The Joys Of Beta Software

To a certain extent all software is a work in progress. There’s always something in there which needs further work to make perfect. An operating system is so complex the software engineers can’t help making bugs when they’re fixing something else. This is why we are getting updates on a regular basis of our favourite softwares. Then there are the bigger changes when Apple updates a whole lot of stuff all in one go and gives it a new number. This time we are moving on to iOS 13, (Lucky for some!). We are also moving to iPad OS giving a proper split between the software for each of the platforms.

 Why use unfinished software?

The biggest reason for using beta software would be impatience. The software manufacturer has set out what will be coming and you want it now rather than later. There could be people who have noble desires to help find bugs to improve what’s coming for the general populace. We beta testers are prepared to put up with applications crashing or not working as expected. Just so long as we send in the reports to help get the software fixed and ready in time for the final release.

Going beta sooner or later

If you have a device which is a spare then you could reasonably install the first betas to become available. Sometimes these can be good enough to be usable, but are most likely to be unstable. Definitely not something you want to put onto a device you use to do proper work on a daily basis. Most people tending towards normal, will wait until beta five or maybe beta seven before sticking a toe into the water. It can also make a lot of sense to wait until the final release. Just be more patient. In the past when there were no public betas, there were still problems to overcome on release day. Waiting until the point one release was the sensible thing to do.  It isn’t much fun having to do a rollback on an upgrade. When you were so looking forward to having new toys to play with and you find your device has been bricked. So much time can be lost. So it is always a good idea to have multiple backups before you go ahead with any upgrade to the operating system. This is especially important if you try a beta version. It’s a good idea to follow a few people on Twitter who are likely to have tried the beta software. People who have tried it will often report back over social media on how well their project is going. The online reports will be general because we know beta software is not finished. There’s no point in getting upset and throwing all your toys out of the pram when an app doesn’t work as expected. Broken parts of software is inevitable in beta testing.

Being brave and going for it

With iOS 13/iPad OS I waited until beta five before installing it on my iPad. There were enough reports from trusted sources saying it was stable enough. I left it a bit longer before installing iOS 13 on my iPhone. This is because my iPhone gets more use than the iPad. There’s no way I would let myself be without the use of my iPhone for any length of time. Since the installation of the new operating system I have been happy with the way things have been going. In one of my applications, Drafts I have noticed some automations didn’t work. Two applications have crashed at the first time of opening since installation of the beta. Trying a second time immediately afterwards and the application opened without complaints. I got lucky nothing important was out of action.

Reporting back to Apple

If you’re going to try one of the beta versions of the operating system it’s expected you will report back any problems. That’s the point of having beta software. You are testing and letting them know if there are things not working. So far I’ve been running the betas for a couple of weeks and not made any reports. Mostly because nothing’s really been going wrong. Partly because I’ve been busy with my life and not had the time to fill out any forms. If there was something terrible I’m sure I would have sent in a radar or report. I’ve just been enjoying playing with the new toys.

What do I like about iOS 13 and iPad OS?

IOS 13 has given me an upgrade to the Apple Carplay. The best part about this is being able to change to a different application on the phone while connected to the car. The screen on the car stayed with the application I was using. It could be annoying in the previous version when the screen of the car only mirrored what was on the phone. This is only important when a passenger is using the phone alongside me as I’m driving. Or if I’m sitting in the car not driving and want to look at something else while the car screen is perhaps displaying my podcast application. This means I can press the controls on the podcast application on the car screen while doing something else with the phone. They have also added the calendar app to Apple Carplay. I can see a view of what’s coming up for the day. I can even tap on one of these to get directions to a place. The home view on Apple Carplay has changed. It shows more information. It kinda feels like I have to press more buttons to get to my podcast application. I suppose I’ll get used to it.


I like the upgrades made to the Reminders application. It is useful now to have subtasks by indenting tasks beneath others. It’s not as advanced as you’d find in Omnifocus, but is enough for my purposes. The application is prettier as well as being slightly more functional. There is a new quick toolbar making it easier to add dates, locations, flags and scanned documents to Reminders. You don’t get many smart lists to play with in this new version of Reminders. You only get Today, Scheduled, All and Flagged. For most of us this will be enough. If you need to group reminders into one place you can always add a new list.

Today View on Home Screen

On the iPad I enjoy having the today view permanently available on the home screen. I get to see extra information quickly such as the weather and what’s coming up next in the calendar. I get quick access to shortcuts and Siri suggestions. This also fits in well with having more icons on the screen. I can add more icons into the bar at the bottom of the screen.

