Classroom productivity with Voice Memo

Apple’s preloaded Voice Memo has now become a more useable app for the classroom. The user interface is cleaner now with navigation easier. Trimming and deleting parts of the recording is simplified and saving files with appropriate titles streamlined. The app also allows upload to Dropbox which means easy sharing and archiving. AirDrop again means sharing with others with iOS hardware is one click away. 

The screen also rotates so that the iPhone can be held with the mic facing up to work like a dictaphone

Another feature that is useful is recording with the screen locked meaning you can record students without distraction to them while they perform tasks for you. 

A quick comparison between my Apple iPad Mini 3 and iPad Air

I’ve had my new Apple iPad Mini 3 (64GB, cellular model) for a couple of weeks now and it has become my favourite iOS device (I have an iPhone 5S (16GB) and iPad Air (16GB, wi-fi model)). Compared to the iPad Air the iPad Mini 3 feels better, more balanced when handheld. The iPad Air does have a nice big screen but otherwise iPad Mini 3 is better in every other respect.

The upgrade (or in some people’s eyes, “downgrade”) is one I like. Even though the internal hardware performance specifications are the same, the extra hardware are truly welcome.

Here is my list of things I really like about my iPad MIni 3:

  1. Touch ID
  2. 64GB (my iPad Air had only 16GB)
  3. cellular model (my Air was only a wi-fi model)
  4. better battery life
  5. form factor

Because the two tablet’s performances are virtually identical it is only the hardware that make the Mini 3 better. Let me talk about why each of the above points were important. Continue reading

How to get sub 1-minute times for timer in iOS Clock

One of the annoying features in the iOS Clock is that the minimum time for the timer is 1 minute. There are no ‘seconds’ increments that you can select from. For that most people download non-proprietary apps to get this feature. However, if you don’t want to download anything more you can still get sub 1-minute times on the Clock timer.

The work-around for this is to use Siri.

For example, bring up Siri voice command and say, “timer forty-five seconds,” and the timer will countdown from 45 seconds as commanded. Simple as that.

You can also get “in-between” times (such as 1 minute 30 seconds) as well by using the same method.

The four configurations of iOS apps

The ubiquity of iPhones and iPads these days means there is great app support and variety for these devises. But you would think that an app running on an iPhone or iPad would work on either devises because they are running the same OS – Apple’s iOS. This is not true. To make things worse it isn’t explained to users, at least, how apps relate to the hardware either in the App Store or elsewhere.

So here is my summary.

There are four configurations for apps in relation to hardware running iOS.

  1. Universal app
  2. Separate iPhone and iPad apps
  3. iPhone only app
  4. iPad only app

A universal app is one that runs on both iPhone and iPad with a single purchase. That is, if you bought it on either your iPhone or iPad it will be available to the other device without extra cost. Furthermore, the design adapts to the hardware. The use interface UI will look and behave differently depending on hardware is an iPhone or iPad. Here are two screenshots of the same app. The first is running on an iPhone and the second on an iPad.

An iPhone or iPad specific (for the lack of a name) app is one that is available for both the iPhone and iPad but require the user to purchase both separately. One has to be careful as to which version to buy. If you purchase an iPhone specific app it will work on your iPhone as it is designed to. It will also work on your iPad but the design will not adapt to the iPad hardware but will make your iPad look like a huge iPhone. But if you had purchased an iPad specific app be aware that it will not run at all on your iPhone even though the developer has made both versions available but as separate purchases. So if you want to run this app on your iPad either purchase the iPhone version or else purchase the separate iPad version.

iPhone only apps are apps which are available for iPhones only with no separate iPad apps made available by the developer. There are various reasons for this. The most common or likely reason is that the apps are designed specifically for the form and functionality of iPhones. Here is a screenshot of a notetaking app for the iPhone. Not only does it not have a ipad equivalent it only works in portrait mode with the keyboard positioned for single hand inputting.

Finally, iPad only apps are ones that are designed for and are only available for the iPad with no iPhone version purchasable. These apps are designed specifically for the tablet form with way to make it work on iPhones. The reason here again is about form, functionality and practicality. Below is a screenshot of a drawing app designed to work on iPads alone. The small size of the iPhone screen will make drawing impractical. But other drawing app developers may beg to differ and design either a universal or separate version for the iPhone as well.

There are reasons why you may want an app to run on both your iPhone and iPad. Mine is that having access to certain productivity apps on my iPhone means I will always have a backup to use in case my iPad dies on me during teaching. But even if this doesn’t matter you should be aware of your options when making purchases on either your iPhone or iPad. The compatibility designations are anything but transparent.

