My Kingdom for a Widget

A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!
William Shakespeare (Richard III)

As cool as it might be to have a horse, I really don’t need one; but a widget on my phone, now that is something I could use. Not being able to put a widget on my home screens, is the one thing I miss the most since switching to an iPhone from an Android phone. I can not for the life of me understand why Apple is so dead set against widgets in iOS. I can understand Apple not wanting 3rd party applications having access to certain parts of the phone’s OS; but at the very least, Apple itself could offer widgets. I know Steve Jobs was against a smaller iPad and a larger iPhone, yet since his passing we have the iPad Mini and the 4 inch iPhone. Would it be so far-fetched for Tim Cook to sign off on widgets or even for Sir Johnathan Ive to give the green light to widgets? I use the “Sir” part of Ive’s name in the hope that by chance he reads this blog and seeing the respect I showed him, orders widgets ASAP on every iOS known. I can dream, can’t I?

I truly believe I’m in widget withdrawal. Just thinking about them, brings a smile to my face. Widgets, those beautiful little mini-windows packed with all kinds of useful information at a glance. I miss not seeing the information I want right away. I should not have to first tap on one of the context menus, then the app, and maybe another menu, to see what I want. A widget is a great tool for smartphones that Apple should embrace and not reject out-rightly.

On my Samsung Galaxy, I had a widget for almost every kind of information I wanted. I had my Google widget for quickly searching the web. Spotlight is close, but there is an extra step in having to tap on “Search the Web”. Not a big deal; but none the less an extra step to get what I want. I had a widget for Facebook, to easily see all of my family/friend’s updates. I had my Twitter widget. I had a widget for my 3G usage. The is is one of two widgets I miss the most. The 3G widget not only kept track of my usage; but estimated how much data I was going to use for the month and let me know if I might go over my quota. The other widget I miss the most was the one that tracked my monthly talk time minutes. I know I can check this information in Settings; but it isn’t nearly the same, as I only get a global total since the last reset. I’m sorry, that is an asinine way of keeping track of your monthly minutes.  In my plan, I have free minutes from certain incoming/outgoing numbers and during certain times of the day. There is no way for me to configure these exceptions within iOS, something I was able to do with my Android widgets. Does Apple expect me to write the length of my calls from my free numbers and free minutes, than do the math? I can connect to my carrier to get the information; but I shouldn’t have to.

Even if Apple doesn’t want to give me some of the above mentioned widgets, at the very least, give me an easier way to turn on/off WiFi/Bluetooth, and please give me an easier way of going into Airplane mode, rather than having to go through Settings each time. The Notification Center seems like the perfect place for these buttons. Why aren’t they there? There should also be a button to instantly kill all open applications in one shot, rather than tapping on each one individually. Closing apps the Apple way is tiresome, time-consuming,  and feels so much like an old school way of doing it. I know these types of changes are possible to iOS, because I am able to do all of this and more on my iPad. The difference between my iPad and iPhone? The iPad is jailbroken and the iPhone isn’t. I’m waiting for a jailbreak to be available for my version of iOS (6.0.2) and then, faster than Superman can leap a tall building, I will have jailbroken (jailbreaken?) my iPhone.

I can’t believe more Apple users haven’t asked for all or some of these innovations. Why haven’t Apple developers tried to push for these changes over the years? Is it because Apple is so blinded by its way of doing things, that it can’t see how useful widgets are? I know widgets have more of wear and tear on the battery; but the iPhone battery is still better than most Android based phones, can’t we just assume that even with the ability to add widgets the phone would still have a better battery life? If having widgets on my screens, cost me 1 hour of battery life, I think I would be fine with it. In the end, I can only hope Apple one day sees the light and allows widgets.

A widget! A widget! My kingdom for a widget!
Pareech (iPhone 5, iOS 6.0.2)

Ménage à Trois

Apple Love

Wikipedia defines a Ménage à trois, as the following:

… a French term which originally described a domestic arrangement in which three people having sexual relations occupy the same household – the phrase literally translates as “household of three”. In contemporary usage, the meaning of the term has been extended to mean any living relationship between three people, whether or not sex is involved.

