The Best iCloud Tip You Will Get This Week

If you have multiple devices using iOS and OS X you are probably at least passingly familiar with iCloud Drive. For the most part, it’s entirely seamless – especially from the iOS side, where you don’t even have to think about the thing at all. Open an app, and voila! The list of all the comparable files on your iCloud Drive is there and waiting for you. Save a file, and (at the rest of sounding repetitive) voila! The file is automagically saved to iCloud Drive, no muss, no fuss, no wondering if you put it in the right spot.

Sometimes, however, automagically is not exactly what you want. Once in a great while you might find yourself wanting to be able to take a quick look at the stuff stashed away on your iCloud Drive – figure out if you have a file without opening the associated app, rename files to help keep things obvious with a collaborator, share a file, whatever. If you are sitting at a desktop you can just point your browser to and off you go. But if you are on mobile … are you pooched?

No, of course not. There is a not-overly-secret but also not-entirely-obvious switch in your iOS settings that will reveal the hidden iCloud Drive folder that sits on all of on your iOS devices. It’s three simple steps and totally painless. Ready? Let’s begin.

One: Go to your iOS settings and tap on “iCloud” – it’s in the section below the items that run from “General” to “Privacy”. You will be presented with this screen:
iCloud Settings Screen On iOS
Two: Tap on “iCloud Drive” and you will see a screen like this. Flip the switch labelled “Show on Home Screen” to on:
iCloud Drive Settings Screen
(NOTE: Obviously the master iCloud Drive switch at the top of this screen needs to be set to on as well. I probably don’t have to tell you this.)

Three: That’s it. Done. Return to your home screen(s) and your will see the iCloud Drive icon – it looks like this:
iCloud Drive on iOS Screen
Tap it, and there are all your cloud files, arranged by application. From here you can long-press on any item in a folder to bring up a menu of file operations, or “pop” them with force-touch to see a preview:
iCloud Drive File List
Done and done. Amaze your friends. Boost your productivity. Be cool.

Aerial – A Ridiculously Awesome Open Source Screen Saver

San Francisco Daytime Flyover From Apple TVYou may be aware that the latest generation of Apple TV went on sale yesterday. You may also be aware that the new box features some absolutely eye-popping screen savers – slow-motion hi-def flyovers of locations from around the globe, tuned to your current time of day.

What you might not be particularly aware of is the work of an exceptionally talented Swift programmer named John Coates who has crafted an OS X screensaver that brings these exact same flyovers to your computer desktop. Aerial is free, completely open source, and ready for your downloading pleasure right now. If you have one of the new 4K iMacs, this will blow your mind. If you have any other machine, well, it will still blow your mind, just not as much.

Those 4K iMacs are the bomb.

A couple of notes:

This is written in Swift, so you have to be running at least OS X Mavericks to enjoy it.

It is truly open source so you can use it to learn a little bit about Swift, or – if you are already a Swift guru – you can help contribute to or collaborate on the project.

If you aren’t familiar with GitHub and the downloading and building process here is an easy shortcut: Scroll down on John’s page to the section headed “Download” and then click on the link where it says “Download from GitHub”. Then just unzip the downloaded file, double-click on the file called “Aerial.saver” and allow OS X to install it. After that you can use it like any other OS X screen saver.

Finally, if you are planning on selecting only a few of the choices and would like to see a large (and gorgeous!) preview of all of the different locations and times, head over to Benjamin Mayo’s page for a complete set of views and browse away.

One Tiny Thing About Blackberry

It was almost three years ago that the fine folks in Waterloo decided to open up the Blackberry Messenger platform to other mobile OS players. At the time I wondered what the possible business model was going to be once the dust settled. There were three more-or-less realistic ideas on the table, none of them particularly enticing but at least legitimate possibilities.

Extortive offer to rid BBM of annoying ads.Well. Talk about blindsided … the real answer is “none of the above”, a.k.a. junking up the user experience with ads and then trying to extort users to pay a monthly fee to get rid of them. This is usually the playground of skeezy copy-and-paste game publishers, not legitimate and established technology companies.

It’s unseeming at best. Amateurish at worst. And downright embarrassing either way.


It’s An iPad. And It’s Gigantic. “Pro”, In Fact

Wow. I was so wrong. So staggeringly wrong. Like Tim set out to personally make sure I was the wrongest wrong person ever.

Giant iPad Pro Of Doom


Smartie 0651

10: The number of people that Senator Chuck Schumer (D – New York) believes you should be allowed to kill before you need to stop and reload.

