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Quick Tip: Mute/Unmute a Call When Your iPhone is Locked

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Phone App Icon

Phone ControlsIf you’re like me, you participate in conference calls with your iPhone. I frequently use headphones or a bluetooth headset during such calls. I hate when the screen locks, then it’s my turn to speak, and I fumble to get to the screen where I can unmute myself. Oddly, the iPhone doesn’t lock when the speaker phone is enabled, but using headphones will lock you out after a bit.

Here’s a tip to get to the mute toggle much quicker:

  1. With a call active, wake the screen on your locked iPhone.
    1. Owners of iPhone 6s and later phones can pick up the phone.
    2. Owners of iPhone 6 and earlier phones can press the Home button.
    3. Owners of iPhones with Touch ID (iPhone 5s and later) can press the Home button with a fingernail or a finger that is not programmed for Touch ID.
  2. Tap the phone number and timer area near the top of the screen.
    The phone call controls will appear without the need to unlock the phone.

Told you it was quick.

Thoughts About the 2016 MacBook Pro Laptops [UPDATED]

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MacBook Experience

Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptops were shown on October 27 to a relatively small audience at the company’s headquarters. The machines were redesigned to be smaller with a respectable offering of hardware options in processors, RAM, storage, and graphics horsepower. The highlight, of course was the Touch Bar with Touch ID which offers innovation for the tired row of function keys along with fingerprint security.

Touch Bar on MacBook Pro

The only surprise was the significant bump in price over the predecessors. And for me, Apple seemed to apologize for this by offering a less expensive MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar and half the USB-C ports.

Apple executives seemed to be prepared for this reaction and conducted an unusual interview with Cnet reporters. I can’t recall such an interview at previous product launch events.

During this interview, Apple asserted that the MacBook Pro models were designed to an experience and not a price point. I’ll take them at their word, but the prices are still too high. Comparably equipped premium Windows computers aren’t cheap but are much more affordable. So the whole designed-to-an-experience-and-this-is-what-it-costs argument is kind of hollow.

If the experience was paramount, the MacBook Pro line would start off with 1 TB of flash-drive storage.

Another point on the steep price: The day after the launch event, Amazon had a Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro discounted $200 and the non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro discounted $360. Hmm.

In the past, Apple has poked fun at Windows PCs with touch screens. Their opinions were arguably valid, but their actions might not be fully in line with their words. With the large trackpad and the new Touch Bar, I’d argue Apple is making everything “touch” except the screen. I don’t intend this to be an outright criticism of Apple, but it’s something to consider.

And finally, let me pick on Apple about input/output. The MacBooks appear to be all going to USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. While this creates an uncomfortable period where there are few directly compatible peripherals, I feel this is the right way to go. USB-C is the future. It powers devices, runs video/audio, and offers very high data speeds. And each port can do more than one thing per connection. What’s not to love about USB-C?

Meanwhile, the iPhone still uses Lightning connections. And the latest iPhones, the 7 and 7 Plus, courageously lost their headphone jacks (but you can still connect your wired headphones to the new MacBook Pros). To do right by their customers, Apple needs to lose Lightning in favor of USB-C on the very next iPhone.

That has to be obvious.

Don’t get me wrong, I find the new MacBook Pro laptops very attractive. They’re top of the line and will perform very well, I’m sure. But I can’t bring myself to afford the one I want right now. Perhaps more of the discounts Amazon previewed will become more widespread soon.

So … my waiting continues…

Sad German Shepard Waiting

UPDATE Oct 30, 2016: So this is part of the designed experience? The right-hand side USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports have reduced performance. I know this would only be noticed by few users, but still…

Missing Messages in the iOS Mail App

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Missing Email MessagesAre you seeing an email message in your web-based email services, but you’re not seeing it on your iPhone or iPad’s Mail app?

Well, the solution is pretty simple but kind of a pain. You’ll need to delete the troubled account on your iPhone, and then re-add it. Here’s how:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Swipe down and tap Mail.
  3. Tap Accounts.
  4. Tap the account name with which you’re having trouble. For example, Outlook or Yahoo!
  5. Find and tap Delete Account.
  6. A confirmation will pop up from below. Tap Delete Account to confirm the action.