Well, I am not having any sexual relation with my tech products; but I am having a love affair with my three tech devices. George the iPad, Al The MacBook Pro, and Yves The iPhone Five. These three techs keep me connected 24/7, whether I’m at home or on the road. I no longer have to worry if something I entered on my computer has synchronized to my cell and my tablet or any other combination thereof. The ease of synchronization between devices is what I have longed for, these past years.

The word ménage, is also French for cleaning. I feel as if I have cleaned house with my three main tech gadgets. I have swept aside my Windows and Android devices to come under the unified banner of Apple. Do I think Apple is the greatest and best thing ever invented? No. I do think it is the best means for me to get all that I want out of the technology I use.

As in any new relationship, the early stages are beautiful and whatever faults are found, can easily be overlooked. Over time these minor problems can become annoyances until one of two things happen. Either you decide to live with the annoyance or it bothers you so much that you decide to change. I have chosen to live with these annoyances, each day I am adapting and learning. Most of my annoyances, are in fact my fault as I am still new to the Apple world and still have a Windows mentality of doing things.

A few of these annoyances are when I try to close an application, when in fact all I’m doing is closing a window within the application. Minimizing when I know I should hide the application/window. If anyone reading this blog can explain to me the point of minimizing, I would love to hear it because to me, minimize in OSX is one step above useless. However, my biggest annoyance and this is one that I will never get to used to, is the on the fly system changes. I understand why I have to enter a password before I want to make changes to the system; but I can not for the life of me understand why changes to the system are committed without any confirmation. I find this practice dangerous, as the user can click on something without even realizing it and have the change applied.

When I look back at how I managed my technological lifestyle, I ask myself what I was thinking.  Prior to unifying under the Apple banner, my laptop was Windows-based, my cellphone was Android, and my on the go machine was an iPad. Ensuring that all the information I needed, updated everywhere was somewhat of a bitch. Although I did use Google Calender to keep track of meetings, I always had to log into it, to see what was happening when I was on my laptop. Now that I have iCal, at the click of a button I can see what I have coming up for the coming week. I have my personal and professional Gmail calendars, and my Facebook calendars all in one place.

Regardless of the above mentioned annoyances, I am absolutely loving my Apple experience. If I had only known before what life could be like if all my tech gadgets were under the same banner, I would have made the move years ago. It’s no longer me working to get my technology to get along with each other; but my technology seamlessly getting along without any input from me. I’m no longer embarrassed to go sit in a café and do some blogging, surfing or whatever on the net. I wasn’t embarrassed by the kind of laptop I was using (HP with Windows 7); but rather the mere fact it sounded like a vacuum cleaner.

I’m hoping this love-in with my tech will go on and on. I am now looking at new products I can get from Apple that will enhance my user experience, like an Apple TV or Time Capsule. Although everything Apple TV can offer me I can do through my XBox 360, the last vestige of Microsoft technology in my home. I’m not sure I can justify buying a Time Capsule, when I can buy a WiFi drive for half the price and do my backups that way. The only thing I have done, is add 4 more gig of RAM. I probably should have gotten 8Gb of RAM when I bought the computer; but for some reason chose not to. I don’t need the extra RAM at the moment; but rather I’m planning for the future. It was spend 100$ now to upgrade from 4 to 8 or spend 200$ or more in a few years time.

Regardless of what more I may want, buying something new is not something I foresee in the near future. I am just going to sit back for the moment and enjoy what I have and continue each day to learn more and more how good life is when one is unified under one tech banner.

The iPhone is in the House!!

The circle of going Apple is now complete. First came George “The iPad” 2, a little over year later came AL “The MacBook” Pro, and just days later, Yves “The iPhone” 5 completed the circle. Maybe a triangle would be a better analogy, as I only have 3 gadgets. Regardless, my move from Windows/Android is now complete and I am now full on Apple.

I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was going to wait until my contract was up before making the switch to an iPhone. However, fate chose another path for me. I was on my way to the Apple store and passed by a Bell store and went in for a little chat. My landline, internet, and cable are from Bell,. My cell contract was with another company; but I would be adding a 4th service with them so it was only natural to see what kind offer I could get if I signed up for a cellular plan. To quote the Godfather, Bell made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. From start to finish I think the process of getting my number ported having the phone set up and running was about 30 minutes. It took me longer to get my account number from my previous provider than anything else.

