OS X Photos & iCloud Photo Library: Good, But Could Be Better

Apple has released Mac OS 10.10.3 and iOS 8.3 and with those releases comes the all new Photos for Mac OS X and iCloud Photo Library to sync your pictures to iCloud.

When Apple announced these two new items at WWDC in June of 2014, I became excited. I was a subscriber of the now shut down service Everpix, and I thought that iCloud Photo Library could be the replacement of that service but work natively with all of my Apple devices.

Photos

Photos is a good first effort to replace iPhoto after it’s thirteen year run. The program is minimalistic and is good in some areas but lacking other areas.

The areas that it is good in are performance, and in quick picture edits. The migrating of my iPhoto library that was 126GB in size at the time of conversion took only 15 minutes. If the library was on my internal SSD it probably would have taken less time, but since it is so large I have my library on an external drive. When the conversion was complete; I did a quick scroll through the pictures and was impressed with how fast it moved through just over 10,000 pictures. The editing controls are more advanced compared to iPhoto. I haven’t had a ton of time to play with them but there are more controls and the ability to finely tune them gives it an advantage over iPhoto.

The areas in which I feel that Photos lacks in are really more feature requests and I am hoping will get added into future releases. Much like the revamped iWork programs were stripped of features and then had them added back in is how I like to think of these “missing” items. The limited access to metadata was somewhat of a disappointment. Most people likely won’t ever use or most likely don’t even know much about metadata, but it would be useful to access and edit metadata as you could in Aperture. The preference pane is pretty lacking, and I am just not sure if that is by design or there are more preferences to come in the future.

 Photos Info Window

Photos Info Window

 iPhoto's Info Window

iPhoto's Info Window

 Aperture's Metadata Window. Hopefully Apple allows Photos to have full metadata editing.

Aperture's Metadata Window. Hopefully Apple allows Photos to have full metadata editing.

 Photos Editing Options

Photos Editing Options

 iPhoto's Editing Options

iPhoto's Editing Options

 Photos Preference Pane

Photos Preference Pane

 iPhoto's Preference Pane

iPhoto's Preference Pane

So far my experience with Photos is promising and leaves me to believe that Apple has plans to introduce features that will just improve on a great lightweight application for managing photos.

iCloud Photo Library

With iCloud Photo Library you can choose to upload full resolution files to iCloud and keep a smaller resolution version on your computer and devices to save space. If you have the space to keep a copy of your photos on your computer I would recommend doing so. I currently have an iMac, MacBook Air, iPhone, and an iPad. My plan was; when I did switch my library over to iCloud Photo Library that I would keep a master library on my iMac that would back up to both Time Machine and Backblaze. For my other devices I would turn on iCloud Photo Library and select the option to Optimize Device Storage to free up space on my MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad.

 iCloud Photo Library Options

iCloud Photo Library Options

If you notice; I chose to use the word was at the beginning of that last paragraph. I am sure that I will use iCloud Library at some point, but right now I have reservations due for a couple of reasons.

iCloud Photo Library Imports Everything

The main reason for my hesitation is that I have multiple photo libraries; the one library that I would want to use to upload to iCloud Photo Library is the library that I store pictures relating to my immediate family. The pictures that are of the most value to me are those containing my wife, children, and any picture that is relevant to that subject. My concern is the fact that if I turn on iCloud Photo Library; my iPhone will upload every picture in my camera roll to that library. I take a lot of screenshots, download pictures from Safari, Twitter and other places that I don’t want to be included in the library that I reserve for pictures of my family. I also use this library as the screensaver for my AppleTV and iMac. I don’t want to have random screenshots from my devices, or random pictures come across the screen while my children are staring at the television watching pictures, of mostly themselves, float by.

It would be a nice inclusion if the system could sort out screenshots automatically and filter them into their own album separate from the Camera Roll. I am not sure how pictures that are saved from apps like Safari could be sorted out into their own album. There may be a way for iOS to insert metadata into the picture at the time of the selecting the Save Image button and label it Saved From Safari, or whatever application you used, and then using that Saved From text as a trigger the photo could be moved into a Saved Images album that is also separate from the Camera Roll, excluded from iCloud Photo Library, but included in iCloud Backups.

 Buttons that appear in iOS when you tap and hold a picture in safari to allow you to save it.

Buttons that appear in iOS when you tap and hold a picture in safari to allow you to save it.

I mentioned that I had Everpix earlier and the reason that it ties into this article is that I could tell it to target a specific iPhoto library and it would upload that library to their servers. I could if I so chose to, turn on automatic uploading of pictures from any device that I installed their applications on but the fact that I didn’t have to is why I liked it. I could be in control of what went into that library stored in the cloud. Then I could then let my wife or anyone else in my family have access to view the picture on their devices; which brings me to my next point.

Family Sharing - (Sort of)

My other hesitation is that Family Sharing isn’t a built in option. There are work arounds to be able to share photos with family members but it would seem like there would be an easier way. I would like to set my iCloud Photo Library as described above up on iCloud and have my wife, and when they are old enough, our children access the pictures from all of their devices. However I would be the one who manages the main family photo library and they would be able to view it without me having to manually drag the pictures to the family album.

I understand that this is a difficult problem to solve, and not everyone needs this kind of fine tuned precision over their photos. I am guessing though that there are many families out there that would like to control their pictures this way.