After a moment, the account will disappear from your iPhone. Now, add that account back to the iPhone.

  1. Go back to Settings.
  2. Swipe down and tap Mail.
  3. Tap Accounts.
  4. Tap Add Account.
  5. Tap the name of the service provider.
  6. Follow the prompts. Depending on the service provider, signing into the service will differ.
  7. Once that has been completed, tap the service’s name from the Accounts list.
  8. Tap Mail Days to Sync. Choose an option that fits your needs. I generally choose No Limit, but you might not need this.

You should be good to go.

App Pick: AnyList

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AnyList

I heard about the AnyList app on the Daily Tech News Show podcast during the Today’s Pick section. I’d been looking for an updated app for syncing shopping lists for a while. I was skeptical, but AnyList’s features and its freemium model won me over. We’ve been using it for a while, and it’s working well.

Note: Currently, there are no Android or Windows Phone versions of AnyList.

Free Features

The basic features of AnyList should work for most. You can create and edit lists and synchronize them among your own devices. You can also share individual lists among other user accounts. This allows you to share with your partner without having to also share your account. Meanwhile, your partner can maintain her or his own separate lists.

The same list on two devices

The built-in database contains most grocery items, and you can add items if you prefer specific brands or product types (like Vanilla Oreos). As you type, autocomplete offers quick, tappable suggestions.

AnyList manages categories in groups. So Dairy, Meat, and Product are in the Grocery Category Group. And you can add categories and sort them as you see fit. For example, I added Coffee and then sorted it so it would appear after Breakfast & Cereal. And this edit is available to anyone with whom I share the list.

Thoughtful convenience features are also available. You can keep your device from powering off while AnyList is open. You can set to double-tap to cross off a list item which can prevent accidental cross-offs when your finger mindlessly touches the edge of your screen. And you can tweak the colors of individual lists to help visually differentiate them.

AnyList Complete: The Premium Features

The premium features are not overpriced. Individual accounts are $7.99 per year and Family accounts are just $11.99 per year for everyone. And the renewal is not automatic, so you stay in full control.

The cost entitles you AnyList for the Web (a nice web-based app) and a Mac app. You can use the iOS mobile app and desktop browser extensions to import recipes from popular websites. This allows you to manage the ingredients in your lists including recipe photos. There’s also recipe scaling and meal planning.

In case you just gotta have the exact item, you can add item photos to remove potential confusion.

Your lists, recipes, and associated photos are all backed up to the cloud. This helps get the premium elements onto new devices by just logging into your AnyList account.

You can configure badge counts and protect lists with passcodes. And if you’re wild about themes, you have more options with the premium services.

More Than Groceries

While I’ve gone on and on about the features for groceries and recipes, AnyList can manage, well, any list that you can think of.

Find out more at www.anylistapp.com.

Quick Tip: Text Replacement in iOS and Mac

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Text ReplacementApple has baked in text replacement (aka, text substitution) in Mac OS X and iOS. This can take the drudgery out of typing frequent things like your email address whether on your Mac or iPhone (or iPad or iPod touch). You just need to know it’s there and how to configure it. Both of which are simple.

Mac OS X

  1. Click System Preferences.
  2. Click Keyboard.
  3. Click the Text tab.

To create a new replacement, click the plus-sign (+) under the list.

To edit an existing replacement by clicking once to highlight the row then click onto the text in either the Replace or With cells to change them.

You can delete a replacement by clicking to highlight the row and then click the minus-sign () at the bottom of the list to delete that item.

iOS

  1. Tap the Settings app.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Keyboard.
  4. Tap Text Replacement.

To create a new replacement, tap the plus-sign (+) in the upper right corner. Under Phrase type the long text string (like your email). Under Shortcut, enter the short text string that will invoke the replacement action. Then tap Save.

To edit an existing replacement, tap the row. Then, like described above, edit the Phrase and Shortcut and tap Save.

To delete a replacement, swipe your finger to the left on a row to expose the red delete button. Tap Delete.

The Implications of a Delayed iPhone 7

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iPhone ?

