Monday, November 16, 2015

For the Love of Pod-casts

An ATP Mention

The last six months of so have brought a major change to my life, it all started when my good friend Alex (@alexredsox) posted a tweet about a mention he got on the Accidental Tech Podcast. At the time I saw it, quickly listened to his moment in the sun and then continued moving down my Twitter feed. It would take me about six months to fully appreciate why he was so excited about being referenced on a podcast.

My Podcast

I had been aware of podcasts for quite a while, including the production of my own podcast called "Keeg's World", which was a companion to my LiveJournal back at the turn of the century. I attempted to start the one guy talking to himself show, but it didn't really pan out and only lasted a few episodes. I never really checked out any other podcasts, probably because it required so much leg work to the iPod up to date. I was also very excited to be listening to music during my commute into Boston on my fancy new 3rd generation iPod

My other love besides music has been the Howard Stern show. I have been a listener since the late 1990's and continue to listen today on Sirius/XM. Say what you will about him and his sometimes controversial show segments, but I find him to be an amazing entertainer. His ability to know exactly what his audience will find entertaining is amazing, he somehow puts himself in the position of the listeners and can immediately tell if something is entertaining or not. He is the greatest interviewer I have ever heard, because he goes beyond the standard questions and digs deeper with people. You can have little or no interest in somebody, and after a short 90 minutes you can't wait to buy their album or see their new movie. My favorite part of the show is usually the beginning of the show, because it is just Howard talking about his everyday life. Some mornings it is a lengthy discussion about his evening at home and other times he might talk about a dinner he had with his parents. The first hour of the show never fails to keep me entertained, because it is just a couple of people talking about nothing in particular.

A New Interest

Fast forward to the Spring of 2015 and something changed, I can't say for sure what triggered the interest, but I started listening to a couple podcasts. Right around the time the Apple Watch was released I checked out either the iMore show or The Talk Show. I was hooked right away, because I found people that talked about something I was passionate about, Apple. I quickly consumed these podcasts each week and then the cross pollination began. First, Rene Ritchie mentioned another show he was on called, Debug. I checked it out and added it to my growing list.

It wasn't long before I found the Accidental Tech Podcast(ATP) again. I loved the banter between the guys and how they discussed all facets of technology, it was nice to also hear them go back and forth on various topics. I was especially intrigued by John Siracusa, his quick wit, knowlege and critical perspective on all the things really spoke to me. I had to know more so I delved into the archives of the old 5x5 podcast network and found the 100 episode run of Hypercritical Naturally I started at episode 1 and started to learn more about Mr. Siracusa. Luckily around that time he started Reconcilable Differences with Merlin Mann, which really dove into the mind of Mr. Hypercritical.

I cruised a long with a nice set of shows for a few months and was able to keep up with the new episodes, thanks to Overcast and its Smart Speed feature. I learned that September is a ridiculous month as all the podcasts first predict what Apple will announce, discuss what Apple announced and finally try out the products Apple released.

Hello Internet

Right around this time on The Talk Show Episode 132 with Marco Arment they kept talking about a show called Hello Internet, I hadn't heard of it before, but when John Gruber and Marco Arment recommend something (both Howard Stern fans I believe) you should go listen to it. They couldn't have been more right!!

The fun thing about podcasts is that you can pick and choose the order in which you listen to the shows. In the case of Hello Internet I decided to listen to the first several episodes to learn the full story of CGP Grey and Brady Haran and their little podcasts of two guys talking. I was immediately hooked. The balance between their personalities is perfect, very much like the perfect balance found on ATP between Marco, Casey and John. The added bonus for me was that it was not a technology podcast, so my wife enjoyed listening too. Of course being a completionist and once again being intrigued by one of the hosts, in this case CGP Grey, I sought out more information and found the Cortex. I was fortunate enough to find this early enough that I was able to complete the entire backlog in a few weeks time.


So why did I make this post about podcasts I like? A couple weeks ago I came to a realization that finding podcasts was bittersweet for me. It has been great finding people in the world that care about the same things as me like, Apple, technology, work styles, etc.. However, it also made me realize I don't have people in my everyday life with the same interests. OK that is not entirely true since there is one guy at work with the same views, but he doesn't share the same love of podcasting. It might be time to start my own podcasting network so I can find others with similar interests.