That iPhone 6S Camera Thing

Yesterday I oh-so-casually mentioned in passing that – as with previous “S” models” – one of the biggest upgrades would be to the camera and imaging system. So big, in fact, that the new camera would really need it’s own posting to do it justice.

Oh, look, a camera post. What were the chances?

So – in no particular order, here’s what the newest generation iPhones will have for the camera geeks in the crowd:

A bigger imaging element. Yay. What this should mean is an increase in low-light sensitivity. One of the longstanding flaws in the iPhone cameras, almost since the word go, is poor (ie: completely terrible) low-light performance. If Apple was smart they would use this new real estate on the imaging element to correct this. However, it looks like the marketing droids got their way and instead it will be wasted on More Megapixels. Sad, really … for anyone with a brain “9 megapixels and awesome low-light performance” is much more enticing than “12 megapixels”. Marketing and brains are concepts that rarely intersect.

4K video. Okay, maybe that new imaging slab isn’t being completely wasted. Combined with the newest A9 processor, it will put legit 4K video – none of this upsampled tomfoolery – in your pocket. That’s pretty swank.

Siri learns that she has a camera. Yep. Siri gets eyes to go with her ears. Will it be as prosaic as “hey, take a picture” or will it be as awesome as “watch this area and tell me when the dog pees on the couch”? I’m guessing the former. I want the latter.

Faster burst mode. That new processing power means that bursts can be even more bursty.

Slower slo-mo. That new processing power means that slow-mo can be even more, er, slowy.

Awesome new editing and production tools. Did I mention that there is a host of new processing power here? I did? Good. You do the math on this one.

Force touch camera integration. Force touch comes to the iOS family this year. Force touch has all sorts of awesome possibilities for camera control … everything from force-press to shortcut to the camera app to force-press to control focus/exposure/what-have-you. Expect to see all of it here.

Printing comes back. Okay, it’s not part of the camera per se, but you can expect to see Apple get back into some sort of photo printing integration. Specifically, the “printing big-ass enlargements on canvas and the like to hang on your wall” … if nothing else, all those Shiny New Megapixels will give some pretty stunning large-format printing options.

There you go. Justice, done. Bring on the megapixels.

September 9th Media Event – Here’s Your Hint

September 8th results from asking Siri to "give us a hint". It's binary code for the ASCII letters that spell out "Gotcha"Tick tock. Time passes, and September 9th is nigh upon us. That means “tomorrow” for you less-prosaic types. Siri is still being entirely stubborn and refusing to give any sort decent hint so – once again – it is left up to me to provide you with a sneak peek at what’s going down at the annual iPhone media event. Casually drop some of these little gems at the water cooler today, and your assorted cronies will think you are a genius tomorrow. You should be able to parlay that into at least a free coffee, and maybe a muffin too … use your powers wisely.

What’s we will be seeing tomorrow:

New iPhones – Say hello to the 6S and the 6S Plus. Like most of the “S” generations, this is mostly a performance and refinement update and – as always – is aimed at people who have hardware from three years ago … in this case the owners of the 5 and 5c. The new hardware will look pretty much exactly like the existing 6 and 6 Plus, albeit with a slightly thicker metal case to deal with handful of morons who think it is a good idea to put a thin aluminum object in their back pocket and then sit on it for three or four hours. What’s inside, however, gets some serious love. The processor is the latest of the A9 family and gives a significant performance boost. Most of that boost will be aimed at improving the camera – so many improvements, in fact, that the “6S as a camera” probably deserves a post all on it’s own. Battery life is a tad better, memory management is more efficient, and the networking hardware gets a semi-overdue overhaul. More interestingly for average users, force-touch and the taptic engine, both cornerstones of the Watch experience, come to the iOS family for the first time. And the screen remains beautiful, untainted by the garish “colours” and horrid saturation issues of OLED. Whew.

iOS 9 – No real guessing games here, since this was announced months ago and everyone already knows the release date. The betas have been out and in testing for almost as long, so everyone knows what’s under the hood as well. The one big thing of note is that Mobile Safari will now accept plug-ins, including potential ad-blockers. You will hear a lot of hue and cry about this, on both sides of the coin, but the fact is that advertisers and publishers have brought this upon themselves. It’s not the ads that people hate, its the poisoned browsing experience caused by all of the monkey business attached to the delivery of those ads. Good riddance.

