XR or XS? And what size?

A friend writes:

XR or XS?

Sure! You should get one of those.  😉

All of the new ones are pretty kickass, and all have benefits. The XS (Apple pronounces it “ten-ess”) and its big brother are great, with two cameras on the back, but the one everyone is talking about is the XR. Comes in cool colors!

I’d look real hard at that one. The XS Max is nice but kind of enormous; I already have enough discomfort with the 8 Plus in a jeans pocket.

If you like two cameras (and I do, a lot) or a somewhat better display with richer blacks, get the XS. If you just want a kick-ass phone with amazing battery life at a good value, get the XR.

Does storage matter? 64 GB XS at $999 vs. 128 XR at $799

Fantastic question: I do like the 256 GB (gigabytes) in my 8 Plus. It’s a wee gluttonous, but I no longer have to worry a whit about my storage when I’m shooting video. Also, the 8 only came in 64 GB or 256 GB, and 64 was too small for me. So, it depends on your current usage, but I prefer at least 128.

Be Vigilant: Phishing Works

A friend writes:

I received an email from a colleague this afternoon. She uses Google Drive to send big files. The email said, “Barbara is trying to send you a file too big for email. Please sign into Google Drive.”

Not thinking that I was already signed in, I clicked and signed in, and even gave my phone number. It only took a min for me to realize what happened when I was taken to an art gallery. So I’m changing everything, all credit and bank and passwords, etc.

But I’m guessing they could have sucked every bit of data out of all my Google info in a couple of minutes. Oy vey…

It’s such a horrific — and tragically common — story these days. My friend has made the right move: Changing all his passwords, especially to all the major accounts such as Facebook, Apple, and Google, should secure him for the time being. Also, I think making sure you’re subscribed to a credit-monitoring bureau, and alerting them to such a happenstance, would be beneficial.

So just to make sure you know: Using a password manager such as 1Password [affiliat link], Dashlane, or LastPass helps immensely in these situations. You can use 1P to change all your passwords much faster than doing it manually, ensuring their all different and superlong. I even use 1Password to help me store the fake answers I create for the security questions.

What’s a “widget”?

That’s a reasonable question, given the silly history of the word:

a small gadget or mechanical device, especially one whose name is unknown or unspecified.

If you just want to know how it applies to your iPhone and Mac, skip the first few paragraphs.

In the software world, the story goes a little like this:

Yahoo bought a company years ago, called Konfabulator, who used the term to refer to a kind of mini-app. These little apps would show or do simple things — like weather, a calculator, a clock and calendar, a stock feed, package trackers — any single-purpose kind of information that you’d want to access or manipulate quickly. 

Konfabulator ran their widgets in a dashboard, an overlay on the rest of the stuff on your computer screen. You could have them floating on top or behind, or pop out from the side of your display, I can’t remember all the possibilities.

So Yahoo got ‘em and changed the name to Yahoo! Widgets, and pretty soon everybody was jumping on board. (“Widget” apparently has become a standardized term in software.) Apple put a Dashboard in OS X (still there but probably going away soon), Microsoft called them gadgets in Windows, you get the picture.

This year, Apple introduced a feature into iOS and the Mac, where you can add widgets to your Notifications screen. They are a very cool way to get quick information, and even to add notes and to-do items.

With my Philips Hue lights and the new Hue widget, I can even change the lighting scheme in my home! I just turned my office lights on and the den lights off, in two swipes and one click, without leaving my chair. 

Here’s how to add widgets in the Today view on your iPhone and on your Mac

Widgets I like:

There are more on the phone at the moment. We are waiting for Mac developers to release some goodies.

Note: I’ve used my App Store and Amazon affiliate links.

Which carrier should I choose for my iPad?

If I have my current phone plan through Sprint [or whomever], is there a reason that I shouldn’t get an iPad through them?

No, no reason at all, if you have been happy with their connection.

By the same token, the iPad is a separate bill, so you have no reason or obligation to go with the same carrier on the iPad as you have on your phone. In San Antonio, I generally recommend AT&T, but y’know, they’re all bloody bastards who have finally caught up to semi-decent technology. There are only fine, subjective distinctions between any of them.

If You Write, You Should Have Byword

If you ever write anything longer than emails, do yourself a favor: Download [Byword](http://bywordapp.com) on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. 

A Boon to Writers

Byword logo

If you ever write anything longer than emails, do yourself a favor: Download Byword on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Byword is built for editing text and Markdown files. It’s simple, pretty, and clean. It’s my favorite place to write.

As mentioned in Part I, text editors like Byword work best used in conjunction with a “cloud” service such as Dropbox or Apple’s iCloud. Syncing with the cloud lets you start a document on your iPhone, and finish it on your Mac. Or whatever device you have handy. Instant access to all your important text.

Byword is by no means your only option. But if you are just joining the Revolution in Text, I think it’s the best place to start.

Mac

Byword on the Mac is real straightforward: It’s just an app like Word or Pages. It’s job is to open and save plain text files from anywhere on your hard drive. But I would encourage you to start working in the Text folder you created in Part I.

iOS

Byword for iPhone and iPad is also easy. You just have to connect it Dropbox.

