Do Not Disturb Wishlist
Apple introduced Do Not Disturb (DND) in iOS 6. It’s really helped me sleep without my phone vibrating every few minutes. If you’re not familiar with the service, there’s a great rundown on 52 Tiger.
It’s a great feature, but recently, I’ve been in certain situations where DND could have been a bit more useful. These would have helped:
DND + Messages
Do Not Disturb lets you choose if you want a group of contacts of your Favorites to be able to bypass Do Not Disturb’s restrictions. That’s great and all, but most of the time people iMessage me if they want me to know something; they don’t call me. It would be pretty cool if Messages from those same Favorites could bypass DND as well.
DND + Calendar
What if when creating a new Calendar event, you could choose if you want it to trigger DND automatically?
Let’s say you’re scheduled for a meeting with your boss in the middle of the day - a time when DND isn’t scheduled to be on. During that meeting, odds are you don’t want your phone to be ringing or vibrating for every @mention or message that comes in. So, when creating the event, you could choose “Turn on DND” with maybe a “5 minutes before”, “At the time of the event”, option or something like that. It could save time and help get the most out of meetings by cutting out the extra distraction.
Apple introduced iMessage in iOS 5, and I’ve been using the feature a lot since then. I have almost 100 iMessage Conversations open in OS X, and I actively message almost 50 people through the service.
Please note that Messages refers to the application and iMessage refers to the service.
iMessage on OS X
On iOS, I have few complaints about iMessage: my iPhone and iPad get the timestamps right and my conversations are chronological on both devices. This isn’t a bonus, this is just how it should be. On OS X, however, it really isn’t.
What I’ve noticed about Messages on OS X is that it’s usually pretty smooth and robust right up until the Messages list gets populated. Once I crossed the 20-30 conversations threshold, things started to mess up. For example, sometimes when I receive a new message the timestamps for one or two other conversations (not necessarily but sometimes including the incoming message) get distorted and I just see conversations flying up-and-down the list. A simple Force Quit and relaunching the app fixes this, but it can be a real inconvenience.
Another problem I have with iMessage on OS X is that unlike both my iOS devices, my Mac isn’t always turned on and/or connected to the internet. When it is, one of the first things it does is try to catch up with all my iMessage conversations that have taken place on iOS. Sometimes this goes by just fine, but more often than not it completely messes up the order and either individual messages are jumbled up or all my sent messages from the day pop in first before all my received messages follow suit. This makes reading earlier conversations on OS X all but impossible.
I don’t have too much in terms of a solution for this, but it’s something Apple should be looking to fix (that is, if it’s not just happening to me, but I highly doubt that). Perhaps if Messages could lock itself until all iMessages are properly downloaded from iCloud (it might say “Receiving Messages…” and not let you send any new ones) that could help make sure it sorts itself out accurately.
iMessage in iCloud
This isn’t something I think Apple is going to (or even looking to) do, but I don’t think adding another iCloud.com Web App for iMessage would be a bad addition at all.
In the rare occasion that 2 of my devices show different information for the same file (maybe a contact is edited differently on both devices) I always go to iCloud.com to see what the file looks like there. I know whatever changes I make there will be pushed to my devices because that’s where they pull their information from.
This could potentially help with the Messages issue: Messages for Mac could try to emulate the conversation as presented in iCloud.com which, theoretically, should be the up-to-date version.
Lastly, I’ve also mentioned how I often I use the iCloud.com Web Apps at school. Any additions would be nothing but a bonus for me.
There’s one thing about iMessage that can be a little confusing: most people think you can only send pictures through iMessage (on iOS). That’s not true — there’s a Share button in Maps, Voice Memos, Contacts, and many other places that you could use to send relevant files through iMessage. Perhaps if instead of a Camera Icon beside the Text Entry box, Apple had something akin to WhatsApp Messenger’s Arrow, people would understand how much more iMessage can do.
Now this is just a shot in the dark here, but what if Apple started pushing SMSes around through iCloud? For example, you receive an SMS on your iPhone and it shows up on your Mac and iPad — still in Green, like on the iPhone, as opposed to Blue — and you can reply from your Mac/iPad, but it sends through your iPhone? It sounds a bit complex, but would be killer. Even though I iMessage most of my contacts, Ghanaian Cell Carriers are terribly unreliable and sometimes we’re forced to temporarily fall back to SMS. This is fine on the iPhone, but ends up leaving inconsistencies in the conversations on iPad and on OS X. Another feature that seems highly unlikely, but would be a nice addition.