Nikkei is speculating that the iPhone 7 won’t debut until 2017. And I’ve been wondering the same thing over the past few months.

So perhaps Apple will keep the iPhone 6 design around for a third year. Photos of alleged iPhone pre-production parts are appearing on the rumor blogs, and they look like … iPhone 6 designs. The most significant rumored changes are camera updates and no more headphone jack (which might lead to better water resistance).

Meanwhile, the rumor mill regarding iPhone’s switch to OLED displays puts that hardware change into 2017. Going with OLED displays on an “s” year just seems unlikely to me.

If this is all true, it will be entertaining to see what they decide to call the 2016 iPhone 6 iteration.

Also if this is true, it might allow Apple to dedicate some time and resources to Siri. Other existing and upcoming virtual assistants from competitors are making Siri look neglected. In fact, Siri’s original creators recently demo’d Viv which seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of Siri. Apple’s 2016 WWDC might include a huge push for Siri. Rumors swirl that the voice assistant might get its own SDK for developers to better implement the technology in their apps. Also, dedicated Siri devices could be on the way to compete with Amazon’s intriguing Echo product.

While that sounds positive, a delayed iPhone 7 could further impact Apple’s stock price. Apple continued to sell a huge number of iPhones this year, but it showed essentially flat growth from the previous year. Investors tend to hate that. And if there’s no shiny new technology to make up for an absent iPhone 7, the Apple stock will likely take another hit.

This is, of course, all speculation, and that’s fun. Time will tell, though.

Digital HD Movies and Your Options

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Digital HD banner with several digital movie service icons above it

I’ve been thinking a lot about digital movies recently, and what are truly the best options and ways to manage it all. Unlike buying digital music nowadays, digital movies are still controlled by digital rights management (DRM). While the iron-fisted approach to music DRM ultimately was its undoing, movie DRM seems to be much more liberal. However, it’s still very confusing. Doing research on this subject, I concluded that it would take a long boring article to fully explain the concepts. But I won’t. This is the quick introductory version with a concise bottom line to get you started.

Should You?

Should you abandon your physical media collection for digital copies? Lifehacker offers a great article on the subject. Read it and decide for yourself.

Sources

When I say “sources”, it’s a loosely defined term. The key concept is that these sources manage the digital rights over the movie titles. Sources include Apple’s iTunes, Amazon Video, Disney Movies Anywhere, and UltraViolet. Most of these sources also sell movies, but UltraViolet does not. UltraViolet exclusively manages DRM among several services.

Services

Services sell movies and allow you to stream and download them. You can buy digital movies from many sources like iTunes, Amazon Video, Disney Movies Anywhere, Flixster, FandangoNOW, Vudu, and several others. You can also redeem digital HD codes included with Blu-ray and DVD media which usually direct you to a single redemption source’s web site.

Sharing

Some sources allow sharing your digital collection. I was only able to find that Vudu offers the ability to share, but there might be others.

Playback

Services allow you to view your collection on a wide variety of devices like your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. You can download the movies to the mobile devices for offline playback which is terrific for long plane flights or staying within mobile data caps.

Depending on your desktop computer, your streaming video quality might be limited. Without an HDCP connection to your monitor, you will not be allowed to stream high definition (HD) versions of the movie. You’ll be limited to standard definition (SD). Also, downloading to your desktop and laptop will likely require DRM software from the service.

Best Intersection of Services

Here’s where you’ll need to understand how services can and cannot work together. Amazon and Apple are pretty much isolated from what I can tell. If you buy a title from those sources, you can only watch them from those respective sources. Surprisingly, Disney plays well with several other services, including iTunes. But iTunes titles won’t show up in Disney Movies Anywhere. UltraViolet-managed titles work among affiliated services which exclude iTunes and Amazon.

Confused yet?

So here’s my bottom-line recommendation: Vudu.

Vudu works with Disney and UltraViolet. Vudu also shows both of those collections in its web site and mobile apps. Playback on your TV will require the Vudu app. That app can be found in Roku streaming devices as well as built into some smart TVs. The Vudu app is not included with Apple TV. At least not yet. You might have some success with iOS AirPlay, but AirPlay is not built into the Vudu iOS app’s video player.

