You’ll be given a pop-up when you can choose from Medium, WordPress.com or a custom WordPress. The next thing you’ll see is the login to use your WordPress account. Add the URL, the username and password and login. The other way to get to all of this set up is to show the preview sheet for the document you’re working on. Usually it shows the last type of export you used such as HTML or text. In the top menu bar click in the centre and choose publishing. Just under that there is another drop-down menu given you access to any of the WordPress or medium websites you’ve set up already. If the one you want isn’t set up, just click on the manage and that will take you into the accounts preferences for Ulysses.

Ulysses WordPress Publishing

The preview of your blog post in Ulysses

There is a preview and you could set one up to match perfectly whatever you are using in your WordPress setup. It’s not too difficult to create themes to use in Ulysses. You’ll get a dialogue box asking for the title for your blog post. Underneath that you can choose the schedule for the blog post. You can choose immediately or for a specific date. Often you’ll publish directly, but sometimes you might want to send it to your website as a draft. I like to send blog posts from Ulysses as a draft which gives me a chance to set up the search engine optimisation for the post. The other options are for setting up categories, tags and format.

Showing the details of your blog post

When working with Ulysses WordPress Publishing Click on the button to show details and you’ll see where you can set up an excerpt, featured image, the slug for the post and the title link. This is also where you choose the text format, either markdown or HTML. It seems that there are enough options within this drop-down dialogue to ensure you get a good WordPress blog post from your Ulysses writing.

WordPress publishing with Ulysses in action

When I used this new Ulysses WordPress Publishing feature in the Mac version it immediately opened up the draft of a blog post in Safari. This is a good thing to do because it seems that the images you’ve added to your blog post don’t get uploaded to the website. This will need to be done on the WordPress site. You can set up for something else to happen of the going to the WordPress site automatically has soon as the publish button has been pressed and the upload has been made. I would say it’s probably a good idea to check if everything has been sent to the website correctly even if you don’t need to do extra work at such as the SEO settings.

Great Mac Apps to use alongside great iOS Apps

Great Mac Apps and Taking a Break by Using iOS

I spent two weeks without my Mac a few months back and it got me using my iPad Pro and iPhone for more things. There are great Mac apps to use, but sometimes you just want to choose the great iOS apps instead. If I want to do any dictation my best choice is to use the Mac. Siri dictation is marvellous and I’ve written articles of up to 1000 words using Siri on my iPhone or iPad. It is not in the same league as Dragon for Mac which I have on my iMac. Making art on the iPad is brilliant with apps like iColorama and Procreate or Pixelmator for iPad. As good as they are, sometimes you want to go full throttle with apps like Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. I love those Affinity art apps. They are a much better proposition than using Adobe products in my opinion. Then there was Scrivener as a Mac based app and there was no iOS app – Now we have the iOS version of Scrivener to work with too. Recording video of what you are doing on your iPad and you need to use your Mac with an app like ScreenFlow. That seems a bit ironic but that’s the way it is.

So what’s going on with my Mac?

Ulysses Writers App

So the thing is, for the last couple of days my iMac has been switched off and I’ve not used any great Mac Apps. That’s unusual for me, I like to have it running all the time and immediately available at all times. I like to work with my computer devices, mobile and desktop as a complete Apple system. It’s preferable to be able to swap from one device to another and it it not matter which I’m using to complete the task. I have got used to apps like Ulysses which work on all my Apple devices. Start a document on the Mac and continue where I left off on the iPhone or iPad. It’s a perfect way of working for me. In the summer time I work a lot of hours at the beach campsite and I just don’t have a lot of time to sit in front of my Mac. For two days I didn’t use the apps I like on the Mac and I was happy enough to do all on the iPad and iPhone. I carry the iPad around the house and at work the iPhone is always in my top pocket. At times it’s better to be ensconced on the sofa with the mobile devices and computing in comfort. The fast start up time with the mobile devices is compelling and wouldn’t it be great to have a Mac work just like that. I suppose we do have instant access if you let the Mac run all the time. In the summer the iMac does pump out a lot heat into the room and the weather in Spain is sweltering enough already.

Art Text was a super app – Can be again!

I used ArtText a lot for making web graphics and loved the super effects available from the app. Art Text 3 is one of the great Mac Apps. Then with the upgrade to El Capitan or possibly Yosemite the app stopped working. Today I saw there’s an upgrade to version 3 of Art Text and I just had to get the latest version. It now also has 3D text and bump mapping. I’ll be able to make even better artistic text based graphics with Art Text 3. It is a big download of 645mb and I can’t wait for my slow internet to get it all down ready to open and use. I expect I will be diving into the app over the next week or so and publishing some creations to Pinterest as well on my web sites. I can also see the software being useful for the book covers for the books I write.

