Surprise Functionality from a Moribund Product

When I moved to Japan I bought in the US two Sonos Play:1 speakers primarily to play music (Jazz & a martini when I got home) & Audible audiobooks in my living and bed rooms.

And then Sonos lost the ability to play Audible.

Plan B was to get a Play:5 and an Apple AirPort Express, both also from the US, and connect them together via audio cable. This allowed me to fire the speakers via AirPlay from my Apple devices. It worked, but imprecisely and with problems. I unhooked the Play:1 speakers (the problems) and they sat on a shelf for the better part of a year. The Audible audiobooks and podcasts from Overcast mostly worked streamed from my Apple devices. BTW, I had kept up with the developments from Sonos but did not think any of my devices were in scope, so I considered them moribund.

Here’s the thing: I spent a big chunk of my home furnishing budget on those damn “smart” speakers and then doubled down to get them to work. I ended up making many other ill-advised purchasing decisions to cover the sunk costs. Economists will tell you I made at least four incorrect decisions. I will tell you that four seems conservative.

Today I cleaned my apartment. I moved, hid, trashed, and organized many things while waiting for the rain storm that did not come. Part of my big tidying was the relocation of my older technology for repurposing. To do so, unplugging all the things was required including the Sonos Play:5, the one bit of my audio setup (with the AirPort)  still in occasional service.

In fiddling to fix audio problems I checked the Sonos iOS app. An update was pending, which I executed. Surprise, surprise! Suddenly the speaker gained AirPlay 2 functionality! And Audible!

It worked slightly better than the AirPort, so I unhooked its audio cable. Still good. On a whim I pulled the Play:1 speakers out of storage and powered them on. They worked, after upgrades and in the short window in which I tested them, better than they ever had.

I am fortunate to get some new value out of my purchases. These are still early days in the Sonos rehabilitation but I am guardedly optimistic. If they don’t end up panning out I am sure the person who buys them from me will enjoy them to no end with lower expectations.

P.S. – I will think long and hard before I buy another Sonos product. I’ve been advising friends and family to avoid their kit. If this pans out, maybe I will alter my tack.

Also on:

Apple Maps Japan Reboot Start Line

Apple Maps Japan Reboot Start Line:

Here are possible changes I will be on the lookout for:

  • Higher contrast cartography with better Japanese text labeling
  • Less map vomit: default view with far fewer, better designed icons and 3C icons reserved for map search
  • Intelligent indoor mapping for major Japanese stations
  • 3D mapping that doesn’t obscure surrounding map information
  • Traffic, Lane Guidance, Speed Limits and other missing iOS features of Apple Maps Japan
  • More Apple collected Japanese map information with missing pieces proved by top tier JP map supplier Zenrin. The less 3rd rate 3rd party JP map data from Yelp, Foursquare and IPC the better
  • Destination check lists: smart transit information that updates on the fly and lets me set more than one destination

It will be slow but slow, constant intelligent updates will get Apple Maps Japan where it needs to go and finally deliver a good service for Japanese iOS customers.

(Via Ata Distance)

Also on:

The Power of iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

The Power of iOS Keyboard Shortcuts:

When you work in split view it can be hard to tell which app has the keyboard connected to it, there is no kind of indication outside of a blinking cursor if you are using a text editor that supports that.

One thing I have noticed that helps is if you quickly tap on the app you want to use the keyboard with. This isn’t ideal, but it is the best option I have found that works with iOS 11 as of now (and the iOS 12 beta as well).

(Via Tablet Habit)

When I was two weeks with only the iPad Pro I found this immensely frustrating. The suggested work around here did not work universally, for example with Reeder open on the left and Drafts 5 on the right when I triggered Drafts to receive input I could not switch back to Reeder for keyboard navigation.

Also on:

Siri Shortcuts Questions – WorkFlow Wednesday

Siri Shortcuts Questions – WorkFlow Wednesday:

Siri Shortcuts isn’t even on the iOS 12 beta as of now. But I have a list of questions I want answered before I can ease off on my apprehensive attitude on this new addition to iOS.

1.) Is this app going to replace Workflow, or will it just be an addition?

2.) If this is replacing Workflow, will I be able to import my current workflows without sacrifice?

3.) How powerful will this app be for automation?

4.) Can I trigger this without Siri? For instance, as an action in the Share Sheet?

5.) Is there a limitation on how many actions happen in a single workflow?

6.) There seems to be some kind of scripting possible with Siri Shortcuts, but what kinds of scripting is available?

(Via Tablet Habit)

My questions exactly. The sparsity of details around how Siri Shortcuts will work made me wonder why so many Apple bloggers expressed such uncritical openness. My biggest issue is, of course, the fact that I don’t use Siri at all and have no desire to do so. To be fair, I have no desire to use any other “assistant”. What interest I may have had evaporated.

Apple Pay & Suica when traveling to Japan

How to Use Suica with Apple Pay when Traveling to Japan – Mason Simon

Suica is one of the main transit payment cards in Japan. It has a cute and fun design and works in lots of places aside from train stations. Apple supports using your Suica via Apple Pay, and has a great support article on how to set that up. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

I live in USA and traveled to Tokyo recently. I used an iPhone X (supported) and followed all the steps in the support article, including setting my device region to Japan. But when I went to add a new card to Apple Pay, I never received the prompt to add a Suica.

