iPad Productivity Report: 10/8/18 – The Brooks Review

Scraping websites: I’ve seen a bunch of actions for grabbing Instagram profiles/stories/posts/everything in Shortcuts and saving it all in high resolution. I’m sure there’s nothing nefarious going on with that, but that is something which seemed damned near impossible on iOS to most users for quite some time — at least without downloading a specific app for it.
— Read on brooksreview.net/2018/10/ipad-report-10818/

Interesting, this. I’ve been unimpressed so far by Shortcuts (as a non-Siri current Workflow user) but something like this is compelling. Where most other use cases encourage laziness versus solving actual problems, this might provide some value.

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The Trail Mix of iOS Keyboards – Tablet Habit

With my iPad only lifestyle, there has been a pain point that’s been present with a lot of iPad Pro users: keyboards.

There never seems to be a perfect keyboard for the iPad that is agreed upon with everyone. In fact there are a number of choices that seem to have some sort of drawback no matter how you look at it.

— Read on www.tablethabit.com/2018/08/the-trail-mix-of-ios-keyboards

This is one of my gripes with iOS and why I won’t (yet) go iPad only. If Apple intends the iOS platform to be more than just consumption devices, fixing input – both with the keyboards (physical and soft) and pointing devices (Apple Pencil and introduce trackpad!) would go long way.

For example, when I use a non-Apple Japanese JIS Bluetooth keyboard it defaults to a US QWERTY layout. There is no way to tell iOS what layout is needed when it does the wrong thing.

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Mobile Websites Can Tap Into Your Phone’s Sensors Without Asking

Mobile Websites Can Tap Into Your Phone’s Sensors Without Asking:

When an app wants to access data from your smartphone’s motion or light sensors, iOS and Android require them to get your permission first. That keeps a fitness app, say, from counting your steps without your knowledge. But a team of researchers has discovered that those rules don’t apply to websites loaded in mobile browsers, which can often often access an array of device sensors without any notifications or permissions whatsoever.

That mobile browsers offer developers access to sensors isn’t necessarily problematic on its own. It’s what helps those services automatically adjust their layout, for example, when you switch your phone’s orientation. And the World Wide Web Consortium standards body has codified how web applications can access sensor data. But the researchers—Anupam Das of North Carolina State University, Gunes Acar of Princeton University, Nikita Borisov of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Amogh Pradeep of Northeastern University—found that the standards allow for unfettered access to certain sensors. And sites are using it.

(Via Security Latest)

Clearly this is a gap in vendor protection and user informed consent. When paired with the amount of bandwidth and other resources consumed by scripts, trackers, ads and the like, this news reinforces my opinion on ad-blockers that also deal with javascript.

Before we all panic, please note that the study only found 3.7% of the top 100,000 sites make use of this. And bear the following in mind:

That unapproved access to motion, orientation, proximity, or light sensor data alone probably wouldn’t compromise a user’s identity or device. And a web page can only access sensors as long as a user is actively browsing the page, not in the background.

Regardless, there is clearly an attack surface here that will be exploited. I can imagine something targeted using watering hole attacks being particularly successful.

“There’s a difference between the access from the web scripts compared to say mobile apps,” Acar says. “And a lot of this is legitimate. But the fact that access can be granted without prompting the user is surprising. It’s currently up to the vendors, and vendors tend to choose the side of more usability.”

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My Lopsided Listening

Listening to podcasts and audio books takes a toll on my AirPod batteries. They take a toll in stereo, that is, and most of the content benefits little by the extra channel.

This mono approach is nothing new. I would like Apple to take note, never the less.

AirPods have several deficiencies:

  • Microphone is poor to useless on calls in any space other than a perfectly silent room
  • No volume control on its/their own
  • Battery life is ok (they’re tiny, I know)
  • The case is a grime magnet, and the pods themselves are not much better (but surprisingly good depending on the user)
  • The charging case is too easy to lose

AirPods paired with an iPhone paired to an Apple Watch, and maybe when solely paired with the Apple Watch, the Watch can fix the volume control issue. If I could use the Watch on a “raise to speak” mode where otherwise the microphone is muted while the audio is piped through the AirPods, I would be happy. Maybe it’s possible and I haven’t discovered it, but I expect more news would have been made of the functionality.

For the battery life issue, juggling between ears one at a time is the best approach. I can easily get through a day with the pods and their charger case.

Apple clearly didn’t consider this use case. When I get the chime indicating that the battery will soon run out on the AirPod I’m using, then I put the other one in my other ear. I expect iOS will recognize this change and switch me to stereo. If it did, I would pull out the battery depleted unit and double tap the fresh one for my content to continue while I slip the dead one in for a charge.

It does not work that way, or at least for me. Maybe it’s a deficiency with the iPod Touch I use as my content hub. As mentioned, my work issued iPhone lacks the storage needed for my work content. Adding in podcasts and ebooks and audiobooks and music are far too much for it. The two in semi-concert make a workable and portable (both are small form factor) compromise. The iPod Touch also charges quickly and requires little of its power source.

Back to my initial story, swapping AirPods mostly works so long as I don’t want to listen to music. As soon as stereo is needed this model fails.

If some third party created a neck wearable battery pack that the AirPods could plug into for extended use, I would buy one.