OS X “El Capitan” – Again, not any actual precognitive powers needed. We’ve had the release date and all the details for quite some time. Most of what is going on here is a “Snow Leopard” under-the-hood kind of update – adding the Metal graphics framework from iOS, a long-list of kernel tweaks for both security and stability, and a bunch of network performance boosts – but there are a couple of notable UI things that are worth mentioning. First, a big change in window and workspace management. You can continue to use and arrange windows the way you always have, or you can start pinning windows to screen-edge lockpoints and work in what is essentially a split-screen mode. Second, the way that virtual desktops are used and managed has been completely overhauled. If you have giving a glance to “Spaces” in the past and decided it wasn’t worth the effort, you would take a look again now. The whole multiple-desktop experience is suddenly fluid and intuitive instead of kludgy and obtuse. Better, you no longer have to dick around with Mission Control if that’s not your cup of tea … just drag a window to the top of the screen and everything opens up. And third, Spotlight gets some long overdue love. Searches are actually global now with results from your data, the ‘net, and what’s in your apps all sharing a single coherent results pane.

Fonts – This might not get a lot of mention tomorrow, but changes to the standard system fonts are interesting from both “a single computing experience” and “the future of the computing marketplace” standpoints. San Francisco now becomes the default system font for western users on all of the platforms. More intriguingly, a shitload of work has gone into tweaking the Ping Fang and Hiragino Sans system fonts, along with a completely overhauled input method for Chinese and Japanese users. If you were wondering about the location of the big growth markets in the computer world, that should give you a pretty good clue.

WatchOS 2.0 – This is a big fat hairy deal. It’s the first step of untethering the Watch from the phone, and launching it as a full stand-alone platform. There is a long way to go, but this is the start. Until now, the Watch is mostly a “triage” device for the associated phone – it keeps your phone in your pocket and your mind on whatever you are really doing, not constantly dealing with personal information flow. For a lot of people, this is already good enough, and that’s fine. But for the future of actual wearable computing, this is an exciting bit of new ground. Also, it probably means that Ned Yost can no longer wear his Watch in the dugout.

Other Watch Bits – Certainly a couple of new cosmetic options for the Xmas buying season – bracelets and bands, mostly, along with a new finish. Also, a raft of new things – cars, home integration devices, services, companies – that will directly support the Watch. Just shiny fluff, mostly.

AppleTV – And, finally, the star of the show. This was supposed to be shown at WWDC and was pulled at the last minute. A lot of people thought that it was because their much-talked-about content deals with the big networks had fallen through. A lot of people were wrong. The next-gen AppleTV was pulled because the interface just wasn’t good enough to pass muster at that time. Apple isn’t worried about the content deals yet … in their mind, that is putting the cart before the horse. What was being sweated was polishing the interface to the point where it stops being a semi-decent media hub and starts being a whole-house touchstone for, well, everything. Apps, games, media, your data libraries … the end-game here is to start the ball rolling on the same sort of infrastructure giant that the iOS family has become. Once you have that sort of mass, the content deals come to you, and not vice versa. It makes sense, and with the new device being rebuilt from the ground up to be interacted with instead of just a dumb pass-through device the strategy has a real shot. The new OS is much more “iOS” than “set top box”, integrates Siri for the first time, and it’s easily the best interface for this sort of device ever. Period. Finis. The wildcard here is the controller – a “smart” controller that does duty as a remote, a navigation tool, and a gaming device. How does that work? Who knows? This is the one deep dark secret that nobody seems to have any dirt on … or if they do, they ain’t talking. How this all comes together is probably going to be the most interesting part of the whole show. Well, that and the tech media’s reaction to the fact that the new device at $199 is going to be at least twice the price of any previous AppleTV release. Horror! Scandal! Shock! Whatever.

What we won’t be seeing tomorrow:

Any sort of iPad announcement. Get a grip, people … that’s an October thing.

“Give Us A Hint”

Invitation graphic to the media event being held on September 9, 2015 at the Bill Graham Auditorium in San FranciscoWell, well. As mentioned here last week, Apple is hosting a September media event to launch a new crop of phones, along with the somewhat-delayed reboot of the Apple TV box and the official releases of iOS 9, OS X “El Capitan” and the beginning of the end of Apple Watch tethering with Watch OS 2.0. The date and location were made both public and official yesterday via the standard round of colourful email invitations. What’s not standard, however, is the semi-interactive nature of the invite. The theme this time around is “Hey Siri, give us a hint” and if you do indeed ask Siri for a hint you will get … no, that would be telling. Why don’t you ask her yourself?