Preservation

It is great that we can take as many pictures as we want and or have the space to store them. On top of that we have the ability to carry those pictures around with us wherever we go. The problem that I see is the preservation of those pictures in the future. I am the one who currently takes the SD card out of the camera (or offloads them from my iPhone), in between importing the pictures I go through a renaming process that tags the pictures with a date and timestamp for the filename, and then I import them into iPhoto. Every couple of months I grab my wife’s phone and drag out all of her pictures with Image Capture, and go through the same process. All of that, as convoluted as it is, works fine for me. I am the digital file collector who curates our photos. My biggest concern is that if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow; How will my family’s photos be managed and preserved?

Years ago you would have taken less pictures, they would all be developed and sorted into photo albums that could be pulled off of a shelf at any time. There was no technical knowledge required in passing those photos on to your spouse, and eventually your children. I know that I have to teach my wife about how I manage our photos, and where there are stored. That would give me some comfort that she knows if something were to happen to me that she knows where they are stored and will hopefully be able to manage them as I do. The comfort that I would have being able to use my iCloud account to store all of the family photos is that the pictures would be there and preserved for the future if and when my main computer died, if there was a house fire, or any number of unfortunate events that are likely to happen in life.

Apple has created these amazing devices that allow us to take pictures when we maybe wouldn’t have had a camera on us, or at least a device with a camera this good. Photos [1] are a very important and valuable piece of data that are irreplaceable. Memories are great but a picture can send you right back into that moment and help you remember something that you had maybe forgotten about that point in time. With iCloud; Apple also has an opportunity to help people preserve this precious data for generations to come.


  1. Videos are something that I left out of the article all together, but can be included in this statement as well. Photos manages the videos that you take with your devices, even giving them a dedicated album which is another area that makes it an improvement over iPhoto.  ↩

iBooks Fix: Syncing ePub data between Mac and iOS devices

My excitement for iBooks being released on the Mac died when I finally got my hands on it when Mavericks first came out. The fact that it ripped my books out of iTunes and didn’t carryover the metadata that I had added to them, and giving all of the books non descriptive titles within the Finder was my first issue. The second being the fact that I was not able to sync any data (position, bookmarks, notes etc) between the ePubs I currently had on my iOS devices with the Mac version of iBooks.[1] I was confused because this task worked great between my iPhone and my iPad. I spent countless amounts of time opening the book on one device, waiting a minute or two for it to sync, then opening it on my Mac and the book would open to the cover, instead of to the page that it was supposed to be on.

Eventually I gave up trying to get it to work until I was recently using PhoneView to download various items from my iPad one day when it dawned on me that there is a section in PhoneView to access the books that are on the device that you have connected to it.

So I copied an ePub from my iPad I purchased form O’rielly Media about web design to my desktop, that I had been highlighting and taking notes in. My thought process was that this book has some type of data associated with it, and the syncing works between my iPhone and iPad so if I were to use the same file on my Mac then the sync should be fixed. I then wondered what would happen if I put the book in a place that I could get at it from all of my devices. I moved it to my local Dropbox folder waited for it to upload and then I opened the file in iBooks on my Macbook, and sure enough the highlights and my current position synced perfectly. I open the book on my iMac and verified that all of the same data was accessible on that machine.

The next step was to make sure that this worked with other books so I uploaded a couple of ePubs that I didn’t have loaded on any of my devices to Dropbox and loaded them into iBooks on each of my devices, highlighted some sections, took some notes and once again it worked perfectly.

Syncing ePubs with iBooks on all devices:

  • Put the ePub in a central location that you can load it into iBooks from such as Dropbox
  • Do not change the name of the book if you have already loaded the book on one of your devices. The book needs to have the same attributes on all of your devices in order for it to recognize that there is data available for it to be syncing.
  • Load the book into iBooks on all of your devices. For iOS if you are using DropBox you will need to have the Dropbox app installed you can select the book and then hit the share icon, and tap on the Open In… button.
  • Happy Syncing

  1. Even the iCloud reset article that I wrote didn’t fix the sync issues  ↩

1Password iCloud Syncing Problem Fix

2014-10-21 Update: This guide is for those who have NOT moved to iCloud Drive. I still have not fully investigated where the data has moved once iCloud Drive has been activated.

Recently I discovered that my wife's 1Password information was not syncing correctly with iCloud. I had just updated the password to our Airport and wanted to make sure that her info in 1Password had the new password. I shared the new login with her via iMessage and clicked the link on her Macbook which brought the data into 1Password. I opened up 1Password on her iPhone to copy the new password and set up her wifi for her, and the old router information was in still in her database on her phone. I closed the app, reopened it and checked again; still the same old info. I tried her iPad and got the same results.

What followed next was hours of frustration trying to get all her devices to sync seamlessly. I exported the data from 1Password on her Macbook to her desktop so I had a copy of the data and then removed every trace of 1Password from her computer, stopped syncing the data to iCloud from her devices and deleted the iOS apps from her iPhone and iPad. On her computer I went into the local iCloud folder (~/Library/Mobile Documents) and deleted the two folders that had looked like this

1Password data files located in the ~/Library/Mobile Documents/ Folder

I restarted her computer reinstalled 1Password and imported the data that I had on her desktop. Went into the Preferences, Sync, and chose iCloud Sync. Made sure that the folders in the screenshot above were in the Mobile Documents folder indicating to me that the documents were in the process of being pushed up to iCloud.

I reinstalled the 1Password iOS apps and had to go through the initial setup again. I selected that I am an existing user, chose that I would like to sync with iCloud, and the next screen said that it was looking for existing data, and returned a screen that stated that Data Was Not Found.