Yves the iPhone

Yves the iPhone

One of my first surprises when powering up the iPhone was the lack of or should that be non-existence of bloatware installed on the phone. The MacBook had no bloatware and now the iPhone. Just the lack of not having to fight my phone/laptop to get rid of useless crap made the move worth it.

I have all my music copied over. I did get a little frustrated when I wanted to convert some mp3 files I had on my SG1, I used for ringtones and notifications. I found many sites explaining how to create a ringtone; but not one stated I had to change something in preferences first. It took a 3-year-old post in the Apple forums to find the answer. Once again, iTunes stupidity shines through. Instead of allowing me to choose version x,y, or z, to create a file; I have to change preference settings each time I want to convert a file. Wouldn’t it be simpler to ask what format I want to convert to each time, and not make changes in the preference menu?

Although I did figure out how to do it eventually in iTunes, I did find a web site that converts any file in a few seconds. If anyone reading this wants to quickly, easily, and without having to install anything on their computer create ringtones, have a look at http://makeownringtone.com/. It can convert to/from a multitude of formats, you can choose the length you want, the start and end point for your file, and a host of other options are available. This is the easiest way to make a ringtone/alert file for Apple products. Even though I know how to do it in iTunes now, the above site, will be my go to way of making tones.

As you can guess, ringtones and notifications have already been assigned to those who need them. I’ve already had people test text/call me and each time, the specified tone sounded. This is the opposite of what was happening on the SG1. The SG1 would sound the correct ringtone maybe, just maybe 1 out of 20 times. The only thing the SG1 did correctly was emit the correct sound when receiving a text message.

Everything that needed moving from the SG1 has been. I have factory reset the SG1 and now it sits and waits to be used again. I think the SG1 will become my out-of-town phone. I am not allowed to go carrier free on the iPhone until my contract is up. If I had bought the phone at full price from Apple for 650$ + tax, I could put any SIM card I wanted into the phone. I just couldn’t justify spending all that cash just so I could change SIM cards when I’m out-of-town.

There are a few things I do miss from my Android phone days. I miss the lack of or rather non-existence of widgets. I had widgets setup on the SG1 for just about every task I did multiple times a day and for a couple of my social networks. I still don’t understand Apple’s aversion to widgets. How can something so great be rejected so whole heatedly? I am waiting for a jailbreak to come out for my version of iOS because there are some things I have on my iPad that I want on my iPhone. For example, pushing one button to quickly kill all open applications is a dream or to configure the phone so when connected to certain wifi networks, it should not lock. However, the most important thing missing for me, are the toggles. I used toggles for turning on/off wifi, 3G, Bluetooth, and to quickly enter airplane mode. These are the kind of things the notification center should have. It’s great to have the weather; but how many times a day does someone check the weather? The notification center has so much potential; but Apple for one reason or another has decided to not use it properly. This is the one time, I think Apple should take a page out of Android’s playbook. The Android notification center does kick the iPhone’s ass.

The iPhone may not have toggles and widgets by default; but I couldn’t be happier the SG1 has been laid to rest. I know I’m just a jailbreak away from getting the phone to where I want it. Some of you may think I should have stayed with an Android phone if I wanted such personalization. However, even on the SG1, I rooted the phone to do all that I wanted to. I look at jailbreaking as just another form of rooting on Android.

R.I.P. Sammy “SG1” Samsung

Sammy “SG1” Samsung
Activated: 10 September 2010
Deactivated: 28 December 2012

It was deep regret and sorrow, I inform one and all of the passing of Sammy. His passing did not come as a surprise to those who knew him, as the Smartphone Alzheimer he battled long and hard against, finally beat him. He was a little over 2 years old, but didn’t look a day over 1. Throughout Sammy’s short and tumultuous life-cycle, there were good times and  bad times. There were tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Sammy gave and gave, until all those around him knew he could give no more. His final attempt at relevancy was showing a clock, that was only 4hrs behind the actual time. Poor Sammy, he didn’t even know his time was up.

As one chapter in my smartphone life closes, another has opened up. To replace the void left by the disappearance of Sammy, I have introduced Yves to the family. Yves, is a black iPhone5 with 16GB of memory and is expected to remain with us for the next 3 years, barring some kind of Sammy like meltdown.

So, as a new day opens, I raise my smartphone aloft and offer a toast to the late and not always so great Sammy “SG1” Samsung. May its inner circuitry rest in pieces.