As it is, my inexpensive fix for the stereo issue is to carry a set of lighting EarPods. They have the added benefit of not requiring any wireless tech, so my iPod Touch battery lasts that much longer and can move to my iPhone if a conference call is needed. Of course I hate this backup plan. I prefer the analog headphone jack. I still have it on my iPod Touch and my iPads, so maybe I permanently affix a lighting-headphone adaptor to my iPhone.

This can’t be the ideal Apple wants. I’m heartened by the lack of releases of new Beats hardware, which I always saw as a brand and content acquisition. Beats headphones always sounded muddy and heavy to me, like I was scuba diving with a drum section.

It would be good if Apple added location tracking to the charging case or alarm when the AirPods are in use and the case is about to leave the Bluetooth radius.

This is a long, rambling post. Enjoy.

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Overcast 5.0 Review

Normally I wait at least a week before upgrading any OS, but stories like this make patience seem a burden:

Overcast 5.0 Review:

Standalone Watch Playback

I never thought I would use my watch to play music or podcasts without my iPhone, but I’ve recently discovered that our apartment is just long enough that my headphones or watch are out of range of my iPhone when I’m at one end at it’s at the other. I put some music on my watch and paired my Bose QC35s, and then immediately wished I had podcasts on there. The standalone watch playback in Overcast is great. Sync can be a little fiddly due to watchOS limitations, and I had the best success by putting Overcast in my dock on my watch, opening it, putting it and my iPhone on charge and leaving them to it – and now I’m by the pool listening to podcasts on my watch with my iPhone back in my hotel room!

(Via Rosemary Orchard)

Glob dang it! I’m working from home tomorrow, so maybe …

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Apple、地図作製を向上した「Indoor Survey 2.3」を配布開始

If you live life in 3D but need Apple Maps’ help getting there, this is good news.

Apple、地図作製を向上した「Indoor Survey 2.3」を配布開始:

Appleが、iPhone/iPod touch用ユーティリティアプリ「Indoor Survey 2.3」¥を、App Storeにて無料配布を開始しています。

これは、Maps Connectで、ビル内フロアにあるオフィスを登録することが出来る「Maps Indoor」で、正確な位置情報を登録するためのツールアプリです。

事前に登録申請した建物やオフィスなどの責任者のApple IDが承認されていれば利用することが可能です。

(Via MACお宝鑑定団 blog(羅針盤))

Ohh, this is exciting! One of the issues with Apple Maps in Japan (maybe elsewhere) is that it doesn’t do a very good job vertically. There could be 9 or more businesses all stacked on top or stacked below each other.

This app will let registered “owners” map their floors using Maps Connect as part of an Indoor Survey. Stay tuned for Joel at atadistance.net to verify my weak understanding and excitement.

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iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica Notification Improvements

iOS 12 Apple Pay Suica Notification Improvements:

My beta experience with iOS 12 has been a very positive one and I look forward to the official release. Wallet Notifications have been improved with some nice little touches. Wallet Notification labels are clearer, handy if you use multiple Suica cards, and Apple Pay Suica transit notifications now include the station map area. Suica purchase notifications would be a lot more useful if they included the store name, but that’s a current Mobile Suica system limitation, not an Apple Pay one.

(Via Ata Distance)

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Beware the Subscription Model

Apple is secretly encouraging paid app developers to switch to subscription – ldstephens

I’m disappointed to hear that Apple is encouraging developers to move to a subscription model. As I’ve written before, I think this will be the demise of many small developers.

Many users dislike subscriptions. If you don’t believe me just read the App Store reviews for some of the developers that have switched their app to a subscription. A good place to start would be Ulysses or Drafts 5.

Personally, I’m experiencing subscription fatigue. My subscriptions add up to around $1500 per year. Yes, this includes my Netflix, Hulu and Sling subscriptions. It also includes my internet subscription, the subscription for all that’s needed to operate this website, my email subscription at Fastmail, and the subscription to a few apps. I’m not interested in adding more subscriptions.

I love trying new apps. If all apps went to a subscription I would no longer be able to continue trying and writing about them.

For example, I have several writing apps. If they all went subscription I would have to select one and abandon the others. In this scenario, there will be one winner and several losers.

(Via ldstephens.net)

I already try to avoid any app that uses a subscription model. An app that solves specific problems in a way that works well for me and where I maintain control of my data is one for possible exception – but they are rare.

As mentioned I am pruning my subscriptions of all types. Drafts 5 will soon be another as I don’t use it enough to justify the expense. Google Drive, 1Password, The Atlantic (sadly, but I’m reconsidering), Audible (for DRM reasons), and Netflix (for timesuck reasons) all went on my financial chopping block. The two (!) Amazon Primes (Japan & US), Apple Music, LastPass, and the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers are up for review.

I don’t think I’ll ever want to get to a zero subscription point, but I will definitely keep them in check. As Google, Amazon, and Microsoft (among others, and to a lesser extent Apple) continue to push hard on the “digital assistant” front – something that interests me very little – jumping back into a F/OSS lifestyle seems not only wise but prudent.

To be clear, I want developers to be paid for their work. Even F/OSS developers will ask for donations of one kind or another. As I wrote I think commercial developers, independent or in the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) space, can work well without embracing the subscription model.

I’m no Luddite or neophyte, mind you. I simply value my freedom more than the ability to dim the house lights when I fire up a streamed movie from my couch.

On another tack, the rise of subscriptions should trigger more thought about data portability. Locking one’s data in a proprietary app requiring a subscription to access said data lacks foresight. However, application developers don’t often list how the data is stored or how one can get their data out if they chose to move.

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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.

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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)

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