At this point I was at a loss for words. I turned to trying to find the answer on the web, and followed the advice, multiple times, that was given on AgileBits Forums:

  • Please ensure that you are logged in with the same iCloud account on all computers and devices.
  • Please ensure that Documents and Data is enabled on all computers and devices.
  • On your iOS devices, open 1Password 4 for iOS, tap Settings > Sync > Sync Service and tap 'Disable Sync’.
  • On the Mac, open 1Password 4 for Mac, and click the 1Password menu, then Preferences. Click Sync, and click Change syncing.
  • Check the box to remove the data from iCloud and confirm that you want to disable sync.
  • Restart the Mac and iOS devices.
  • On the Mac, go back to the Sync preferences, and enable iCloud.
  • Wait about 20 minutes to give iCloud time to run the initial sync to all devices.
  • Go back into the iOS app and re-enable iCloud sync. It should work this time.

The above solution did not work. I had wasted most of my Saturday trying to figure this out, and finally threw in the towel. The next day I tried the above solution again and it did not work. Fed up I contacted AgileBits support team and after multiple back and forth emails I believe that I had stumped them. I appreciated all of their support, but I finally figured out how to get it working again.

At some point in between emails I had decided to go into the iCloud System Preferences and turn off only Documents & Data and I happened to have the Mobile Documents folder open, and noticed that there was a change to the folder name. It went from being named Mobile Documents to Mobile Documents.92991882.

This is what your local iCloud folder looks like when you turn of Documents & Data in the iCloud Preferences

I turned Documents & Data back on and I noticed that the folder changed back to just Mobile Documents. I decided to take all of my previous attempts into account and pieced together the following solution:

Fixing 1Password iCloud Sync Issues:

Macbook Air:

Open 1Password Preference -> Sync -> Change Syncing and check the box that says Delete data from iCloud, and click Disable Sync button. Accept the warning that states that it will delete your data. Quit 1 Password.

Open System Preferences iCloud -> Uncheck Documents & Data -> Click Delete from Mac button

(You may have to restart in between these steps. I did, but am not sure if that is what helped it)

On your iOS devices, now is a good time to go to the iCloud settings -> Documents & Data -> Click the Toggle Switch at the top of the screen, and confirm by clicking Turn Off Documents. Restart Your Devices

In the Finder Menu Bar click Go. Select Go to Folder -> Enter ~/Library/ and click Go Look for the Mobile Documents folder that now has what looks like a file extension at the end of it. Should look like Mobile Documents.92994182 Drag this folder to the trash.

Open System Preferences iCloud -> Re check Documents & Data

This will cause iCloud to re-sync your iCloud folder locally to your Mac.

iOS Devices:

Your devices should have restarted by now.

Go into Settings, Documents & Data and Toggle the Switch back to On.

Open 1Password and follow the setup screen as an existing user, and 1Password will find existing data in iCloud.

I have verified that everything syncs between devices by creating a login on one device and watching it appear on the other two. Hope this helps anyone who is having an issue with their 1Password data not syncing.

iCloud storage relative to amount of devices

Every iCloud user is given 5GB of free storage, and that can be upgraded to 20GB of storage for $40.00 a year or to 50GB of storage for $100.00 a year. I currently have my account upgraded to the 20GB of storage, as I was pushing the limit of the free 5GB of storage that was given to me. 

Recently someone I know made the switch from the Microsoft world to a Mac. The transition slowly starting with an iPad, then an iPod touch, and then eventually he bought a Mac for home use. A conversation about iCloud came up between the two of us, and he was complaining about the amount of storage that Apple offers for free. He voiced his concern that he has these multiple devices and only 5GB of free iCloud space. His thought was that if he buys multiple devices then he should get an extra 5GB of storage on iCloud for no extra charge. My response was, you only get 5GB and that is just the way it is. If Apple gave away 5GB for every device then almost no one would pay to upgrade their iCloud, and Apple wouldn't make money off of the service. (I assume that Apple doesn't really make money off of iCloud as much as it probably turns whatever profit they receive from iCloud upgrades into maintaining the infrastructure.)

Since having the the discussion I have started giving it some thought and I have started to change my feelings towards the subject. I still feel that 5GB per device is an excessive amount for Apple to give away for free, and that it would never happen. However I do think that Apple could compensate multi device users with additional storage space to a point.

In my case I have two mobile devices, and two computers. OS X does not fully utilize iCloud for storage, but I would guess at WWDC this year it will be revealed that the Mac is getting more iCloud integration and therefore it will take up more of that storage footprint. I don't really now what a reasonable amount of storage would be for Apple to give out, but even another 5GB for free would be welcomed. The problem however with this whole philosophy is how does Apple determine how much space to give someone, and what happens if that person sells their device, should they be able to keep their upgraded storage since they have one less device?

If I look at my iCloud usage the only OS X apps that are using iCloud storage are Pages, Keynote, and Pixelmator. I had recently considered purchasing Together 3 which I would chosen to use iCloud to keep all of my stuff in sync between all of my devices. Something like that would use a significant amount of storage over time. If I go to my iCloud settings and look at my total storage used is, it is 8 GB, so I don't even need the full 25 GB that I currently have, but I need more than the 5GB that was given to me. 

Since developers have such a hard time trying to implement Core Data syncing I don't think that this is such an issue right now. This is because a lot of developers choose to provide access to Dropbox, or they build their own syncing services for their apps. The majority of an iCloud users storage is taken up by iOS backups, but if Apple finally gets Core Data right and developers start using iCloud more for their app data, then I think people are are going to start finding the need to require more iCloud storage for their devices.

Whenever Apple decides to make iCloud functional for developers to use the service to sync their app data I think that they are going to have to either give storage increases for people who buy multiple devices or offer a wider selection of upgrades for storage, such as more tiers than their current offerings.

DM-1 Drum Machine Released for Mac OS X

Fingerlab has released it's previously iOS only Drum Machine software for Mac OS X.