Other Subscribed Podcasts

Here are some other podcasts I didn't mention above, but subscribe to.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tips for iOS Device Enjoyment

Here is a list of the first things I do when I get a hold of somebody's iPhone or iPad when they are looking for advice on how to set up their iOS devices.  After completing the following you should have a better experience with your iOS device.

  1. Upgrade to a paid iCloud storage plan.

    The free 5GB storage option is nice when you get started, but after you have lots of photos on your phone OR have two devices this space runs out quickly and will give you the dreaded "Unable to back up your device because you don't have enough iCloud storage."  Apple recently revised their storage tier pricing so you can get 50GB of storage for $0.99 per month (less than $12 per year).  This space can be used to store all sorts of things, but most people will use it for the back up of their devices and for their photos.

    To upgrade your storage plan just do the following:
    - Go to the Settings app
    - Navigate to the iCloud settings
    - Tap "Storage" setting
    - Tap "Change Storage Plan"
    - Tap the storage plan of your choice and tap Buy
    - You will be prompted to enter your iTunes password and will then be billed monthly.
  2. Turn on iCloud Photo Library

    One of the biggest culprits of the "Not enough space available" message is Photos and typically you see this message when trying to take a photo.  The gut response is to go to the Photos app and start deleting photos to make space, which will most likely cause you to make hurried and rash decisions.  You may find that when you have more time you will take the photos off of your device and put them on a computer, which works for a time, but then you don't have access to them on your phone anymore.  The iCloud Photo Library will put a copy of all the photos on your device onto Apple's servers.  The photos will take up your iCloud storage space, but if you completed step 1 above then you will be able to store plenty of photos.  The added bonus is you can see all the photos on any iOS devices you are logged into and will also be able to view them at  Your "Not enough space available" issue will also be resolved, because as your device starts to run low on space, the device will start to clean up any of the full versions of the photos that are on the device that are also on Apple's servers.  You will always have small versions (thumbnails) of your photos on your devices, but no matter what the full version will always exist in the server, only to be downloaded to your device if you try to view it.

    How to enable iCloud Photo Library
    - Go to the Settings app
    - Navigate to the iCloud settings
    - Tap the Photos item
    - Flip the switch to turn on the "iCloud Photo Library"
    - Choose "Optimize iPhone Storage" if you have a small phone and lots of photos.
    - It will take a while for it to upload all your photos.  Go to and you can see how it is progressing
  3. Turn on iCloud backup

    One of the most common features that people typically have turned off is the iCloud backup.  I often talk about this by saying, "I could take my phone and throw it into a river right now, go to an Apple store, buy a new phone and within minutes be up and running with everything exactly the same."  Now of course that is a doomsday scenario, but this comes in handy when you get a new phone, because the first thing it asks you is whether or not you want to restore from an iCloud back up.

    How to enable iCloud Backup
    - Go to the Settings app
    - Navigate to the iCloud settings
    - Tap the Backup item
    - Turn on the back up
  4. Change the name of your device
    I would always get confused in the past when looking at a list of my devices somewhere either in the Find my iPhone app or with back ups regarding which actual device it was talking about.  I used to just say "Keegan's iPhone".  Starting with my iPhone 5, I actually went in and updated the name to "Keegan's iPhone 5" so if I updated to the iPhone 6S I would know exactly which phone it was talking about.

    How to update your device name
    - Go to the Settings app
    - Navigate to General > About
    - Tap the Name field and update your device name to the actual model number.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Apple Watch Tips and Tricks

Here are some quick tips that I have found helpful regarding the Apple Watch.

  • The first thing I did was turn on Silence Mode.  On the Apple Watch just swipe up to view glances and then swipe to the leftmost glance and tap on the Bell icon.
  • Turn on the Prominent Haptic feedback which will give you a strong tap before most notifications are displayed.  Using the Apple Watch app on the iPhone go to My Watch > Sounds and Haptic and toggle the Prominent Haptic switch.  Turn up the Haptic Strength while you are in there.
  • Turn on Bold Text, this will make it easier to read some stuff. Using the Apple Watch app on the iPhone go to My Watch > General > Accessibility.  Toggle the Bold Text option.  I don't like a lot of motion or transparency so you might want to turn that off while you are in there too.
  • Enable Apple Pay.  Using the Apple Watch app on the iPhone go to My Watch > Passbook & Apple Pay to add any credit or debit cards you have.
  • Remove any Watch faces you don't like.  After a couple weeks of use I found I only used three of the watch faces, so I deleted all the other watch faces so it was easier to switch.  From the watch face do a Force Touch and then swipe up on the watch faces you don't want to delete them.  You can always add them back by using the "New" face functionality, which is the last face on the right.
  • Try using Force Touch all over the place because you never know when some secret options or features will show up.  For example, doing a Force Touch on the notifications screen will allow you to clear all notifications at once.
  • If your digital crown gets hard to spin it is probably because some dirt or sand has managed to muck it up.  The quick fix is to go to the sink, turn on a slow stream of warm water, place the crown under the water and spin it back and forth for about 10-15 seconds.  Afterwards dry it off and it will be spinning like new.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