Great Mac AppsSo the download finished and I couldn’t wait to play with it. The interface is improved and the 3D text effects are loads of fun. It’s possible to rotate some 3D text in space on the screen. Amazing number of effects to choose from for your designs. There are smart shapes to choose from and with these you can make your own buttons. There are many pre-made buttons available to choose from. Designs which you can apply colours, textures, material and geometric specifications. All the same attributes you can add to any text you are working with. There are presets available such as gradients, images and masks as well as patterns you can apply to any objects within your design. It’s easy to convert a 2-D object to 3-D by right clicking and making the choice. One of the things I used to use the previous version for was to create text that had a three-dimensional bump. You can select how lumpy, bumpy and almost 3D you want the text to be.

Share your designs

Use the share button to share out to other applications or you can share out to a file. If you share out to a file you get to choose whether it goes out as a PDF, JPEG or PNG. There are also options to send it out as a high resolution tiff or as an EPS. If it’s an EPS then it should be possible to bring it into an application like Affinity Designer to work with as a vector element. All in all, Art Text 3 is an amazing piece of software for creating unusual and interesting looking logo creations. Colour me impressed!

Good and Geeky Logo made with Art text

Caffeine Versus amphetamine

keep your computer awakeThere are times when you want your computer to stay awake. You don’t want screen-savers cutting in or you don’t want the screen to go dark. This could be when you’re recording something and otherwise not touching the keyboard or pointing device. I used an application called Caffeine which put a little coffee cup icon into the menu bar. This application does the job of keeping the computer awake. Recently I heard there was a better application to use called Amphetamine. The app has better controls and preferences and it came with the recommendation of MacBites Podcast. It was also a free application, so worth giving a try. Everything seems to be working well for me so far. I’m going to stick with it.

Time between announcements and delivery of operating system upgrades

There has to be a period when developers of applications use the next version of the operating system before the general users. We need out great Mac Apps to work properly when we upgrade. Users can convert to the new versions of applications that will work right on the latest version of the OS. It wouldn’t work well if the operating system was foisted on us and none of our favourite applications worked anymore. It’s a big job to make significant changes to an operating system. Even though it seams there doesn’t seem to be a huge number of changes in macOS Sierra. There must be a lot of changes happening under the surface of the new operating system. I hope these changes are going to give us an improved experience in using our favourite fruity computers.

Use Apple OS public Beta software or not?

So there are many of us who are wondering if we should give the public beta a try and to upgrade before the software is fully baked. It’s always nice to have the new and shiny, but it’s not so nice to have it undercooked and not quite ready. I have tried beta software in the past on iOS devices and in the end wished I hadn’t. It caused problems when I changed back to the latest full version from the beta software. I vowed I would never do it again, but I still have those moments when I’m considering doing that mad thing again. This is usually when I hear of podcast hosts talking on their show about the new things they are getting to play with early. Most of them have the good sense to use it on a spare device rather than on a production machine. So I’m going to be waiting until the autumn when the full versions arrive. Only the sensible thing to do.

A broken latest update to Mac OS X

I downloaded from the App Store the latest version to the Mac El Capitan which had a couple of security updates contained within. The update didn’t work. Each time I pressed the button to restart the machine and install it – Nothing at all happened. I even downloaded the full combo update from the Apple site and that didn’t work either. It’s completely messes up the shutting down and restarting of the computer. The only way I have to turn the computer off is to use the physical button at the back of the iMac. I went to the support site at Apple and there are other people with the same problem. The suggestion was I should try to boot up into safe mode and try again. Did that and it didn’t work either. I might have another go when I have time on my day off. It’s preferable to have the latest upgrades on my computer especially where security updates are concerned. When the El Capitan operating system became available I went for a normal upgrade. For the next one I think I’m going to go for the Nuke and Pave. This is where you delete everything, after making a backup first of course. The boot drive is wiped completely clean and reformatted. Then you install a completely new instance of the operating system. It takes a long time to do this sort of upgrade because you also have to reinstall all your applications and many of your settings. If your computer is full of lots of applications it does take a lot of planning to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Is it worth the trouble to Nuke and Pave?