I have had the iPhone version for awhile and have only tinkered with it. Hoping to get into the OS X version and really learn how to create realistic drum tracks and then possibly that will lead to some advanced tinkering in the iOS version.

According to their description on the Mac Appstore 

DM1 for OSX is fully compatible with DM1 for iPad, you can share files between them.

Here is a list of the apps features:

DM1 is an advanced Drum Machine. It turns your computer into a fun and creative beat making machine. Easy and fast to use, loaded with 86 superb electronic drum kits and beautiful hyper-realistic graphics, DM1 has been designed for a lot of instant fun.


With Midi In & out, DM1 is ready to fit your digital audio workstation.

As electronic musicians ourselves, we, at Fingerlab, have developed DM1 with the intention of delivering the perfect mix between fun playability and powerful sonic capacities. We always keep in mind the importance of a beautiful design with the right balance of powerful abilities while avoiding clumsy, overbusy interfaces. 

Check our 86 electronic drum kits. 20 classic vintage drum kits plus 66 in-house produced electronic kits, edited and mastered at Fingerlab professional studio.

DM1 offers 5 main sections:

1 - THE STEP SEQUENCER Just turn on and off steps in your sequence to create cool beats, or unexpected rhythms!

2 - THE DRUM PADS simply lets you play and record the beat that tickles your fingers on the keyboard. No need to be a first-class drummer, automatic quantize does the work for you.

3 - THE MIXER for quick and subtle sound mixing of your drum kits. Featuring settings for volume, pitch, pan, sample length, custom drum kit element for each channel, mute and solo mode.

4 - THE FX TRACKPADS a creative duo of FX trackpads to distort, modulate and transform your beats. The effects include: Overdrive, Delay, Reverb, Phaser, Dalek, Formant, Resonant Filter & Compressor.

5 - THE SONG COMPOSER allows you to quickly make a song with the beat patterns you have created. Just drag and drop the patterns onto the timeline. Fast and easy.

DM1 for OSX is fully compatible with DM1 for iPad, you can share files between them.

Specifications:

• DM1 The Drum Machine for iPad winner Apple design Award 2012
• Fullscreen Retina Display 
• Smart ergonomy for fast creativity and fun 
• 86 vintage and produced drum kits, mastered at in-house Fingerlab Sound Studios
• import your samples and create your own kits
• Mixer with pitch, length and level rotary controls, pan controls, and custom drum kit per channel 
• Automation Panel for a precise and intuitive control of any Mixer parameter over time 
• Automation recording for FXs
• FX Trackpad for real-time sonic destruction and multi-FX 
• Time signatures
• The Randomizer tool
• Extra fast drum kit loading 
• Playable pattern selection for extra creativity 
• Mode song with intuitive editing 
• High-quality export 
• Full Midi Implementation 
• Import & Export your song project 

 

Wanted: Local iCloud Backups

The move towards the cloud is making it easier to get all of your data on all of your devices with little to no effort.

For the purpose of getting your contacts, calendars, bookmarks, reading lists, reminders, and notes on all of your devices, Apple's iCloud just works, as advertised. This has at least always just worked for me...so far.

I have completely switched my devices over to iCloud to let it manage this data, but I have been nervous ever since I turned it on. The fear is that I may wake up one day, open my contacts and there is nothing there. The same goes for all of the personal data I listed above.

All of these items could be manually backed up, but that would be time consuming and most likely something that you would easily forget to do.

It would be nice if Apple allowed users the ability to automatically download backups of these databases with the flip of a toggle switch. Having the ability to download a backup of this data, and allow it to save two or three revisions of that database would definitely make me feel more at ease with having my data in iCloud.

Even if Apple had been successful with all of it's attempts at online services, which everyone knows they have not, I would still be as leery with fully trusting that they would be able to protect this data forever.

For now I will just have to set reminders, and hopefully not be too busy to follow the process to manually back this data up so that I could restore it in the future if need be.

Capitalizing on the death of Google Reader?

I have seen a few articles over the last couple of days on the issue of Google Reader shuttering it's doors. There are a lot of people who still use the service, regardless of Google stating the user base is declining and using that as one of the reasons they are closing it down.

There are all sorts of reactions to the closing of that service such as petitions to save it, hope that the closing of it will bring about an innovation in RSS, suggestions on alternative services to replace Reader, are just a handful of the many reactions in response. 

I currently use Reader myself, and use it multiple times a day, everyday. I do so mostly on my iPhone using the app Reeder. This app's lifeblood today is Google Reader, but the developer posted a tweet stating that the app would be fine without Reader. Currently though until the folks who develop Reeder announce what their plans are, I was wondering what to do in the meantime as a possible alternative.

I started to think about how I use to consume the web before the iPhone, and remembered that I use to use an app called NewsFire by Dave Watanabe. I was curious if NewsFire still existed and wondered, as I haven't used it in quite a while, if it could load RSS feeds directly into the app instead of being dependent on loading your Google login and password to filter Google Reader RSS feeds through the app, as Reeder does. 

I went to the NewsFire website and was pretty excited when I clicked on the download button, and it opened the Mac Appstore. I was a little disappointed that the price was $9.99. I love to support developers, but at the same time I am mindful that I already paid for Reeder on my Mac, iPad, and iPhone. So to pay another $10.00 for an RSS app was not something I was looking to do. I regularly use the website appshopper.com, and it's companion iOS app, to be notified when software goes on sale. A quick search brought up NewsFire and I clicked on the name of the app which brings you to a page (NewsFire on Appshopper) that displays all of the same information that the Mac Appstore does such as a description of the app, screenshots, the price and a buy button.