A Lot of Fuss about Dark Mode

I still don’t know why there is such a lot of talk about dark mode. It might be useful to automatically have dark mode for seeing what’s on the screen better at night time. Apart from that it really doesn’t make a lot of difference in terms of usability. To to me seems more aesthetic than it being a new useful feature. The Apple geeks on the various podcasts love to talk about dark mode and how wonderful it is. Maybe I need to spend more time with it.

Editing in Photos App

There are changes to the photos app. We are getting powerful video editing. It will be useful to rotate, crop and auto enhance video clips. The editing tools for the photos are mostly just redesigned rather than anything being specifically new.

Sign in with Apple ID

In privacy and security they have given us another way to sign into applications and websites. We’ll be able to sign in with our Apple ID in the same way as we’ve been able to sign into these things with either Facebook or Google ID. I haven’t come across any app store websites allow me to do that yet. That will take some time before it goes mainstream.

Siri sounding more Human

Siri is getting a better voice which sounds more human. This is something else I haven’t really taken much notice of. Siri shortcuts and the Shortcuts application will be included in everybody’s iOS 13. Previously you would have to download it specifically if you wanted to get into iOS automation. More people will be using it and it shows Apple is more confident by letting more people get at it. There are changes to the way you build the shortcuts in the application. At first it seemed a little confusing, but I’m getting used to it. Apple have made it easier for non-programmers to understand shortcuts. Despite the simplification there are more features and an increased depth of automation abilities. There are more triggers and I especially like the trigger to make things happen when I connect to Apple Carplay. Before, I activated a shortcut in the car by using an NFC tag. It didn’t always see the NFC tag. I might have to try twice before it activated. Then I would still have to press a button on the phone to get things happening. Now I just plug the phone into the car and it just works with no extra input from me. This is more like proper automation.

Swiping for Typing

In the past I’ve been a fan of the Swype keyboard on the iPhone and iPad. It is much faster to type by swiping the finger around the keyboard to get the words into your document. Apple has now built that into its own keyboard and it works really well. I now don’t have to have a third-party application for swiping.

Voice Control

Voice control – They built voice control into accessibility and that can be useful to anyone interested in voice computing. We are all getting used to talking to our computers now by having either an Amazon Echo, Google Home or the Apple Home Pod listening to us. I like things getting done around the house when I activate a process using the Amazon Echo. I’m also keen on dictation. I have dictated the whole of this article. I’ve dictated this using DragonDictate, but I’m interested in finding out how good voice control dictation will be. With my tests so far it doesn’t seem to be as good as DragonDictate. It does seem to be a little better than your usual Siri dictation which you activate by tapping on the microphone icon on the keyboard. More testing needed when we get the final release of iOS 13 and iPad OS. I am pretty sure I will be using DragonDictate for a long while yet.

A selection of the many commands for editing text with Voice Control
Make your own commands

Working with Files is Improved

I bought the Hyper Drive dongle to use with the new iPad. This will come into its own with iPad OS. There is a more advanced files application meaning I’ll be able to import files other than just photos. I’ll be able to connect external drives to get files into my iPad more efficiently. It’s now child’s play to drag a file from an SD drive and put it into iCloud Drive or wherever else I want it. This will be great with video files I want to use with Lumafusion or with audio files to use with Ferrite. This will make the iPad more like a ‘Real Computer’ and facilitate getting more work done.

The Hyper-Drive Dongle

Checking Out iPadOS beta

iPadOS First Look

Great to have the icons on the screen smaller and fitting more of them per page. Even when you have the today view pinned to the left side of the first screen you still have more app and folder icons. Good to finally pin your widgets.

Reminders Improvements

Completely different layout of the app. A big area on the left side which has Today, Scheduled and All buttons at the top and then the lower part is the list of lists. Then right at the bottom of that is your button to Add List. The interface works nice and fast when you change between the views. You get a limited number of colours to assign to your lists. There’s a small dot on the top right corner of the right side of the screen. Also from that button you can select reminders and do some rearranging or deleting. Show completed tasks in the list if you wish.
When you have a task selected there is an info button giving you access to the details of the task. Add notes, set alarms and reminders including location based reminders. Set the priority to low, medium or high. The final option is to move to another list if you like. An easier way to move an item to another list is to drag and drop. Easy Peasy…

The New Siri voice

There isn’t a huge change to the Siri voice, but she does sound a little bit nicer!