Why Can’t Geeks Get Along?

apple_vs_android_vs_windowsI was talking with a friend recently about my purchase of a MacBook and how I was two-thirds of the way towards being full on Apple for my daily tech needs. This kind of shocked my friend, as he is as devoted to Windows as I was and is no fan of Apple. His phone is an HTC Desire and his tablet is, well his tablet is really a Kindle e-reader. He told me I was making a big mistake changing my ecosystem and I would rue the day I went full on Apple. He even asked me if I liked the taste of the Kool-Aid I was given. His attitude bothered and annoyed me. I let him know in no uncertain terms, I had not drunk any Kool-Aid nor had I joined any cult. I had made a choice and was now following through on that choice. I explained to him, the decision to switch completely to an Apple world was not some spur of the moment idea. If it had been spur of the moment, my smartphone would have been in the garbage heap months ago and my laptop would have already been the paper weight it was always destined to become. I understood his point of view, as until a little while ago, I agreed with everything he was saying to me; but I was still annoyed.

What does it mean when someone says Apple users have drunk the Kool-Aid or joined the Cult of Apple? I did not join a cult, drink any concoction, nor did I choose form over function. I made an informed decision on what I wanted from my technology and proceeded from there. Once I knew what I wanted from my tech products, I looked at which brand could best serve my interests. If I thought I could have gotten everything I wanted from Microsoft, I would have gone full on Microsoft.

I have used the aforementioned descriptions when talking about Apple users in the past; but now that I am now an Apple user, I think those kind of statements are foolish and just narrow-minded. Just because someone has bought into a certain brand, why are we labeling them? No one ever says an avid Microsoft user sipped the Kool-Aid or is part the Cult of Microsoft. I think we label Apple users the way we do is because for the most part, they are avid supporters of all that is Apple; more so than a Windows or Android user is. They stand for hours if not days in line awaiting the newest latest product launch. Many of them replace their smartphone on a yearly basis when the newest model comes out. Who really cares? It’s their money and if they can and want to change their smartphone, tablet, laptop or any other piece of tech on a yearly basis, let them. I may think it’s a waste of money; but it’s not my money, so who am I to judge them? If devotion to a product is why we are labeling Apple users, shouldn’t we be labeling Android/Microsoft users instead? If we look at the number of people who use iOS vs Android or Windows vs Mac, it is the Android/Microsoft users who have drunk the Kool-Aid and joined a cult.

I often read on tech sites the verbal battles between iOS and Android fanboys bashing each others choice of smartphone. I’m pretty sure in the not to distant future we will be adding Windows Phone fanboys to the fight. In these epic verbal battles, each side is boasting how the smartphone they bought is the greatest and anyone who doesn’t own what they own, are fools to have wasted even one cent on product X. If you are an Android based smartphone user, you think iPhone users are fools because everyone under the sun knows the fill in the blank model of Android based phone is soooooo much better.

What difference does it make to anyone what product/brand the person has chosen? Is my user experience lessened because someone, whom I have never met before and in all likelihood will never meet, is not using the same product as me? I think these fanboys are not so much trying to convince others they made a poor choice; but rather they are trying to justify and convince themself, their choice was correct.

Each electronic gadget I buy has its own pros and cons. There is not one wonder product on the market that will fulfill everything I want out of a gadget. It is my job as the consumer to decide which product gives me the best bang for my buck. That is to say, which one comes the closest to fulfilling all I want my gadget to be able to do. What may be important to me, may be less important to some else and vice versa. The most important thing when buying a computer, phone, tablet, or any kind of tech is to be happy with your purchase. It should not matter who the manufacturer of your gadget is, as long as it does what you want it to do. I explained in earlier blogs why I am making the switch from Windows/Android to full on Apple, so I am not going to rehash my reasoning. What I will say, is that so far I do not think my tech experience has been lessened because I am using a Mac over a Windows-based PC.

In the end you may not like my product choices or may even think me the fool for what I have bought and plan to buy. I really don’t care one way or the other. I am not going to try to convince you to follow me in my pursuit of all that is Apple, so do not try to convince me that Windows or Android is better. The only thing you can do, is be happy for me because I’m happy with what I own and in turn, I will be happy for you, even if you are still using Windows and Android. Continue reading