There has to be a backup made of the personalisation settings you’ve made over the years to your computer. It can be a huge amount of work and could take a couple of days to finish the upgrade and get all your sorted out. The benefits of doing an operating system upgrade like this is that you get speed improvements. This is due to getting rid of the accumulated crud and rubbish. Not only do you get the new and shiny of the cutting-edge operating system, but you also get the benefits of starting fresh. It’s even more like having a new computer! While you’re having this clear out, make your decisions about unused applications in your applications folder. It’s a good moment to do some weeding out of the apps which are hardly ever used. If you are going to do this, make sure you have the user names and passwords for applications you’re planning to reinstall. Sometimes you need to have the original file to make the upgrade. This is the case with Dragon Dictate or Dragon for Mac version 5. I have the installation file for it downloaded to one of my backup drives to keep it safe. All my application serial numbers I keep safe in 1Password.

Getting it all done in the right order

There are some great Mac Apps which you need to install before others. Applications such as 1Password has to go on first so you have all the serial numbers available. Other applications such as Dropbox and Alfred need to go on soon. You’ll start getting the look and feel that you’re used to as soon as possible. You also need to make sure you’ve got backups of things like the Keychain. So you don’t lose any certificates you have installed for your security. In applications like Text Expander you’ll need to have a backup of the data from the app. Best to check all your apps and see if there are others with data you need to protect.

1password-icon_400x400

macOS Sierra coming soon

What’s your plan for upgrading to macOS Sierra and using great Mac Apps? Will you go for a nuke and pave of your old operating system to put a fresh new OS on your hard drive? The last time I did this on my computer was two years ago so it could work out just right for me with this upgrade. All we can do for the moment is to read some of the stories coming from the Mac websites about the new features we can expect to see. It’s just a case of being patient and to not get carried away when these bloggers talk about all the great stuff in the beta versions.

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Learning Swift coding on iOS and Xcode

Using Xcode and Learning Swift coding

In the past I’ve bought books and courses to learn how to code for iOS and for the Mac. I wasn’t terribly successful and I really couldn’t get my head around using Objective-C. So when Apple announced the Swift programming language and showed how much easier it would be learning Swift coding than to use Objective-C, I was delighted. Again I got access to a course to learn Swift not long after it had been announced, but I never got very far with it either. So now Apple have announced another way to learn Swift coding with Swift Playgrounds. It looks amazing and it’s got to be simple because it’s aimed at children under the banner of “Everyone Can Code”. I haven’t got to use or play with this way of learning to code yet because it’s only available if you use the beta version of iOS. I have in the past tried to use a beta version of the iOS operating system and I didn’t like the experience very much. I am going to be patient and wait until the full version of iOS 10 becomes available in the autumn. What can I do the meantime for learning Swift coding?

Learning Swift coding

Learning Swift coding using TapCoding

The application TapCoding was mentioned in a podcast as being a good way to learn Swift. The podcaster said it was a step further on from Swift Playgrounds in terms of the age range it’s aimed at. This is absolutely correct in that it’s aimed at adults, but it’s still very easy to follow. It is an application to use on the iPad or iPhone. I found it’s been useful to go over a lesson a second time, but inputting the code into Xcode instead. This way you get to see the difference between entering code on the Mac as opposed to typing code into an iOS application. I’ve been using the on-screen keyboard which on the iPad is an improvement over the keyboards on the smaller iPads. It’s still not quite the same as using a mechanical full-size keyboard when learning Swift coding. The other thing with using Xcode for typing in Xcode is that you get to see the syntax colouring for Swift. This makes it easier to see which parts of the code are which. You also get help from Xcode to enter variable and constant names. You only have to start typing in the name of a variable and the application Xcode offers you the named variables. It saves a lot of time in keying in the code and stops code being broken due to a typo in a name. Xcode also gives you information on screen if you’ve made a mistake. Sometimes the information you get is a little bit cryptic but at least it gives you an idea where you’ve gone wrong.

Tapcoding Learning Swift coding

Doing the TapCoding lessons a second time is a good learning experience. Well worth typing the code into the proper coding application on the Mac. Repetition is a good idea for learning anything and there have been things I’ve learned on the second go around. I might even do a couple of the modules a third time to make sure the concepts go in my long term memory.

Xcode playgrounds for learning Swift

App development in swiftI downloaded a book from Apple called App Development with Swift. This book has also been useful for me to learn how to code and I found links to download a swift playground. The Swift playground within Xcode gave instructions on how to do certain things with code. These were lessons within the Xcode itself. The good thing about the playground is being able to see the results of your coding in an area to the right side of the screen. It’s this part of Xcode I’ve been using to type in the lessons from TapCoding that I’ve been following on the iPad.