Better yet, ask her a bunch of times. She’s at her coquettish best on this one. Will the answers change as we get closer to September 9th? Only one way to find out …

Holding Out For A New Phone?

You don’t need to wait much longer. A little birdie just passed along the scoop: Apple will hold a release event on September 9th with the following agenda:

The “mid-life” updates to the iPhone 6 line – a 6S and a 6S Plus. A performance bump and force-touch screens will be the main changes from the original 6 lineup.

The re-booted Apple TV that was supposed to be shown at WWDC and pulled at the 11th hour. The new unit will move into the iOS family, be positioned more as a “cable-cutting” device than a “personal media” one, have a far-more-useful remote, and it’s own section of the App Store.

iOS 9, since it is sort of needed for that Apple TV thing.

Watch OS 2.0. This is the version that starts the inevitable process of de-tethering the Apple Watch from the iPhone “mothership”, and begins to push the Watch out of the “novelty” market and into the “everyday device” zone.

Ready for some shiny new toys? You don’t have long to wait.

That WWDC Thing

Wow – June again. So soon! It seems like it was just May! Whatever. June means that it’s time for WWDC, the highlight of the developer year and the epicentre of juicy tech. It also means it’s time for the usual slate of WWDC predictions and punditry, so without further ado … on with the show.

WWDC 2015 logo featuring s silhouette of the AppleTVApple TV: This is going to of the real stars of the show … you only have to look at the logo for this year’s conference (yes, that’s it over on the right) to see what the company’s plans are here. The Apple TV starts it’s transition from a “hobby” to the centre of your personal digital experience. Some people are of the mind that the next generation Apple TV will not see the light of day today because of holdups with licensing from network broadcasters, but with HomeKit already in the wild (see next item) I doubt that the company will hold the hardware back. And for the first time, look for a full SDK to allow developers to create apps that integrate and work from the data coming through your video streams.

HomeKit: The second star. HomeKit hardware has been out for a couple of weeks now, and this will be the first time we get to see the entire infrastructure as a fully-realized integrated entity and as the centrepiece of the new AppleTV-powered home. There will be the full release of the SDK, and I would be incredibly surprised if there wasn’t the debut of some sort of system-wide control app that lets you connect to every HomeKit device from a single interface. As it stands now HomeKit control is a hodgepodge of apps and user interfaces (the vast majority of them terrible) that you have to juggle to move from one device to the next. If Apple has a sense of humour they will name this über-all “HAL”.

WatchKit: The third of the big stars of the show today. As of now, the only native apps on the Watch are the ones that are baked into the OS. Everything else is just an extension of something running under iOS and it gives the watch some serious lack of functionality when the associated phone is out of range. That will all change in the fall when fully native Watch OS apps become available to the masses. As a prelude, it’s a guarantee that the full untethered WatchKit SDK will be handed out to developers today, and there will no do doubt be a couple of cool demos to boot.

Accessibility: Apple has long been proponents of accessibility in both devices and software. With the new AppleTV being positioned as the “control it all from one device, possibly via voice” centre of your home, and the Apple Watch extending accessibility via voice and haptic control to the wrist, it would not surprise me at all to see Tim announce a renewed or extended corporate commitment on this front.

Watch: Nothing new here, I would think. The expected evolution of the Watch from a tethered extension of your iPhone to a true stand-alone computer on your wrist is at least one year away, and probably two. There are just too many hurdles regarding battery depth and connectivity to be solved in the first generation. That said, the Watch is still selling faster than Apple can make them, and extending the production grid at this time would be illogical. Any non-functional additions – bands/finishes/et. – will come down the pipe in the fall, possibly at the iOS 9 launch event. Which brings us to …

iOS 9: Expect the full demo today, even though version 9 is at this point more of a technical update than anything. Performance, stability, and extended cross-device integration will be the main thrust of this release. Lots of happy news for developers, which is the whole point of today, but a real ho-hum for the average Larry on the street.