The site is also useful, because it displays the price history of an app from the time it debuted on the App Store to the present. What I found interesting is that the app became a Mac Appstore app on February 3, 2011 and was priced at $4.99. Coincidentally the only time that there has been a price change was on March, 14 2013, the day after the announcement that Google was shutting Reader down.

Some back story on what my experience with seeing this developers name on the web. Around 2004 or 2005 when NewsFire was released, anytime there was a story about it or any of the developer's other software there was always a huge uproar about the developer's practices. Claims that he was using code that was not his (I do not know if this is true and I am not accusing. I just know what I have read many people say), among all sorts of other rants in the comment sections. I used the software and quite liked it, but it was hard to look past how much discontent everyone had for the guy.

A quick search on MacUpdate for NewsFire brought me to a disgruntled user on the very first page in the comments section. User younkint posted a comment on February 18, 2009: This comment was posted four years ago, but also four or five years after NewsFire was released. 

Before you consider installing ANY software concocted by David Watanabe on your computer, please do a decent Google search of "David Watanabe" first. Especially do this if, for some reason, you are contemplating actually sending him your hard earned money.
It will not take you long to come to a conclusion. Even a simple search here on macupdate should suffice.

I did a Google search and came up with a whole page dedicated to complaints about Watanabe. 

I know that developers make their living from selling their product, but this to me seems so unlike what most developers would do today. I would expect most developers would try and help users out by running a short sale to try and get people an app with which they can load all of their feeds into, and give the user a way to migrate away from Reader now. By helping people out it would only boost their sales, because those types of discounts tend to circulate tech websites that cater to people who would use their software. The dip in price would certainly make up for itself in the volume of sales that would be generated.

The biggest problem I have with this is, that knowing the public opinion of the developer from years past, and the fact that the only price change to this app since it was accepted into the App Store was a $5.00 increase the day after Google announced that they were doing away with their RSS solution, just doesn't seem right to me. 

Suggestions for Improving iOS

Everyone has features that they would like iOS to have that it currently does not. The massive community of jailbreakers out there is a testament to that fact. I use to be among those who jailbroke my phone because there were features that were missing. Apple is constant updating iOS and adding new features, because of this (and the fact that it is a hassle to keep up with) I really have no need to jailbreak anymore. Even though I have given up on jailbreaking there are many times when I am using my device that I say why can’t I do this, or that? It has bothered me enough to compile a list of things that I think that Apple could improve upon.

App Management

Closing open applications should not be a cumbersome process. It is not an extremely difficult process now, but if I have ten or twelve apps open and I would like all of them closed there should be a button for that. The current process of quitting an app is double tap the home button to reveal all of the current running apps, press and hold any icon until they all begin to wiggle, press the red minus sign above each icon and you have effectively quit the app. My thought is that if they designed the UI to expand larger when you double tap the home screen to reveal current running apps, there would be room for the X that is used in Notification Center to Clear all notifications from an app. Instead of Clear, it could say Close All Apps. Once you press on this button, all icons disappear and all apps (accept maybe the app you have in the foreground) are no longer open.

A feature that would also be welcomed is one that can be borrowed from device management using iTunes on the Mac, and that is the ability to rearrange whole pages of apps on the springboard . As we move away from using the Mac and iTunes as a way to manage the content on our devices these types of features should be baked into the OS. This is not something that I have used a whole lot, but when you have a lot of apps on a device that you want to organize it would be helpful to be able to move a page ahead or back right on the device.

Notification Center

The first real annoyance I had with Notification Center came when Twitter updated their app with the ability to have push notifications. I was actually really excited when I first found out that Twitter had gained pushed capabilities. However the first time I had my volume on, and heard the default text Tri-tone sound come from my phone and I realized that it was Twitter that had alerted me I was less than impressed. I immediately opened the settings app and went to the Twitter section of Notification Center to see if the sound could be changed. I am not sure why, but it blew my mind that they would not incorporate a sound that implicated that you were receiving a notification from Twitter. (Kind of like the default tone for oh I don't know...sending a tweet?!) So there you have it. Custom tones in Notification Center.

The subject of customization within Notification Center can be taken further, and give people one more reason to abandon jailbreaking. The ability to have quick easy access to settings right in Notification Center would be a welcomed addition. Easily turn Bluetooth on and off, airplane mode, view wifi networks. Understandably this is something that can just get out of hand if too much is added into Notification Center. Maybe the possibility in the Settings app for one to choose what options they want to appear for easy access.

Reminders

Some of the features that Apple chooses to add to the Mac or the iOS version of an app, and yet at the same time decide to not add it to the other one is at times frustrating. A perfect example of this is the Reminders app. Sharing of reminder lists is a feature that is exclusive to the OS X version. This should have been built into the app across both platforms. Not everyone owns a Mac, however there are families that own multiple iOS devices. For those who only own iOS devices, this feature would be endlessly useful. I am aware that a work around for this would be to create a shared calendar, but why not use Reminders to create reminders instead of Calendars.

Another annoyance that I have found in using Reminders is the uselessness of the geofencing capabilities. It works great when I want to set a reminder for when I get home, or when I leave work since I already have those addresses in my Contacts. It be nice to be able to create a reminder using any location in Maps. When you toggle on the Remind Me At a Location there should be an option under the Enter an Address called Chose an Address. This option would open Maps and you could search for a location, or pull the map around to wherever you would like to be reminded of something, drop a pin and confirm it by selecting the > symbol, and tap on the address. At that point you would be taken back to reminders and the address that you tapped is now the location at which you will be reminded to do something.