FormItem Column Count Issue

I ran into a problem today when loading a Form component with a couple of FormItem children.  The error message said, "The Form must have form items with the same number of constraint columns". In an effort to hopefully save somebody time in the future, here is the reason this showed up.  

One of my FormItem children had a skinclass defined on it, and the other didn't. The default skinclass provides three content columns (main content, sequence content and help content), while the other FormItem's custom skinclass only had two. When attempting to find the max width for each form item in a form it keeps track to make sure that all the FormItems have the same number of "content columns". If not the error will be thrown.

So to fix it I just had to make sure that every FormItem in the Form was using the same skinClass.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Mystery of iCloud Photo Library Optimization

To say I was thrilled with the introduction of the iCloud Photo Library is an understatement.    I have been waiting for this type of single source library for years.  Of course I immediately turned it on for all  my devices and went all in (not completely in Photos for OS X, because my library was all referenced and it is a slow process moving them over).  I was also excited about the cool Optimize Storage option in iOS because in 2012, when I bought my iPhone 5, 16GB seemed like plenty of space.  

However, as I soon found out the Optimize Storage option would cause me more stress than I anticipated.  You see Apple decided that the optimization would be completely automatic with no opportunity for manual intervention for the user.  There is clearly some sort of algorithm that determines what full size versions of photos to keep on the device.  So far one of the rules revolves around photos taken within the last 30 days and there is also one based on photos that were downloaded locally to the device in the recent past.  It seems that no matter how low the available storage level goes the full size of these photos will remain on the device.  

I learned this because the other day I tried to take a video of my son playing baseball and got the dreaded "Video couldn't be saved because of insufficient space" message. My heart sunk because I thought barring some insane offline photo taking spree this error would never appear on my devices again.  My expectation was that in the worst case scenario if space was running low (as in I didn't have enough space to take one picture) that the "Optimize" setting would delete ANY photos that had already been uploaded to the cloud.  I figured maybe there were tiers:
if (availableStorage > 500MB) then don't do any optimization
if (available Storage < 500MB && availableStorage > 250 MB) then get rid of any full size copies of photos from more than 30 days ago that have been uploaded to the cloud
if (availableStorage < 250MB) then delete any full size photos that have been uploaded to the cloud

No such luck though, it seems to insist on keeping some amount of full size photos on the device even if they exist in the cloud.  I was bit by this recently because about 2 weeks ago I went on a trip and recorded a bunch of video, which went up to the cloud nearly the same day.  However, now the 1GB of videos from last month sits on my device and I have no way of deleting it without also deleting the copy in the cloud too.

I tried all sorts of trickery like trying to delete the photos using the Image Capture app on my MacBook.  I turns out the delete functionality isn't available if iCloud Photo Library is turned on for the device.  So I tried turning off the iCloud Photo Library on the phone and while the delete button appeared in Image Capture it didn't really do anything.

In the end I found the best way to get me back some space was to turn off the iCloud Photo Library on my iPhone, which freed up some space because it removed all the iCloud Photo Library thumbnail photos, but all the full size photos were still on the device.  At this point I was able to use the Photos app on my iPhone to remove photos and videos from my device, but not from the iCloud Photo Library. I also had to delete them from the "Recently Deleted" album too. Once I got rid of some of the videos that had been taking up so much space I turned the iCloud Photo Library back on and it started downloading the thumbnails again, but I now have a 1.5 more GB of free space on my iPhone. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Photos for OS X Learning Curve

It has been a while since I have posted, but I figured it would be helpful to document my experience with the new Photos for OS X.

My Library Situation
Prior to the upgrade I had a few different Aperture libraries (stored in a sub directory of the Pictures directory). My primary library has a combination of internal library and externally referenced photos, some of the external are on an external drive.  A second library has all externally referenced photos, while a third library has all its photos stored in the library.  The primary library is the one that has had the photo stream turned on and syncs all of my photos from my iOS devices.