Proactive: I think this will emerge into the daylight today. In a nutshell, it’s an overview technology that brings together your local/personal search history, the status of your apps, and some basic contextual awareness – time of day, location, upcoming appointments, whatever – to give Spotlight searches across all of your devices an intelligent “boost” to return results with enhanced relevance. The end game would be to extend this sort of AI “precognition” to functions beyond Spotlight … for example, raising your arm to look at your watch when you are at the mall will add an arrow to the time display that points to the store whose web site you were browsing at home on your laptop before you went shopping. This is somewhat analogous to the upcoming “Google Now” infrastructure, with the main point of differentiation being that Proactive works on from your personal and private data, and neither the data nor the results are shared with anyone. Speaking of Google and data privacy …

Maps: There is something under wraps regarding Maps. If we hear about it today, it will be an “enhanced reality” kind of play. But I hear that the product isn’t ready for prime time yet, so I will guess that we don’t see this one. Yet.

Photos/iCloud: A lot of people are of the opinion that Apple needs to make fundamental changes to the Photos/iCloud structure now that Google Photos gives people nearly unlimited storage for “free”. The iCloud data tiers seem outdated, quaint, and downright expensive in comparison. That said … don’t expect any changes on this front. Apple has doubled down on the idea of your data being your data, and yours alone … on your device, in transit, or in the cloud. That – at least at this point in time – precludes any sort of endless storage without cost. If there is any mention of this subject at all, it will simply be a pointed reference to the fact that, like every Google service, Google Photos is not really free at all since the usage agreements give Google full rights, licenses, and access to everything you upload. You pay one way or the other, but the choice of currency – cash or privacy – is up to you.

OS X 10.11: Like iOS 9, the next update of OS X will be a performance and technology release. Developers will get their first full version and the associated SDK today, and you can look for the user release alongside of the iOS release in the fall.

Xcode: There was a time when Xcode was the cream of the crop when it comes to integrated development packages. That time, sadly, has come and gone. Xcode is getting long in the tooth, and after today could be responsible for managing code development and cross-device integration for OS X, iOS, WatchKit, CarPlay, HomeKit, HealthKit, and AppleTV. Whew. Add to that the ongoing multi-lexicon support for Cocoa and Swift, and the thing becomes a complete kludge. I fully expect an all-new Xcode to be debuted today, one that provides a “create once, curate everywhere” type of development experience. I also expect the final retirement of the much-beloved Cocoa framework … Swift is definitely the future, and Apple has never been a company to shy away from pulling the plug on the old and jumping in with both feet for the new.

Apple Music: Digital downloads are on the wane. Streaming is the new wave, and Apple start to turn the page on the iTunes store today when they release Apple Music. Expect an “all you can eat” service across all of your devices for a monthly fee, and a free tier that features promoted content from artists and publishers, and iTunes Radio as a free option without curation or individual song choices. Where Apple hopes to make inroads against the existing services like Spotify and Pandora is in the curation of your streams. The technology that came along with the Beats acquisition will drive this part of the venture in tandem with actual flesh-and-blood programmers and music directors.

Newsstand: Newsstand, I think, is done. Expect the end of the line for this today, and a replacement that riffs on the concept of Dave Pell’s NextDraft … something that concatenates and curates stuff that’s relevant to you in a single readspace (a la Flipboard). And yes, “readspace” is a legit buzzword when it comes to digital publishing … I know because I just made it up.

Apple Pay: Expect official Apple Pay rollouts in Canada and the U.K. to be announced today. Also expect Tim to step up and add more pressure to big retailers to adopt Apple Pay. There is a lot of reluctance in the big retail world to adopt the system – partly because a lot of merchants are tied to the Walmart-controlled MCX consortium that forbids any use of Apple Pay until 2016, and mostly because Apple Pay denies retailers access to a customer’s personal information as a result of the transaction. The MCX consortium is already starting to crumble – Best Buy has already defected, the MCX-approved “CurrentC” infrastructure still doesn’t work, and test market consumers have universally rejected the CurrentC app as unusable – but taking customer data away from retailers may be a hurdle is too high to overcome. Large retailers are addicted on the revenue they get from harvesting customer data from electronic payments, both for their own marketing use and for mass sales to partners and third parties, and customer privacy and security comes a distant second in their minds, if it enters their minds at all. Despite having proven over and over that they cannot be trusted with your data, they merchants going to dig their heels in on this one.

So – nutshell summary: A definite yes for HomeKit, AppleTV, WatchKit, Apple Music, Xcode iOS 9, OS X 10.11, and the demise of Newsstand. Strong maybes for Apple Pay in Canada and the U.K., a new and widened commitment to accessibility, and Proactive. Probably not for the new Maps technology and any sort of iCloud tier changes. And not a fucking chance at all for any Apple-branded Television Set or Apple Car, because despite the ravings of Gene Munster, they aren’t things. Period.