Unfortunately trade-offs are unavoidable. But you can get a nice Roku streaming stick for $50. Sometimes less if you keep an eye out for deals.

I hope this helps get you started with digital movies in the smoothest possible way.

Post Script

I forgot to include Google Play in this article. Google’s service also seems to be isolated like Apple and Amazon.

Please comment if you have any information or experience to add.

iPhone Tip: Unique Ring and Text Tones

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iOS Sounds Icon

While most of the ringtones and alert sounds in iOS are pleasant (Owl City is rumored to have developed several of them), you might find some utility by having specific sounds for specific contacts.

Thankfully, the process is pretty simple.

First, get to your contacts. There are two ways to do this. You can open the Phone app and then tap Contacts in the navigation bar at the bottom. Or you can just find and tap into your Contacts app.

You’re ready to customize the sounds.

  1. Find the contact to which you’d like to assign a specific ringtone or alert sound, then tap that entry in the list.
  2. In the upper left, tap Edit.
  3. Scroll to find the settings for Ringtone and Text Tone. Chances are it says “Default”.
  4. Tap “Default” for either Ringtone or Text Tone. This will open the tone selection screen. Note that the Default tone name appears followed by the other available tones.
  5. Choose the sound you wish to assign to the contact. Tapping individual tone names from the list will place the checkmark next to the name and play the tone. Tapping a bunch of these in succession will probably draw the attention and ire of those around you, so be considerate.
  6. Tap Done when you’re happy with your choice.

Does Apple Music Still Mess With Your Song Collection?

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Apple Music Plus Your Song Colleciion Equals Confusion

After almost a year, can Apple Music be trusted to work with your existing music collection? The heated debate continues. But my take on it is: NO! Apple Music should not be allowed to touch your music collection.

However, if you haven’t meticulously curated your collection, then perhaps you won’t care when Apple Music randomly changes your album art or mixes up your studio and live tracks among other odd behaviors.

Apple Music manages (or man-handles) your music when you turn on “iCloud Music Library” on the General tab of iTunes Preferences.

iTunes Preferences

In my own experience, having iCloud Music Library on changed album art for a significant number of my songs. It also mixed up some tracks in completely illogical ways. I would find one of my songs, tap it, and something else would play. Some of my more obscure tracks never appeared in Apple Music at all, but I could find them on my hard drive.

Thankfully, just turning off iCloud Music Library restored my collection without having to retrieve everything from a file backup. But I have had friends who were not so lucky.

While I loved having my playlists synchronized on my computer and my phone, I had to turn off iCloud Music Library. I could not find a way to only sync playlists. And if I could, I would.

Otherwise, I love Apple Music! I pay for it, because the music discovery is terrific. The handpicked playlists are fun to explore, and the radio serves up terrific tunes. And just about all the tracks I want are just a search away. And using Siri to cue up music is just wonderfully convenient.

There’s always hope that iOS 10 and MacOS 10.12 will resolve the iCloud Music Library problems, but I’m not holding my breath…

Sources:

Comcast Raises Its Data Caps

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You Got Comcasted

Comcast, who offers Internet services via its Xfinity brand, announced a significant increase in its data caps. Several markets were placed under a 300 GB per month data cap. With this limit, customers were allowed 3 no-cost overages in any 12-month period. After that, going over meant an extra $10 per 50 GB of data.

Starting June 2016, the cap jumps to a respectable 1 terabyte (1,000 GB) per month. Comcast claims its customers can stream 700 hours of HD video content without fear of exceeding the cap. For customers who do exceed the terabyte, the same $10 per 50 GB fee still applies. Comcast claims 99% of their customers don’t use 1 terabyte of data. They previously claimed this same statistic when they instituted the 300 GB cap. There is no word whether customers are allowed any complementary overages.

There has been a lot of negative attention on the Internet data cap, and it seems that entertainment giant actually listened.

I am a Comcast customer in Atlanta, and my family has been living with the data cap for a few years. The 300 GB cap just felt so restrictive. When we started to stream a Netflix show, I found myself doing quick mental check to get a feel for whether we were topping out our cap. One terabyte certainly lifts that constant feeling of dread.