iDevices Breaking Out!!

jailbrokenMy iDevices are finally free from the constraints put on them by Apple. They have been let out of Apple jail. The long awaited jailbreak for iOS 6.x was released earlier this week and it couldn’t have come soon enough. For those who are not sure what jailbreaking is, it is removing some of the limitations imposed by Apple on its OS through hardware and software exploits. It allows the user of a jailbroken iDevice to download and install apps that aren’t found in Apple’s App Store. These downloads can be to tweak your system, like SBSettings for toggles or too theme the phone to make it look and feel the way you want it, like the picture on the right, which shows how I slide to unlock my phone, and a few status bar modifications. Sure, there are those that use the jailbreak to take advantage of the ability to install cracked applications (ie pirated); but I think for the most part, people pay for their apps, theme their phone, and add a few tweaks to make the day-to-day use of the phone easier.

Although my iPad has been jailbroken for a few months now, I finally updated its OS from iOS 5.1.1 to 6.1. I didn’t want to upgrade the OS until I knew there was a jailbreak available. With my iPhone, I had no choice but to wait for a jailbreak because it came pre-installed with the latest iOS from Apple. I knew I could downgrade the OS if I wanted to; but I didn’t feel like taking a chance by downgrading and possibly crashing the iPhone 5.

Some of the first tweaks I installed were to simplify the way I put my phone into Airplane mode or turn on/off my wifi quickly, instead of having to go through Settings every time. Now, I just pull down the Notification Center and tap a button. Another favorite tweak of mine is CleverPin, that allows you to tell your iDevice when it is connected to certain WiFi networks, not to engage the passcode on the lockscreen. This means if you have a passcode to enter, you don’t have to enter it each time you want to use your device. This is particularly useful for your iDevice if you are at home. Even if I forget to turn off the WiFi when leaving an authorized area, the app realizes I’m no longer connected and re-activates my passcode.

I think it is important to be able to customize your iDevice the way you want to. We spend a lot of money on these devices and I think we should be able to put our own stamp on it. If I install something that causes the phone to stop working, I can always do a factory reinstall and I think that if anyone does install things on his/her phone, then it should be a case of buyer beware.

I like the iPhone and how it functions; but that doesn’t mean I want it to look like everyone else’s. The way Apple treats its customers today in terms of customization, reminds of their commercial for the Macintosh in 1984 during Superbowl XVIII, that showed everyone being the same and that Apple was going to break that. I think Apple has now become the big brother of that commercial and is trying to force everyone to be the same. I enjoy tinkering with my devices and giving them my own personal touch.

I don’t know about anyone else; but given the choice of dialpads, I prefer the one on the right over the stock one that comes with the iPhone. It is the little tweaks like for the dialpad, that I jailbreak my phone.

Dialpad pre-jailbreak

Dialpad pre-jailbreak

Dialpad post-jailbreak

Dialpad post-jailbreak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the top 5 tweaks, in no particular order, I install on my iDevices as soon as a jailbreak is available:

1.   Airplane SBSettings Toggle
2.  CleverPin
3.  Quick Clear
4.  SBSettings
5.  WinterBoard

The first four are tweaks to the system, while WinterBoard is to customize how the phone looks. They are all free except for CleverPin which costs $1.99 in Cydia. All in all, I have installed about 30 different tweaks on my phone. Some I do just because I can, like the dialpad skin above, others I do because I don’t understand why Apple didn’t do it by default, like quickly turning on/off WiFi or even showing a little icon in the notification bar when the phone is in silent mode. On my iPad, I have about 20 tweaks installed.

If it wasn’t for the ability to jailbreak an iDevice, I’m not sure if I would have considered making the move from Windows/Android to Apple. I like to tinker with my gadgets and if I’m told I can’t, well, that is a kind of deal breaker for me. I don’t mind having to wait for a jailbreak; because Apple is plugging the holes the hackers use to exploit iOS, so each time it becomes more and more difficult for them; but in the end I am ever so grateful for the work they do. Anyways, as the saying goes, patience is a virtue.

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All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others
George Orwell (Animal Farm)

The above quote is from Napoleon the pig, in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, as he is trying to explain how all animals are the same; but some might be slightly better than others. Much like in the fictional world of Animal Farm, this holds true in the very real world of software available to Apple and Windows users. Microsoft’s Office for Mac may look and feel like the one designed for Windows; but it seems to lack some of the bells and whistles that make Office a great product, at least in my opinion.

I have said it over and over, I love my Apple products, even if I’m not a fan of everything Apple. For now, my biggest complaint with using my MacBook, is the difference in applications that exist for Windows and Apples users. I know most of the big applications people use are available; but they seem to be the lite version.