It’s possible to go a long way through the TapCoding course without paying any money. All you have to do is to have a streak of a certain number of days learning to code with the application and the next modules are unlocked ready for you. I decided it was well worth the €9.99 to pay for the full access to the course so if I wanted to take a day off I’d be able to. Even so, it is a good idea to work on these things daily to reinforce the learning processes. There were occasions where I had to redo one of the modules just so I could unlock the next module in the course. Repetition is good for moving the information from the short term memory to the long-term memory.

When will I hit the coding roadblock

There always comes a point when there’s a roadblock when learning to code. At least that’s how it seemed to me so far. Either I didn’t learn the basics well enough, which is possible. Or I just got to a point where the lesson expected me to understand concepts which hadn’t been explained. It was of those stumbling blocks where I felt I’d need to actually be in a classroom with a teacher who could be asked what needed to be done next. I think that some teachers of programming in the books are so deeply into what they know how to do intuitively, they forget what it’s like to be a beginner. I haven’t got that bad feeling yet using TapCoding, so I’m still feeling quite hopeful.

What to do with Mac and iOS coding

When you consider there are thousands and thousands of applications available to download or buy on the iTunes App Store and the Mac App Store, you’d wonder if there was anything left to be done. Are there any ideas left to develop into applications for either the Mac or for iOS? I suppose there will always be the bespoke requirements for applications for specific businesses. We don’t need any more photo filter applications, Twitter clients or ways to organise our things to do in an application. Yet, still the computer companies, schools and business are recommending people should learn how to code. Most of the things I want to do with a computer I only have to find the right application and the job is done. I’m going to have to get my thinking cap on and see if there are specific requirements I would need in an application and then find out if I could make it. Maybe I could make an application which would take over from the scripting type of coding I’ve done using Editorial app on the iPhone. I’ve used Launch Centre Pro on iOS to give me buttons I only need to press once to complete an action. It would be nice to have that all in one bespoke application. I could save myself a couple of button presses and make it a little bit more attractive and functional in use.

An explosion of coding due to Everyone Can Code

I have heard a number of people say they’re incredibly interested in using Swift Playgrounds on the iPad. It does look quite amazing and gives a tactile approach to learning Swift coding. Swift Playgrounds application is probably the first step into providing iOS users with the means necessary to do all the coding required to make new apps on iOS. The application might be aimed primarily at kids, but I know many adults have expressed an interest. It seems it might be possible also to take code created from within the Swift Playgrounds app and move it into Xcode. You’ll then be able to make real applications using that iOS created code.

What do you think? Are you going to be learning Swift coding?

Put something in the comments below if you’re thinking of having a go with coding now that Swift is coming of age. Will you be champing at the bit to get your hands on Swift Playgrounds when becomes available in the autumn? I can’t wait to get into learning Swift coding

Buying iMac or a MacBook

Wizardgold Mac OS news

The other day I was thinking that I would round up as much money as I possibly could and by myself a new iMac. Regards buying iMac, the one I have is mostly working pretty good and not giving me too much trouble. There were some weird happenings and in the end I managed to pin it down to a malfunctioning trackpad. I love using the trackpad much more than using a mouse. It hasn’t been much fun over the last few days having to use a mouse again. I have ordered the new trackpad and I would have liked to buy the new Magic trackpad 2, but I know it won’t work on this computer. This iMac doesn’t have the latest version of Bluetooth, so I had to make do with the older trackpad. I was looking at the Apple website to buy the trackpad and couldn’t do that, in the end I had to buy it from Amazon. Apple only sells the new version it seems. The main benefit to having a new iMac would be a slightly faster processor. I was thinking along the lines of spending the extra to have the i7 processor. It’s worth spending that extra bit of cash as the processor is something you can’t update later. Unless you buy a whole new computer that is! I did look at the prices of the refurbished models and there were some with a discount of around €300 or €400. The amount of the discount reduced slightly when you take into account having to add the new Magic trackpad 2 to the cost. It will also be nice to have the latest Apple Bluetooth keyboard to go with it too. As far as the hard disk is concerned I was looking at the 2 TB fusion drive although I do prefer to run my operating system from an SSD. I’d still be able to run from the SSD I have at the moment via Thunderbolt. So I decided to forget the refurbished Mac computers.

buying iMac

Buying the right Apple Mac – Buying iMac?