The Joys of Beta Running

You can run multiple app in Slide Over. Drag them on top of one another. Slide your finger up from the bottom of the screen to see the apps fanned out across the screen. For the life of me I can’t get to switch between the apps at the side of the screen. I have to get them to fan out in a stack and choose the one I want. Try too many times and it crashes the operating system, then nothing works. You can expect things like this when running a beta. Certainly not advisable to put a beta on your work machine. I have the iPadOS set up on my old iPad Pro. I had to to a reboot to get things moving again. Such is the beta life living on the edge of technology. When it does work, it will be great.

Pinned Widgets

It takes a while to learn how to set up all these new views and ways of working. I had the widgets pinned to the left of the home screen and I wanted to get rid of it. I hunted through the settings and finally did some GoogleFoo to find I need to scroll to the bottom of the widgets to tap on edit to turn it off. Then it was still on the screen. So I thought I’d done it wrong. Nope, I just had to swipe it off the screen. Sorted!

The App Store is different

There used to be a button on the bottom of the screen for updates. Now you have to hit your picture Nat the top right to go to account and see pending updates. For the moment nothing is updating. I have 104 updates waiting in the wings. It will be next week before the public beta drops and some of these bugs will be fixed. Like I said good job I put it on a spare iPad.

There’s more

The Files app is getting some love. You’ll be able to use generic external media. Local storage gives you the opportunity to create folders, save files and reorganise at will.

Social Media Grind

Sometimes social media is a bit of a grind

For the most part, I enjoy having time with my screens. I always like having something to read and I get that with Twitter and Facebook. I keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the world. I have the latest information on areas of interest I follow. I know what’s happening with all of the big stuff in world politics. I think it’s important not to be ignorant of basic world events. It doesn’t seem to be a good idea though, to be too well informed on all of the bad stuff going on. Following all the bad news too closely can be bad for your mental health. I often wish the news outlets of the world would spread more good information about what’s going on in the world rather than focusing on the awful. There could be more in the news about how technology is improving the world. However, a lot of the news seems to be about death and war. Sadly, too much airtime is given to religion and religious influence. That’s just the way that the BBC works, it seems.

Keeping up with the family news

One of the reasons we follow things in social media is to see what our families are getting up to. I like to hear what’s going on with my son George and his bicycle shop. I feel like I’m supporting him by commenting and sharing his posts about cycling. One of my nephews and his wife put up quite a few posts featuring their children. It’s great to see the kids growing up even though I haven’t met them in person yet. I’m not sure I agree with children being exposed too much on social media because they can’t give their permission. It is possible that the sharing can be kept within the family, so long as the parents of the children know how to restrict the permissions. I still think it’s better to have something more direct like a photo album, only shared directly with specific people and outside of social media. Something like a shared photo album in iCloud or Google photos is better than putting everything onto Facebook.

It’s never-ending – It just keeps coming

Sometimes you can feel like you are chained to social media. I like to keep an inbox zero with my email. When I open up the email application I delete, archive and even reply so the inbox is kept empty. If I don’t have time to deal with the contents of one of the emails directly I will snooze it until a moment when I’ll have time later. The email will pop back into the inbox and hopefully I will be able to deal with it when I next look at it. Sometimes snoozing an email is a chance ,to have second thoughts and leads me to make a decision to only ignore and delete.

Constant Stream of Junk

Same thing with Facebook. There is a constant stream of mostly junk. It seemed most of the rubbish is American information – sport and politics, of which I have no interest. If someone I’m connected to keeps putting stuff up like that, I just unfollow them. I don’t need to see whatever they think is important about some stupid American football game. I usually leave them as friends, but take their stream of consciousness out of my eyesight on the Facebook wall.

On Twitter I will unfollow people if I see too much rubbish I’m not interested in. If they are following me then sometimes what I will do instead, is to just mute or muffle their output so I don’t see it. I can always tap on the muted tweet and have a look to see something I might be interested in. It’s the fear of missing something that keeps me hooked and looking? There are some mornings when I can’t be bothered to look at the couple of hundred tweets since I last looked. I just tap the button at the top to get to the end and leave it at that. Sometimes it feels like that story in the TV series ‘Lost’ and the character had to keep watching a counter and press a button to stop the world from blowing up. He was imprisoned by this activity. Is social media becoming like this?