Lastly, right now I have iMessages going through my Phone Number thanks to my previously-documented issues with my Apple ID. It’s working fine for now, but what happens when I leave Ghana in a few months for university and get a new SIM Card? Right now, the only thing I can think of is getting another iOS device, putting my Ghana SIM Card in it, and leaving iMessage Signed In so that there will be 2 Phone Numbers on my makeshift Apple ID and I can receive iMessages from both my Ghana Number and my future USA Number. I don’t even know if this is possible, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
Updated iPad mini Thoughts
On Thursday, my friend gave me his iPad mini to take home for a day. It was pretty much new, so I signed in and used it as if it was mine. He knew I wasn’t sure how I felt about the iPad mini, and he said that if I used it for that day I wouldn’t be able to pick mine up again. He was right.
On Friday, I returned his iPad mini and picked up my iPad 3. I immediately shoved it in my bag. It just felt ridiculously heavy. I haven’t touched it since.
Luckily, just when I was leaving school, another friend of mine gave me his iPad mini and told me to go home and set it up for him, and I could keep it for the weekend. Excited, I took it home and I used it all night.
It’s Saturday morning now (technically - it’s after midnight) and I just called him and told him to come and pick his iPad mini up tomorrow. Why? Because I love it.
The iPad mini is fantastic. I easily prefer the build of it to my iPad 3. That said, the last thing I did was try to read a book on it, and that’s where the lack of a Retina Display really hit me for the first time. If I keep using people’s iPad minis, it’s only a matter of time before I convince myself to get one, and I don’t want to do that. I still want to wait until a Retina one is released, because I do just about all my reading on my iPad. Whenever Apple release one (hopefully this Fall) I’ll get it for myself. Until then, I’m going to spend the rest of this night/morning trying to reacquaint myself with my fat-ass iPad.
(Side-note: my mum and my dad, both iPad 2 users, held the iPad mini for less than a minute and ordered one each. They won’t notice the lack of Retina one bit, and I’m sure they’ll love it.)
2012 Book List
I recently read Patrick Rhone and Justin Blanton’s Book Lists for 2012, and I noticed how different the books I read are.
I’ve had to read some of these for school, but most are my choice. I also read exclusively from the iBookstore, so I’ll link to books there.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Books For School
Books Started in 2012 (Incomplete)
I read this tweet by Apple Spotlight and I thought it was a very useful tip:
To set up, when creating the contact, tap the ”+*#” and then tap “wait”, as seen below:
I’ve been talking to an Apple Customer Care agent as my iMessage/FaceTime issue has resurfaced, and this will make calling him that much easier. Credit to the iOS team, and to Apple Spotlight for catching this.
Maps In Ghana
Google Maps was released for iOS recently, and I thought I’d go ahead and compare it to Nokia’s HERE Maps and Apple’s iOS Maps.
- Nokia’s HERE Maps is terrible. It’s ugly, slow, inaccurate, and downright clumsy to use. It knows a few landmarks here in Ghana, but the UI doesn’t show that — you’ll have to search and pray you get lucky.
- Apple’s iOS Maps is just as bad in terms of places: it knows just a few, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anything by searching for it. It looks good, feels smooth, and I use it mostly just to flyover more popular places for no apparent reason.
- Google Maps here in Ghana is remarkable. I never understand who keeps updating it, but new restaurants pop up days after they’re established here in Ghana, directions are always accurate, and with the new iOS app it feels much smoother than before.
It’s not really a competition — here in Ghana, you’re using Google Maps or you’re not using Maps. Apple has a lot of work to do in this space. (Unless like me you bookmark a bunch of places. Then you can ‘use’ Apple Maps, but you’re not really using it).
Let’s take a couple of examples:
Panning — Oxford Street
From left-to-right, we have Nokia’s HERE Maps, Google Maps, and Apple’s iOS Maps showing Oxford Street in Osu — a popular area here in Ghana. At first glance, they all look barren. Hell, HERE Maps and iOS Maps don’t even get the name of the street right. Google does, and when you zoom in with Google Maps the map starts to populate itself. HERE Maps and iOS Maps stay empty.