Contacts

Contacts and system wide implementation of the names in your contacts is horrible to say the least. Here is an example of what I mean. Say that my mother’s name is Mary Jane Smith. I like to keep my contacts tidy and have as much information as I possibly can added to that contact, such as middle names, birthdays, and so forth. When I get a call however I do not want to see the full complete name of that person. I would like the ability to input Mary Jane Smith into my phone and to possibly have a toggle in the settings app that allows me to hide the display of the middle name for calls or when Siri says the name of that person. Another toggle for the display of nicknames would be a welcomed feature. That way I would see Mom displayed on the screen for the caller ID. These nicknames can be used to start a new text, or send an email, but they are not displayed anywhere in the system in place of the contacts full name.

Another feature in Contacts I would like to see updated is the phonetic name field. I have personally had an issue with this field with my last name. I entered my last name Laughlin into the phonetic last name field (spelling it LAWF-lin, amongst other spellings), because Siri seemed to want to say it Laugh (like hahaha) lin, and not as if it were spelled; Loughlin (this doesn't work either). Something else that bothers me about this field as well is when you enter a phonetic last name it moves your contact around based on how it is spelled. I currently have my address book set up so it is sorted by the last name and that is how I would like it. The phonetic name spelling should not interfere with this sorting, but that is how Contacts currently handles phonetic names.

Siri

Siri was briefly mentioned in the above section dealing with Contacts; so I will talk about it further. To go deeper into the phonetic names issues with Siri, and my last name in particular, I stated above that it miss pronounces my name; this is half true. If I tell Siri to text my wife it says my last name as I stated above LAUGH-lin. The puzzling thing however is when I say to Siri call my wife, she will pronounce my last name exactly as it should be. So why is it that she will pronounce it incorrectly for one task, and pronounce it correctly for another task?

I have also noticed that when I do activate Siri to send a text to or call someone while I am playing any audio source that it doesn't pause what is currently playing, rather the audio keeps playing (muted) in the background. This seems like a really bad oversight on Apples part. I love how when I disconnect from the headphone jack that the music will stop automatically, and you can pick back up where you left off later on. When you get a phone call from someone the music will pause, and then pick back up when the call is disconnected. Naturally you would expect the same thing to happen when Siri interrupts your audio, but that just is not the case.

With iOS 6, Siri gained new capabilities such as retrieval of various sports, movie, and restaurant knowledge. One day while using Siri to make a phone call, I wondered If I could say a name that is not in my contacts and Siri would use my location and search a database of available names in the White Pages. I knew before I did this that it wouldn't return with a name, but I tried it anyhow. To me it seems like this would have been one of the first things built into a phone based assistant. I will admit that I do not use my phone for it’s phone like capabilities even a quarter of the time, but the fact of the matter is that it is still a phone. This would still be a great addition to add to Siri’s search capabilities; White Pages and Yellow Pages.

Calendar

I don’t seem to have as much of an issue with the Calendar app as most people do, but I do have a couple of thoughts on the subject. Calendar is great at inputting an event into your Calendar so you can keep track of your schedule. However most people want to have detailed control over how they are reminded of the events that they create, and or the ability to have the event repeat in the future and while the ability is there in iOS it is not something that can be fine tuned to work exactly how one would like to all the time.

The first subject of customization that I would like to touch on is that of repeating events. Say that I have a meeting that I need to attend three days out of the week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) that begins at 11:00am. I open Calendar, click the + sign and the Add Event dialog opens. Enter Meeting for the name, a location, start and end time. The next option is Repeat, this is where I say alright I only want to do this entry once and have it auto populate for me. Clicking on Repeat gives you the following options: None, Every Day, Every Week, Every 2 Weeks, Every Month, Every Year. The ability to pick what days of the week you need to attend an event is none existent in iOS. This feature is however available in the OS X version of Calendar. One should be able to pick what days of the week they want an event to be added to their calendar in a repetitive sequence.

The next issue has somewhat of a relation to repeating events, but in a different way. Say that I have an event that I have to attend on Monday and Thursday. That is the only time i will ever have to have this item in my Calendar. The natural thought process (at least for me) would say I can create the event once, and after that I can hold my finger down on the event, release and a dialog will pop up for me to copy the event and paste it into Thursday. In reality this can not be done at all. Takes you back to when you couldn't copy and past in iOS...remember that?!

Next up is event locations. When adding an event you have the option of entering a location for the event, and this has to be manually typed in. I would like to see the same location based capabilities that Reminders has added to this section (along with the suggestion I had of adding the feature to be able to choose a location). Calendars currently lacks even the ability that Reminders has of being able to enter an address from your Contacts by providing a + symbol when you activate that text box.

The last issue that I have with the Calendar app is the lack of customizing the alerts that you receive for an event. After selecting the Alert section of adding an event the following options are given: None, At time of event, 5 minutes before, 15 minutes before, 30 minutes before, 1 hour before, 2 hours before, 1 day before, 2 days before. There are certainly a lot of options to choose from in this section, but I have found myself wanting to fine tune this down to being reminded only a couple of minutes before I have to be somewhere. A perfect addition to this section would be to add another field that says Custom and when selected you are presented with an UIDatePicker just as you have when adding a start and end time to an event.

Messages

Messages has grown since iOS was first released, but it still has the capability to be a great program. I was immediately disappointed to find out that iOS did not ship with a full blown version of iChat. At the time I still used chatting services like iChat, AIM, Google’s built in service. I still do use them occasionally, but I might even use them more if I had the built in mobile ability to. There are apps on the App Store that provide access to these services, just as you could get various apps for chatting on the Mac. However I always used iChat, because it worked just fine. It would be nice for iOS to have the ability to configure these services right out of the box.