Since November I have had the iCloud Photo Library turned on for my iPad and iPhone, which has worked pretty well.  According the my Photos page there are 1389 photos and videos stored in my iCloud Photo Library at the current moment.

Photos for OS X Upgrade
I was very excited to come home and update my Mac to OS X 10.10.3 and to try out the new Photos app.  The upgrade took about a half an hour to download and install, but I was up and running.  I had heard a lot of talk and read a lot of reviews on the application, but looking back a lot of these seemed to focus on the standard single library that you got with your Mac use case.

I opened the Photos app and was expecting to be prompted to choose a library for importing, but instead it just asked if I wanted to create an iCloud Photo Library.  I click next and before I knew it the 1389 photos and videos stored in my iCloud Photo Library magically appeared before me. Nice!!!

But wait, what about my existing libraries?  I quickly searched online and started doing research, but I also did a little playing around with a test library containing both internal and externally referenced images.  Here are some questions I was wondering about and here are the answers.

Why wasn't I prompted to select a library for migration? 
Since my libraries were not in the Pictures directory, but instead in a subdirectory of the Pictures directory, it just went ahead and created a new library.  Apparently if you have just one library (iPhoto or Aperture) in the folder it will automatically try to use it.

What is the deal with the 'System Photo Library'?
You can have several Photos for OS X libraries on your system, just as you could have many different libraries for iPhoto and Aperture.  However, only one of these can be the 'System Photo Library'.  The big difference between the 'System Photo Library' and the other libraries is that this is the only one that will sync up with your iCloud Photo Library.  Opening a non 'System Photo Library' will show you the photos in that library, but it won't show the photos you have in the cloud and it also won't sync your photos to the iCloud photo library.  However, you can change a library to be the 'System Photo Library' after the fact so don't fret if it isn't the one you wanted (note that you want to switch this as infrequently as possible because it does trigger a download of at preview size copies of all the photos in your iCloud Photo library.

How do I convert Aperture and iPhoto libraries over to Photos and what does that mean exactly?
If you right click on an Aperture library (MyLibrary.apLibrary) in the Finder and choose Photos from the Open With menu it will ask you if you want to start the conversion process.  Once it is complete you should see all of your photos in the Photos app.  Back in the Finder you will see that there is now a MyLibrary.photoslibrary and MyLibrary.migratedaplibrary where the original library used to be.  Going forward these are now two separate entities that can be used with their respective apps, but any changes made in one won't appear in the other.  The first time you open a .migratedaplibrary you will be warned that any changes made to the photos will not be made in the Photos app, but if you click OK the extension will go back to .aplibrary.

What happens to referenced files when migrating to Photos for OS X?
Any files that were referenced in the Aperture library will continue to be referenced in Photos.  However, the tools for managing referenced files are very limited in Photos and essentially let you either see the referenced file in the Finder or Consolidate referenced files aka bring them into the library.  The other caveat with referenced files is that they will not be uploaded to your iCloud Photo Library.  The good news is that as soon as you "Consolidate" photos (which can be done on one or many photos at a time) they will be uploaded to the iCloud Photo Library, assuming that the library you are working on is the 'System Photo Library'.

Can I delete the old Aperture Library after migrating?
First of all any files that were stored in the Aperture library will be stored in the new Photos library. I have read in various places that the masters in one is a link to the other so in reality there is only one copy, but I am not sure what is going on there.  In my testing I took an Aperture library with photos stored in the library, migrated it to Photos and then deleted the Aperture library without event.

My Plan
After some research and testing I think I have a plan that should work for me.  I am going to convert my primary library from Aperture to Photos.  Initially most of the library will not end up in my iCloud Photo Library because most of the files are referenced files.  This will create a single library for all of my photos going forward, with any new photos from my iOS devices or imported into my Mac automatically going into the iCloud Photo Library.  Over time I will slowly run the "Consolidate photos" operation on my referenced photos so they will be added to the library and consequently uploaded to my iCloud Photo Library.  Since I have the option turned on to Optimize Storage, space won't become an issue and eventually all of my photos will be in the cloud.  As for my other libraries, I will probably just convert the smaller ones to Photos and the larger one leave as an Aperture Library right now because it has a ton of referenced images, which I might want the flexibility to easily move in the future which is much easier given the tools in Aperture.