Searching — Ghana International School
No surprises here: iOS Maps comes up empty; Google gets it right; HERE Maps returns a result for Ghana International School. In Saudi Arabia. Helpful.
It’s not really a competition — here in Ghana, you’re using Google Maps or you’re not using Maps. Apple has a lot of work to do in this space.
You can read MacStories’ cover of Google Maps here, or download Google Maps by hitting the button below:
I’ve been looking forward to iTunes 11 for a few weeks now, and it didn’t disappoint; I’m really enjoying the new changes. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was the new and improved MiniPlayer, and it works just as advertised: it’s compact, powerful, and feels very thought out. All great, but just one problem: I don’t know where to put it.
It doesn’t look right at the bottom of the screen obviously, and top-center is out because that part of my Mac’s always occupied, which leaves the top corners. Top-left is reserved for Tweetbot, leaving just the top-right corner. It works fine, right up until I get a notification. Then I need to move it again.
Pavan Rajam makes some great points about why the MiniPlayer should be incorporated with Notifications and Notification Center, and I agree wholeheartedly. I feel the MiniPlayer should be pinned to the top-right as a notification, and any new notification should pop in underneath it. I don’t really fancy his mockups on how it could be incorporated in Notification Center, but he did admit he’s “no UI designer”.
For now, I’ve stopped using the new MiniPlayer and I’ve gone back to using the fantastic Alfred’s iTunes Mini Player. It’s been updated to play nice with iTunes 11, and it works great for what I need it to do.
(via: The Loop)
Alfred Tips & Tricks
I read The Verge’s rundown on Alfred recently. It’s a great and thorough introduction, but Alfred is such a versatile tool and everyone uses it differently. I use Alfred quite a bit and for some time now so I wanted to share some of my favorite Tips & Tricks:
If you don’t have Alfred yet, you should get it. Like, now. And don’t be cheap — buy the PowerPack. It’s so worth it.
iTunes Master Volume
I use the Alfred iTunes Mini Player to change my music. A lot. It’s super-fast so I never have to build a playlist — I can just go through my music one song or one album at a time.
The problem is, different songs have different volume levels. When I’m listening to music from my Mac, I usually listen through 3 different speakers — my Mac, my TV (via Apple TV), and my Bedroom Speakers (via AirPort Express). Each speakers is set at a different volume level so I get the best feedback, and using the Volume Buttons on my keyboard only changes the Mac’s volume. Enter Alfred:
In Alfred’s Hotkeys Preferences, you can add an iTunes Keyboard Shortcut to Increase or Decrease the Master Volume by 10%. It’s perfect. The best part? I use CMD + SHIFT + I for the Mini Player, CMD + SHIFT + O for Volume Up, and CMD + SHIFT + U for Volume Down. It just feels so natural.
Thanks to Alfred, I can change the volume for all 3 speakers simultaneously without having to ever show iTunes or even leave the app I’m in.
Create Tweetbot URLs
Federico Viticci shared this some time back and I’ve been using it ever since. This is pretty neat: say you’re going through your timeline and want to share an interesting tweet with a fellow Tweetbot user. Instead of copying the link to the tweet, this hotkey creates a custom Tweetbot URL for the tweet and copies it to your clipboard so you can share it. Not only does it save time, it spares the other person from having to visit Twitter’s awful website.
All you have to do is download and setup the Alfred Extension from MacStories, then go to Alfred Hotkeys and set up a Keyboard Shortcut for it.
This one’s a little more complicated. If you have Alfred installed, fire it up and hit “/”. From here, you’re presented with a file browser you can use to maneuver your way through your hard drive without having to go through Finder. But it doesn’t stop at just finding stuff: go through and find one of your files, then hit the Tab button. You can now Copy, Move, Delete, and do all sorts of stuff to your file. All from Alfred. Additionally if you’ve already selected a file in Finder, you can launch Alfred and type in Action to get these file operations.
This is how I move files between my External Hard Drive and my Mac most of the time. It’s just a lot faster — or it at least feels faster.