How to deal with this problem

In the latest version of the operating system for iOS devices there’s an option to limit your screen time. I don’t like the idea of cutting myself off from using my iPhone or iPad. On the other hand, I’m starting to think it would be a good idea to limit myself to having to one hour at some point in time during the day. Not a limit to access the whole of the phone but just a limit to social media. This would allow me to concentrate my efforts more on creating digital content rather than being a receiver of digital content. Instead of wasting time looking at videos on YouTube, reading tweets or posts on Facebook, I could be working on my next book, creating my latest podcast or making a video. I also consider spending time reading books as more worthwhile than reading short tweets et cetera. Even though it is still me consuming content, it is more valuable to me because I’m learning about writing as well as enjoying a story.

During my time off over the winter I could just simply say I have to begin creating at 9 o’clock in the morning. So even if I’ve been looking at social media before that while having breakfast or doing whatever at 9 o’clock I begin work. The idea would then be to disallow myself from looking at social media until I’ve finished my creativity for the day. Only when I’ve written a sufficient number of words for the day can I allow myself time to do non-important stuff.

For this to work I might have to turn off notifications coming in from my email application and the socials. It could be necessary for me to use the new system of regulating access to social media on my iOS devices. It’s possible for me to set specific times and also to limit the amount of time for this activity. I could create for myself a good habit. I would expect to give myself an opportunity to override my settings. It will be annoying to be locked out at a time when I have a good reason to be jumping into social media.

You have to have a good reason to restrict yourself

My reason for wanting to do this is to give me more time for being creative. It’s to stop me from wasting time going down a rabbit hole of looking at one video after another. Save myself from getting to a point in time two hours down the rabbit hole and feeling I’ve just wasted some valuable time. I don’t think it’s a good idea just to do this for the sake of it. Just because you have read somewhere that too much screen time is bad for you. If spending time on social media interacting with other people is what you like to do, then why not do it. It’s your life.

Setting up Screen Time

The first possibility is Downtime. This is to schedule a time away from the screen. I don’t want to do that. This is where you allow only certain apps and phone calls during a specific time period. The default setting is from 10 o’clock at night until 7 o’clock in the morning. I’m going to be asleep for most of this time so that’s not going to work for me. I could set a period during the daytime where I was only allowed to use productivity applications. That’s something I might try later.

The second possibility is app limits. I have set this one up to limit social networking to 2 hours per day. Two hours is probably too much. One hour would probably be better, but let’s try two hours first of all. There are other groups of applications you can also set. You could restrict the amount of time you spend on games, entertainment, creativity, education, reading or All Apps and Categories. It’s also possible to create combinations of these groups. So you could allow yourself one hour for games type applications and two hours for social network.

Another section within this Screen Time part of settings for your device lets you to choose apps which are always allowed. By default you get Messages and FaceTime included with the phone. Maps is also in the included list. I have added my password manager, Airmail, PlugShare, Waze, WhatsApp, TwistedWave, Anylist, Books, Day One, Drafts and few other applications which I don’t want to have any restrictions applied to. I could add more applications to this if at any time I’ve been told by the phone I can’t use a certain application due to the settings I’ve put in the Screen Time settings within iOS 12.

Best Apps for Journalling

Buy the Book and support Good and Geeky.

Bypassing the settings is possible by setting a Screen Time pass code. I don’t want to have to go into the settings to mess about with things just to be able to use an application. For this reason I’ve set up the pass code which will allow me to momentarily get past the blockage.

Content and privacy restrictions – This doesn’t really affect me in the slightest because I’m the only person who uses my phone. I won’t be switching this on because it’s not necessary. Within this area you can create your own restrictions to allowed applications, content restrictions, various privacy restrictions and decide if you want to allow changes to certain other settings. I see the iPhone as a totally personal device and I would never share my phone with anybody else. I find it weird and probably silly for these parents who allow their children to use their expensive personal mobile computer devices. Give them a toy to play with or buy them their own phone, but don’t give them yours to mess with.

Let’s see how we get on

So I set up these basic restrictions on my iPhone which will also look at how I’m using my iPad. I’m not sure if it includes what I’m doing with my Mac. Right now I’m wondering if it also includes what I do with my Apple watch. I’m guessing it could be a bit of an eye-opener to show me how much time I spend with my Apple personal computer devices. I don’t expect it to be a big surprise. I know already I spend a lot of time looking at the screens. It’s for this reason I thought it worthwhile spending so much money on buying the latest iPhone XS Max. It’ll be interesting to see if I can be more productive by limiting the amount of time I spend on social media.

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