After a couple of pleasant calls with Apple support, it sounded like the problem was that I had an Apple Music subscription, which locked my iTunes account to USA. I tried canceling that, but you have to wait for the thing to expire, and my trip would be over by then.

Luckily, there is another way.

(Via Mason Simon)

Read on for the scoop. This is one of the best write-ups I’ve seen & the one I wish was around when I moved here.

Still Wanted: Better iOS Physical Keyboard Support

Things 3.6 Reimagines External Keyboard Control on iPad

I’ve been able to play around with Things 3.6 on my iPad Pro for the past couple of weeks. This isn’t another “keyboard-centric” update that only adds a handful of shortcuts to trigger specific commands. Instead, the developers at Cultured Code have focused on an all-encompassing keyboard control framework for the whole app, from task lists to popovers and multiple selections. With version 3.6, Things has the best implementation of external keyboard support I’ve ever seen in an iPad app.

(Via MacStories)

I don’t use Things but love how their revamp redid their external keyboard support. I would love to see other app developers and Apple especially to embrace and implement something similar.

Sadly the WWDC keynote mentioned nothing about enhanced keyboard support.

Agenda for iOS & macOS seems very Orgmode like in approach

Agenda for iOS Review

Agenda … is one of the most interesting note-taking apps I’ve used. The app is simultaneously structured around projects, like a task manager, and dates, like a calendar app.

What makes Agenda a little bewildering at first is its use of dates and projects, which sometimes makes it feel like a calendar app and other times like a task manager, even though it’s neither. The app doesn’t try to force you into a predefined system. Instead, Agenda gives you multiple ways to organize and view your notes through tagging, filtering, sorting, and searching. The upside is flexibility that should accommodate almost anyone’s workflow. The downside is that it can take time and experimentation to discover how it can work for you.

(Via Mac Stories)

The parallels with Orgmode are, at least to me, obvious and surprising in a good way. I played with Agenda on iOS. The metaphor was a visual analog to how I use (or, more correctly, strive to use) Orgmode for Getting Shit Done.

Hmmm … I wonder how long until there’s a way to integrate the two …

Google Pay Japan is smoke and mirrors

Google Pay bellyflops in Japan:

That didn’t take long. No sooner had Google Pay landed in Japan when Android users without JP carrier locked Osaifu-Keitai phones noticed they weren’t invited to the FeliCa party and lost their shit. Then local Japanese tech journalists filed reviews and they were not kind: “zannen” which means “too bad” as in “too bad Google Pay is a weak imitation of a real FeliCa Osaifu-Keitai that any user could add and use on any Android phone.” Too bad it’s not a Global FeliCa iPhone.

I called it a few weeks ago:

If and when Google Pay Suica arrives it will likely be on Osaifu-Keitai /Mobile FeliCa enabled locked Android devices from Japanese carriers. Global FeliCa iPhone-like out-of-the-box Mobile Suica on ‘global FeliCa’ Android devices from anywhere looks to be a long way off.

FeliCa Dude called it earlier: “Android Pay is smoke and mirrors”

Google Pay Japan is smoke and mirrors.

(Via atadistance.com)

Not that my US-purchased Google Nexus 6P would have been included in this due to age if not build, but I would have liked a truly viable option to the Apple Pay & Suica combo. I’m not looking to switch but competition could be good for innovation.

Your Subscription Model Does Not Match Your Value

Here’s the problem we all face: you use an app and pay for it and every so often you drop some more cash on a major upgrade. Then the developer decides to go the subscription model and what they want per month exceeds the value and utility you get from the app. Yet there is no good replacement for the utility you glean.

Let’s be clear: unless the developer of the app delivers more value and utility quickly under the subscription model (where subscribers are paying more) and keeps up a reasonable pace, the model only benefits the developer. It might benefit the platform, like Apple and Google (I don’t know much about that bit.)

Now the app developer moved from selling a piece of software to providing a service. The service is fixed and finite in the scope and capability of the software, but that is the very service being sold.

I like the idea of a staged subscription model. It might be cumbersome for the developer, but I think it works out best for the user.

  • Version n-1 is free, full featured for that version and unlimited until version n+1 is released. Users can only expect security related patches as best effort.
  • Version n is paid one time, let’s say for $10. When version n+1 is released this becomes the free version. This gets bug and security fixes.
  • Version n subscription is $1.99 per month or $20 annual. This gets everything in the one time paid version plus new features that will be part of version n+1.

The idea is that n-1’s development is already paid for, so use it as a way to introduce people to your product. Version n should be paying for its upkeep and maybe some small piece of future development where the subscription option is very much about the next version.

Release timing is important. In this model I would expect a new release every 12 to 18 months. The subscription model always moves to the next release, the flat fee pays to move to the new release (maybe at a discount for a limited time) or else goes to the free release. Free folks always upgrade to the free release.

All of this is predicated on the developer having a solid business plan and that the Apple App Store can accommodate all of this in a useful way. Please feel free to adjust and fine tune or point out where I am wrong.

Escape!

Among my other optimistic outcomes of Apple’s upcoming event, I want Apple to acknowledge and embrace Escape.

I, of course, mean the ‘esc’ key on everyones’ keyboard – except for some recent Apple keyboards. But ‘esc’ is part of the TouchBar for some. But it’s not really a key and the Smart Keyboard for iPad doesn’t include it and … ugh.

Apple needs to get a clear vision about keyboards & pointers, what we used to call Human Interface Devices (HID).

If Apple doesn’t deal with this … well … someone at Apple can expect a stern note.