Open Byword, and tell it to connect to your Dropbox account.

Connect Byword to your Dropbox account

Then go back a level, and tap on Settings > Dropbox Setup > Folder, and choose the “Text” folder you created in Part I. Tap Done, and then tap on Dropbox to see all your text files.

Magic in an asterisk

But how do you make it look good? Look what a few well-placed asterisks can do:

Made-up Markdown example

Those characters use a really simple idea called Markdown. It’s easier to learn than making popcorn.

Links and images are also easy:

Made-up Markdown example

Here’s the kicker: Byword knows all these codes, and inserts them for you. Even on your iPhone. It’s as easy as any word processor, but without all the cruft — or the cost — of Microsoft Word.

Byword screen shot

What then?

“Great, fine,” you say, “but what do I do with that nicely formatted text?”

Easy magic! Byword automatically translates Markdown into formatted text (Rich Text Format or .rtf) and also HTML. You can copy formatted text straight from Byword into an email, or into Pages or Keynote. Bloggers can copy HTML to paste into a WordPress post. And if you use Squarespace (and you should totally use Squarespace), you can use Markdown directly in your web site and blog posts.

Markdown has gone viral among nerds, but I am here to tell you that it’s the writing tool for anyone at all.

Come to my presentation at BlogItSA! to learn more!

iOS 7, after the folderol

Sympathy

I want to start by sympathizing with iPhone users who have been reluctant to upgrade to iOS 7, and for those who did the upgrade and regret it. They have legitimate issues, ones that can’t be lumped under a sweeping, “Change is hard.”

Many folks have suffered dramatic decreases in battery life. Some found their apps crashing, and older apps not working at all. The new animations are dramatic enough to induce vertigo. If not for those serious problems, more people might have forgiven Apple’s choosing garish colors for their app icons, and going rather overboard in the Kate Moss-ification of their interface design.

Satisfaction

Now I’ll say that I have had an almost totally satisfactory experience with the new OS. Control center saves me a ton of time, Siri feels smarter, I love knowing my phone is locked to my Apple ID, Safari works better, and Camera and Photos saw massive improvements. And the layered-but-simple interface makes the whole experience more fun, more playful.

But I got bit by the iMessages bug, and was annoyed by the fix. And I have weird problems placing the text cursor.

I would entertain the popular beef with Apple’s app icons, but I don’t use many apps by Apple. Only the ones I have to, like Phone and Messages. On my phone, I have gone into Settings > General to Reduce Motion (I wish it were more comprehensive), adjust Text Size larger (I wish more apps accommodated Dynamic Type). I tried Increase Contrast, but I prefer the new translucent effects.

I do appreciate where Apple has taken their design language, and I think they had to push it as far as they did. They had to make a dramatic point about software UI, to challenge the rest of the developing world to break out of the bubbly chains of skeuomorphism. The resulting overall look is unquestionably cleaner and more efficient. It’s also worth saying that 7 beats the current Android and Windows Phone offerings into the ground.

Conclusion

While iOS 7 does represent a marked step forward for mobile technology, those who haven’t upgraded don’t have to just yet. Apple should have an update out soon that fixes the majority of bugs, and until they do, later adopters might stick with ol’ reliable iOS 6. When you do make the switch, there are dozens of articles to help you recover from problems and tune the system to your liking.

But change is inevitable. Developers have actively left iOS 6 behind. Apple is sure to require 7 to interface with whatever new magic they release. And once you’re in it, I really think you’re gonna enjoy it.

Apple Buys Cue

Bob M wrote:

I had on my list to look more at Cue per your recommendation. Then this happened. I look forward to seeing how it’s integrated into iOS 7.

Ohhhhhhhh that's what happened to them! Thanks for sending me this! I am glad Apple has copped to the importance of making logical connections between our data, and displaying it all at once. Google Now is good, though I can't say it has worked perfectly for me on iOS.

Noelle M, who showed me Cue originally, last week saw they were shutting down, so I went and tracked down Tempo for us.

I like Tempo a lot, and it fulfills most of what I got out of Cue. As Noelle noted this morning, however, it lacks some of the cleverness that made Cue a delight. Package tracking, upcoming travel itineraries, sunrise/sunset. But this is clearly a hot field, sure to attract plenty of heroic developer action in the near future.

Now I get to say one more thing, for the record. I have a pretty good record of picking up on stuff that's primo enough even for Apple.

Check it:

  • October 2008 – I publish this post about how much I like Lala music streaming service. Didn't know anybody else using it.
  • December 2009 – Apple buys Lala music streaming service.
  • 2009 – jjmarcus starts introducing clients to the awesome and free Siri Personal Assistant, putting it on almost everyone's iPhones.
  • 2011 – Apple buys Siri Personal Assistant.
  • September 2013 – jjmarcus posts on Facebook that Apple's apps could stand to be more like Cue.
  • October 2013 – Apple buys Cue.

And Apple is conservative with their cash.