Texting within Messages still seems like it needs improving. Over the years we have seen the introduction of sending MMS, delivered/read receipts, subject fields and character counts. We have finally caught up to the year 2000 (probably even earlier than that). I would love to see taking the concept of iRealSMS and having the capabilities available without jailbreaking. Quick and Easy texts/replies from the lock screen, the ability to view your texts in folders and separate messages so you have a history of when each text was sent. I would still like to be able to view the current display of a constant scrolling IM window for texts as well, but there are times when you would like to know when a certain text was sent and when/if the other person actually read the text. Having the individual text view would provide this information. A way to do this could be while you are in the conversation window that shows all of your text bubbles you slide from the right side of the screen as you do in Facebook to reveal your “buddy list”, but instead shows a list view of your texts showing everyone’s names, the date, their text/imessage, time it was received/sent, delivered/read. In the vein of the way you can see recent call information. It just wouldn't show there complete Contact card.

Photos

First up...Photos app:

With iOS 6 came the ability to share your photos directly to Twitter and Facebook. The issue that I am going to point out relates to Facebook sharing. Say that I have just taken a batch of photos and I pick the best one to share with Facebook. The picture is of my daughter so I want to tag my wife in the photo so that it shows up on her profile as well. I navigate to the picture, click the share icon, and am presented with the Facebook share sheet. It previews the picture I am sharing, gives me a place to enter text about the photo, I notice under the picture it shows a gallery named iOS. This is where it gets terribly annoying. Under the picture preview I see Friends, where I can choose what group of my friends I want to see this picture and effectively other groups I don’t want to see the picture. There is an Add Location button as well. If you change the Gallery that the photo is going to then the Audience option disappears (I can only assume because you have privacy settings on the gallery when you created it.). There is no way whatsoever to tag someone in this window.

Now as an experiment if you own the iOS version of iPhoto, open the app and select a picture, press share, Facebook, Selected (1). Just as in the Photos app a Facebook share sheet appears, but this one has more options. Under the picture preview there is a Tag Friends + selection, you can add your location, The gallery selection is now a separate button in the share sheet title bar displayed as a book icon. This is not just a difference between OS X and iOS, this is a discrepancy within iOS that make no sense. Why have two different share sheets for the same service?

Next...Photostream:

With Photostream you select any number of people that you want to share photos with, they are added to a group, and when you add photos to this group of people they are notified that there are new photos available to them for viewing. They can comment and like the photos if they wish. I prefer using Photostream over sending pictures via the Messages app, or even through e-mail. There is definitely room for improvements on what can be done with Photostream. It seems to me and from what people I have overheard other people say, is that it would be a nice feature to be able to add photos to other people’s photostreams. A use for this is my daughter just spent her first night away from home since she was born with her Aunt and Uncle. They took a bunch of pictures of her, and my sister in law sent a lot of them through Messages to my wife. Currently my wife shares a Photostream of our daughter with all of the family members. All of the pictures could have been taken and added to the Photostream, and I could have just went in and added them all to my camera roll. This option wouldn't always be wanted so you could in the initial set up of the Photostream have a selector to turn on the ability for subscribers to add photos, and even go so far as to be able to moderate the adding of photos. Someone adds a photo, and you get an alert that there are photos someone wants to add to your stream, and you can go in to preview them so that there are no inappropriate photos being added or whatever the case may be.

The last point on photos encompasses both of the previous subjects of the Photos app and Photostreams. There may be times when you want to take pictures or share pictures and keep them private from prying eyes. While the mind goes immediately in the gutter; there are other reasons to keep photos secure such as proprietary information, maybe you want to take pictures of something that is going to be a present for someone, etc. I know...this feature would be welcomed to keep you from wondering if your coworker is going to see something they shouldn't when you are flipping through all of the new pictures you took of your dog over the weekend. (Dog, Dog, ooops! Sorry about that, you didn't want to see me naked did you?....) Whatever the case may be for keeping photos from other people seeing, there is a need to keep certain pictures private.

In the Photos app you should have the ability to create a separate camera roll (notice that I did not say album, because albums don’t physically move your picture from the camera roll.) that you must enter a lock code for and this camera roll is encrypted. If you take pictures with the default camera roll you would have the ability to move a picture to the secured camera roll and it automatically deletes it from the unprotected camera roll. When you open Photos there is no preview for the pictures in the Secure Camera Roll. If anything you would see an icon of a lock and a basic gray background. When you create Photostream there would be a selector to be able to secure the Photostream with a password, the person you want to share the Photostream with is alerted by email that they have been asked to join a Secure Photostream, and when they accept they must have knowledge of the password or they are prompted to create a password on their end that locks it down on their device. These Photostreams will also be supplied with a generic lock cover art and offer no preview of what is inside.

Beam

The next topic deals with ease of sharing. Most people were hopeful that Apple was going to include NFC in the iPhone 5. Apple already implements a sharing feature in one of it’s apps that could be used to easily share information with other iOS devices. That app is iPhoto for iOS, and it’s sharing feature is called Beam. If you select a photo, click the share button, and select Beam you are presented with a warning that the location is always included with beamed photos. When you click Allow, you are presented with a window that informs you that it is searching for other iOS devices. When there is another iOS device that is on the same network and has iPhoto open; it will appear in the list of devices and then you may select that other device and press Beam Photos. A pop-up alert appears on the receiving device that asks if you would like to receive photos from the sending device. When yes is selected the the transfer will begin and an alert will appear that the transfer has completed.