With the NHL lockout over, my friends and I can now get back to the business of watching hockey (Go Habs Go) and getting ready for my hockey pool in a couple of weeks. I keep all my stats and draft preparations in Excel. I have used the same format for years and never had a problem creating web queries when I used the Windows version of Excel. However, I’m not using Windows anymore and now have Excel 2011 for Mac. Creating web queries with Excel for Windows is easy and there are plenty of things you can configure to make sure your data is properly formatted. The Excel version for Mac, is not so easy to create proper web queries, limited in formatting option, and is a 13 step process:

  1. Go to a Web page that has the Web tables that you want to put in Excel.
  2. Highlight the Web address in the address field and choose Edit→Copy.
  3. Switch to Microsoft Word and open a new document.
  4. Launch Word if it’s not open already.
  5. Paste URL into Word
  6. In Word, choose File→Save As.
  7. Click Format and choose Plain Text (.txt) from the pop-up menu that appears.
  8. Type a filename, replacing .txt with .iqy as the file extension.
  9. If you encounter the File Conversion dialog, select the MS_DOS radio button, and then click OK.
  10. Click the Save button.
  11. Open Excel.
  12. Choose Data→Get External Data→Run Saved Query.
  13. Open the .iqy file you saved in Word.

Oh… My… God!!! That is absolutely exhausting and time-consuming. There are 30 teams in the NHL and I had to do that 30 times. Well, I would have had to do it 30 times if I had done it on my MBP. My fiancée wasn’t at home, so I used Excel on her Windows computer to set up the queries. It still took almost an hour to do everything I wanted to do; but I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken me if I had done it on my MBP.

I am somewhat at a loss why there is such a difference in the versions. I have found similar problems when I use Word for Mac. It looks the same, it feels the same; but with a few subtle differences. It is entirely possible, the functionality I want is available in the Mac version; but it is different and I am unable to find it. I have tried doing searches on the web for my various problems and the only solutions I find are for Windows’ Excel. I really can not believe I am unable to do web queries any simpler than how I described it above. The only thing better in Excel for Mac, is the copy/paste feature. In Excel for Windows, if you copy something and then type something in a cell or hit ESC, you lose what was in the clipboard. In Excel for Mac, I can copy a cell, type something else and then paste what I copied. I have never understood why Excel forgot what was copied the moment you typed something else.

Then there is Outlook for Mac. Although I don’t use it very much, I still have an email account that needs to use it. I have two problems with the version of Outlook for Mac. The Outlook for Mac version, does not let me delay the sending and receiving of emails. As soon as I open Outlook, it receives and as soon as I hit send on my email, it is sent.  This is no good to me for two reasons. I like to keep some emails on my provider’s servers, so I can access them via webmail wherever I am. The auto-receiving, is not my biggest pet-peeve with Outlook; but rather the auto-sending. I do not like to have my emails sent as soon as I hit the send button. There are times where I have written an email and after a few minutes, decided what I had written was not what I wanted and made some changes. In Outlook for Mac, the only way to make sure mail is not sent automatically is by taking Outlook offline. I wouldn’t mind so much taking Outlook offline, if I didn’t have to do it every time I opened Outlook.

I have used Outlook for at least 10 years. It was a way to get my email from my original account. Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of emails in my pst file. I have been able to import the pst files from one version of Outlook to another. The last version of Outlook for Windows I used, was Outlook 2010, as part of the Microsoft Office Suite. With Outlook 2011 for Mac, I am unable to import this pst file because the version is too old or at least that is the message Outlook tells me. However, I went to a friend’s house to see if he could import it on his Windows’ Outlook 2011. It was, wham bam thank-you ma’am, the file imported without a problem.

It’s not just the main stream applications that I have a problem with; but I miss some of the smaller applications I had, that made my life easier. If anyone reading this is a Windows user, I would recommend these programs: POP Peeper (email checker), SuperCopier (used to efficiently make copy/move files), or even MS Paint which comes pre-installed with Windows.

In the end, I will use what is available to me and make the best of it. I just feel that some of the cross-platform applications for Mac, is like buying a knock off name brand piece of clothing. You think you are buying a Dolce & Gabbana; but in fact you are really getting Dulce & Cabana. It looks the same, it sounds the same; but there is something a bit off about the product. I have a theory why some applications available to both Windows and Apple users are the same, yet different. When I encounter problems like those in Excel and Outlook, I think it’s Microsoft’s way of having fun with Apple users. It’s their way of saying, you should have bought a PC. Of course this may just be my conspiratorial side coming out. Until someone can prove to me otherwise, I’m going with that theory.