Keep It Minimal
I keep Alfred looking very clean. I use the Light theme, and the following Appearance Settings:
Remote 3.0 And The iPad Music App
Today, Apple released an update the their Remote app, and it’s downright gorgeous. Like most people, I harbor dislike for the iPad Music app. It’s clunky, messy, and some of the animations are just awkward. But the Remote app on the iPad is just perfect, and I really think it should become the Music app in iOS 7. Let’s take a few examples:
The screenshots are really large and I couldn’t implement them in a way that would make them legible so I’ve included “See Comparison” links in each section to see the full-size screenshots. Sorry for the inconvenience. You can download the Remote app here, or by clicking the button at the end of this post.
In the current Music app, I can’t really figure out how things are arranged. There are Genius Mixes, Smart Playlists, Folders, Playlists, Genius Playlists, and a Purchased Playlist all jumbled up there with no real distinction. Even if you ignore that, it’s still really ugly to look at and you’ll need to leave Playlist View to see the songs in a particular playlist. This has long been my biggest quibble with the iPad’s Music app.
The Remote app speaks for itself. Each Playlist Type (Genius Playlists, Folders, etc.) is grouped and laid out in a neat list on the left, and selecting a Playlist shows its songs on the right. It’s so simple, you wonder why it wasn’t there in the first place. I can’t stress how much better this is; you need to try it out yourself.
In the current Music app, Artists are presented in a grid and selecting one takes you to a new window to see all the artist’s albums. I never really had a problem with this, but after using the Remote app and seeing how much better it is I can’t stand how it’s handled anymore. Artists in Remote is handled the same was as Playlists - Artists in the left pane; Albums in the right pane. Clean, simple, perfect.
Again, this is one of those things I didn’t have a major problem with until today. The Music app displays albums in a grid and selecting one presents an overlay with the songs in the album. The Remote app also displays albums in a grid, but selecting one expands the album in-line, similar to how iTunes 11 handles albums. Using the 2, Remote just feels more smooth and concise.
- Remote lets you use Multiple Speakers for AirPlay. The iPad and iPhone don’t (probably due to Hardware constrictions) but it’s still something I would love to see make its way to iOS. I usually use 3 Speakers on my Mac when listening to music.
- In the Music app you can arrange Albums by Artist. What this does is in Album mode, the albums are sorted by Artist first, and Album second — just like how OS X handles it by default. (I have mine set to Artist first, Album second, but Album sorted by Year; not Name). I’d like to see this make it’s way to the Remote app.
- In the Music app in Artist mode, when you select an Artist it shows all the Album Names with their corresponding Release Year, while the Remote app only shows the Album Name. Another little thing I’d like to see migrated.
The new Remote app follows a lot of paradigms as the new iTunes 11: the way Albums expand in-line; how Playlists and Artists are presented; etc. Migrating the UI to the Music app would make learning one easy if you’ve used the other before. (For example, someone who’s used iTunes 11 on their Mac getting a new iPad would have no learning curve).
What about the iPhone?
The Music app on the iPhone is pretty similar to the Remote app on the iPhone. The only difference is in Playlists:
Music app (left) is even less distinguishable than on the iPad. In the screenshot above, there’s a Playlist, Playlist Folder, Smart Playlist, and Genius Playlist. They’re my playlists, and even I can’t tell which is which sometimes. The Remote app (right) fixes this.
You can download the Remote app by clicking the button below:
FastestTube — YouTube Downloader
FastestTube is a Safari Extension that lets you download YouTube videos. And despite the stupid name, it really is amazing. Installation is pretty simple:
- Download and Install the Safari Extension;
- Go to any YouTube video;
- Click “Don’t show this again” and dismiss the popup that confirms it’s installed.
FastestTube looks so native, I sometimes forget I installed it myself — especially when I’m using other people’s Macs. A “Download” button is placed beside the “Like” buttons, and clicking it shows you all the resolutions available for the selected video.
I use FastestTube every now and then to download a funny YouTube video to keep on my Hard Drive, but where it really becomes helpful is when you come across an older YouTube video that won’t play in Safari (without Flash, of course). In this case, I just download the video (usually in the lowest-available resolution), watch it, then delete it.
If you ever need to download a YouTube video, FastestTube is the way to go. It’s fast, lightweight, and efficient. And again — it looks oh so native.
Although I focused on Safari — my browser of choice — FastestTube is also available for Opera, Chrome, IE, and Firefox.