Apple App Store purchases and region/country settings

I download a lot apps and software. I used to download and try everything just to know what is out there for any specific task. In the old days I had tried all the browsers for Windows. You name it I’ve tried it. Netscape, Opera, Explorer, Firefox. Unless you try them all you can’t say which is the best for you.

Software unlike apps was available anywhere for any country if you can get your hands on it. But this is not true for purchasing things online. The App Store means that things can be location, region or country specific. And sometimes apps that were once available but not anymore cannot be searched for. Updates also are no longer available to you once it is removed from your region.

Case in point is the Flickr app. This was once available in Japan but is no longer there. So when I read online about the update and availability of a universal version working with iPad I knew I had to get it. But because it was removed from Japan’s App Store I could not get an automatic update.

The workaround was to delete then reinstall it. Since I had already purchased it previously it is mine to keep. So while I would not be informed of updates I was still able to redownload it as an update. Again, this is how you do it:

  1. Confirm there is an update
  2. Delete the app
  3. Reinstall the app

So if you are like me who want to keep everything up to date or get the latest versions of an app no longer available to you this is the way around the problem.

iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 2 (not 3)

Apple this week announced their new iPad (and iMac) lineup. The most significant addition was the thinner top end iPad Air 2 with its new processors (A8X and M8), communications (wi-fi ac supported) and upgraded camera. But the iPad Mini 3 announcement was essentially a name upgrade with no change in form factor and/or hardware except for the addition of Touch ID.

I welcome the Touch ID which makes projector use much better. Up until now I have had to disconnect or blank out the projector screen whenever I needed to enter my security password. However I do not think this single hardware inclusion is worth the USD100–150 more for the same “older” versions that do not have this one functionality.

So save yourself a lot of money by purchasing the iPad Mini 2.

The iPad Air 2 however is a different beast with some new core hardware. So there is no contention as to which to buy if you need the larger form factor of the iPad Air. The upgrade is significant in taking advantage of the latest technology.

So if you have deep pockets then iPad Air 2 is the one to buy.

What is the difference between an “app” and a “program”?

Typically it is best to think programs and apps as the same thing with different names, just like cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons which technically these three storms are the same thing. So an app and program are just the same thing with different names.

In common usage though you will never call a something running on iOS or Android a program, or something on Windows, Mac OS or Linux an app. These terms seem to reflect on the environment they run on. And they install differently. A program usually requires an installer and will install various files needed on the computer for it to work. An app on the other hand will usually be (or at least feel like) one file downloaded. It will have one icon. And deleting it will be just to tap on “the cross”. A program will include and require an uninstaller in order to get rid of the various files installed all over your hard disk. Programs in general are pretty messy looking things.

One must also think of what usually becomes an app. For the most part we never install anything to do, for instance, Gmail on a computer. Add-ons to browsers may be the in-between case for some functionality, but we still use online email services through a browser. Whereas on an iPhone your email will be an app. In other words some things which are usually done on a browser on a computer will be done by an app in mobile devices.

Byword – Short Review

This app is great for text-oriented content blog posting. It directly links to WordPress, Tumblr, Evernote, Blogger and Scriptogr.am. You can also export as HTML and PDF to the Cloud, iTunes or share through various means in another app, Twitter or Facebook email and Message as well as copy as HTML.

Byword also supports Markdown and allows you to preview it. Some more other important features include being able to post images to WordPress, sync through iCloud and TextExpander extensibility.

Non-English external keyboards now work perfectly with Byword (tested with Japanese layout keyboard and iOS8).

Byword is free but publishing cost 500 Yen (in-app purchase). Single purchase for all iOS devices.

Wireless JIS keyboard finally works properly with iOS8!

I am happy to report that Apple finally got something right with iOS8. The JIS wireless keyboard problem I had been blogging about seems to have been fixed once and for all!

All the apps that have not worked with an external keyboard now seems to work. I have tested so far

  • Notability
  • Twitter
  • Gmail
  • Byword (on which I am writing this post)
  • Facebook
  • TextExpander
  • Adobe Reader

all work perfectly with the wireless keyboard!

If you haven’t update your iOS version yet I suggest you do so. The improvements are important. Why it has taken this long is anybody’s guess.

UX Write – printing troubleshooting

There are two methods which work for printing .docx documents created in UX Write.

Method 1:

  1. from the Export Menu select ‘Create PDF’ (check your typesetting is set to ‘Webkit’)
  2. once the PDF is created from the Export Menu select ‘Open in’, then select your printer app
  3. print from within the printer app

Method 2:

  1. save it into the cloud (or send it to your Windows computer)
  2. open it in Microsoft Word
  3. print it from within MS Word

Both methods work well with minimal style differences between the iOS and Windows printed versions.