For most of the time I am just using the iMac for writing, using DragonDictate. I do one or two things using Affinity Photo or Affinity Designer. Now and then I’m using Final Cut Pro, although not as much as I have used it in previous years. So I kind of wondered if I really needed to go for the top-of-the-line iMac. Would I be able to get away with a cheaper Mac desktop computer. When I started pricing how it would work out for a Mac Mini I ended up upgrading the basic model to a price approaching the iMac price. It got close enough that I went back to the idea of getting an iMac rather than a Mac Mini.

Dragon AnywhereThe next thought I had was the possibility of getting the incredibly thin MacBook. If the processor was up to using DragonDictate I thought maybe it could be just the job as a personal computer for me. I’d leave the iMac I already have as my Mac for the more heavy duty computing. I could have it as a shared computer for my wife who is using Final Cut Pro more than I am these days. It’s a shame I can’t use my iPad Pro to do the Dragon dictation. The difference between Siri dictation and Dragon dictation is quite large and does mean a Mac is needed for me. I do use Siri dictation quite a lot and it works great when I have 4G connection through my iPhone. It doesn’t work so great when I’m using my slow Internet connection at home. There is the new Dragon Anywhere but it’s not available here in Spain. I did try to get it to work with a version I downloaded from the UK App Store. There’s a monthly payment to use the application. My not having a credit card registered in the UK with my UK Apple ID put a stop to that idea. I did have the notion I could go 99% for mobile computing. It worked very well for two weeks when my Mac was getting fixed. However, there are still one or two things for which I really do prefer having a large screen in front of me. In fact I prefer to have two large 27 inch monitors to view. So the MacBook I decided would be underpowered for my needs and that left me considering the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro.

In considering the notebook computers – the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro I still felt like it was encroaching on what I do with my iPad Pro. I consider my Apple computing to be a complete system. This is because I can open my iPhone, my iPad or my desktop computer and have access to whatever I want to work on. The only thing that changes is my personal situation in terms of location and availability to Apple device. When I’m at work I can add posts into my websites easily either from my iPhone or from the iPad. I can add entries into my Day One journal. It’s super quick and easy to add a couple of hundred words into a journal entry with Siri dictation. Okay, so it’s not quite as good as using Dragon dictation, but it’s good enough. It’s all going into the one big computing bucket into which I can dip into to do my computer stuff.

There are some iOS applications, better, easier and maybe even more powerful than macOS applications. Easier because you have the tactile computing of actually touching the screen and making things happen. Better and more powerful because often these applications have one job and they do that one job really well. It may be necessary to move from one application to another to complete a full task and once you get used to that way of working it is the best method. The way to look at it, is to see the iOS device as the tool and all the applications as just part of a complete system. For example, when working on an image it’s simple to send results from one application into another using the – Open In – command. All you have to do is to daisychain the process until you get to your finish point.

At the end of the thinking and wondering process, what next?

Maybe I wasted the three or four hours I spent researching Apple Mac computers and prices thinking about buying iMac. My iMac is still working great and just needs to have the trackpad replaced. Unless I spend quite a lot of money I’m not going to see a huge upgrade from what I have already. Despite this, there is the allure of a faster processor and the gorgeous retina screen on the newer iMac models. So I’m still tempted to sell one or two of my bitcoin, which have gone up in value considerably during the last month. This would give me the necessary funds to get me the iMac I want, rather than the Apple Mac computer I perhaps need. Some people like to spend their money on smoking and drinking and I don’t do either activities. Some people like to spend their money on fast cars and I’m quite happy with my Renault Clio even though it doesn’t have Apple Car Play. Mind you, that’s something else I was looking at, the replacement in car entertainment systems that have Apple Car Play. There’s not enough car manufacturers at the moment putting Car Play systems in as default as yet. My next car will have to have Apple Car Play and I also prefer it to be an electric car. I wonder if the Nissan Leaf will have Car Play?

Apple Car Play

Then of course there is the iPhone 7 coming soon

In September or October they will see the latest iPhone hitting the stores. By then my iPhone will be two years old and it could be time to do the upgrade. Last year I bought my wife the iPhone 6S and she’s delighted with it. The larger version of the iPhone is quite tempting for me also. Perhaps the iPhone 7 is when I should be thinking about in terms of spending some money in the autumn of this year. I want to be able to afford the new iPhone as well as a new iMac. The line has to be drawn somewhere and maybe I will still be buying iMac instead of something else.

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