Apple should build this into the entire iOS system. There are many uses for Beam (effectively Airdrop for iOS). Transferring not only photos, but video from Photos app, Contacts, Notes, iWork documents, collaborating on a song with the ability to export a track right into someone else's Garageband, the list goes on. I think that if/whenever the iPhone receives NFC than maybe this will be something that is saturated through the entire operating system, but feel that it could be implemented using bluetooth, at least with the new phones that utilize Bluetooth 4.0. The devices could determine if they are sharing the same wifi network and if not they would use bluetooth as a means to transfer the data between the two.

Dictionary

This is one of those things that I don’t know how much it really matters to have or not but I think that it would be a quick and easy thing to add to iOS. I am also aware that you can type a word in and define it, but it would be nice to have a dedicated search able Dictionary/Thesaurus on iOS.

iPad...What Happened To the Default Apps That Are on My iPhone?!!

Missing apps on the iPad...Why? Why should I have to buy a calculator for the iPad when the iPhone ships with one?Calculator and Voice Memos are two apps that would be perfect for the iPad, especially in a work environment. With iOS 6 the Clock app was added to the iPad. It is time to release the rest of the missing apps.

Back to my Mac

My last request is a huge stretch, and I doubt any of this functionality will ever see it’s way into iOS. I have an iMac, Macbook Pro, an iPad, and an iPhone. My iPhone is with me about 99% of the time, iPad about 60% of the time, Macbook Pro 30%, and iMac is fully accessible when I am at home. Now I say that it is fully accessible only when I am at home, because I have purchased apps (Screens, iTeleport) that allow me to get into my iMac when I am away from home. I had to spend a lot of money comparably to most normal apps to gain this ability, but it gives me flexibility and options that aren't built into iOS.

Currently all of these devices are signed in with iCloud, and can locate them with the find my iPhone app. When I add a Safari bookmark on one device it shows up on the others, edit an iWork document it changes on all devices. That is great that I can do all of that, but I want to be able to have deeper access to the information on my computer when I am away from it.

With my Macbook I have the capability to use Back to My Mac where I can see my iMac in the sidebar of any finder window. I can browse the hard drive from wherever I am, copy a file to my Macbook. With the iPhone and iPad I do not have the ability to see the contents of my computers directly on the device. Using an app like Screens allows me to log in and virtually control the files on my computer at home but that is about it.

iOS does not have any direct access to the file structure like a traditional operating system so there are limitations on what can be done with an interaction between an idevice and a Mac. Here are some things that could be done to give better interaction between the two ecosystems.

iTunes: Home sharing should be available anywhere, anytime you have a connection. Whether you are in your house on your home network, you are in a hotel room halfway across the globe, or driving in your car. Open the Music app on your phone, navigate to Home Sharing, depending on how large your iTunes library is it may take a little bit for it to load. After that initial load you have instant access to your iTunes library and you can stream right to your phone. Currently there is an app I use for this called Audiotap. There are a couple of other apps out there that offer the same functionality. If developers are allowed to create these apps and sell them in the store, there is no excuse for Apple to not have this as a built in feature since it doesn't seem to violate any rules that iTunes has in place.

One can argue that iTunes Match is Apple's answer to this, but it really isn't. With their limit on the amount of songs that you can have, the switching out of explicit for clean tracks, album artwork missing, and various other problems I have read about. I'm not going to take the leap with my iTunes Library yet. The song limit is especially one reason why I am not doing it yet. I recently combined all of my songs and my wife's song in on library using a shared folder in the User directory. We are almost at a 60,000 song count so that is well over the limit. I believe that they only begin to start using the 25,000 song limit for items that they can't match, but my collection of live Metallica shows certainly matchable and would take up a huge chunk of that limit.

iPhoto: I have thousands of photos on my computer. There is no way possible to load all of those pictures to a device, nor would there be a need to carry all of them with you all of the time. However having the ability to access any photo anytime would be a great feature to have. Through the Photo app you would be linked to all of the Macs your iCloud ID is associated with (you choose which Mac’s iPhoto Library you want to browse, My iMac...My Macbook and then the library for that device is loaded in the same style as music is for Home Sharing ), you browse through your photos just as if they were on your device, save the photos you need at that particular moment to your Camera Roll and from there you can do whatever you like with them.

Logic/Garageband: This would be an amazing feature to add to iOS. I would think that it would be another paid app from Apple (maybe a built feature or in app purchase for Garageband interaction), but I would definitely pay for it. The ability to use your device to remotely control both Logic and Garageband. I have wanted to build a vocal booth for awhile now, but I don’t want to bother my wife with having her sit next to the computer and hit record, stop or whatever it is that is needed to be done in an instant while I am inside the booth. If I could have an iPad with me while I am singing I can start a recording, change the volume levels in real time. Delete a take that I don’t really care for, choose to play the audio back through the iPad for a quick review. The iPad could transform into an input device such as a keyboard, drum machine, or a microphone for a quick and dirty demo. I am sure there is so much more that could be done with a tight integration between iOS and OS X that would give home studios an added boost.

Conclusion:

Fixing the inconsistencies between iOS and OS X will help the consumer to want to continue supporting Apple. I have been an Apple supporter/evangelist for the last 13 years, and there are times I scratch my head over these things that I pointed out above. I still support Apple and want them to succeed, but those who are new to the Apple ecosystem they may not have the patience that a seasoned Mac user has. I have seen new Apple users who get frustrated by one little thing and they say that’s it I won’t buy another Apple product. I knew I shouldn't have bought this thing, there are others who buy an iPod or an iPhone and they say this is great I am going to take a leap of faith and buy my first Mac.

It is important that Apple keeps a tight integration between the two operating systems. They know this, otherwise Mountain Lion would not have Notification Center, Reminder, Notes, Messages, Launchpad and the list goes on. I know that iOS devices are about the future of computing, but as long as the past is still in the present, a marriage of the two worlds should exist.