All posts tagged ios

→ iMore with an iOS VNC Client Comparison

I agree with their conclusion. I use Screens1 and love it.


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→ WordPress iOS Gets Major UI Update

It looks nicer and seems, during some initial use, to run faster.

→ Apple Removes Youtube App from IOS 6

Not really a big deal since I force iOS to use the mobile version of YouTube anyway.

→ Force iOS to use the Website instead of the App

I have been using this trick for some time, but my fiancé did not know about it. I figured I would make sure my readers did.

Making the Best of the Current iOS Podcast Player Options

I listen to podcasts. A lot of podcasts. In addition to regularly listening to a bunch of different podcasts, I also subscribe to a number of others that I listen to occasionally1. As one can imagine, this means I am very demanding of my podcast applications. Unfortunately, this also means that I have not been able to find a podcast application that fits with my needs. 2

Ideal Podcast App

My ideal podcast app would do the following:3

  1. Have the ability to download or stream podcast episodes. Whether to download or stream would be something I can select on a podcast or episode level.
  2. Allow creation of playlists for podcasts, either manual or “smart.”4
  3. Refresh feeds and download new episodes quickly.
  4. Sync information about subscriptions, episodes (such as played status, including where I left off on another device), and playlists across devices.5

The Players

The two major players in the iOS podcasting space are Instacast6 (and its iPad version Instacast HD and DownCast.7 I had been a user of Instacast since its initial release, and had been generally happy with its functionality. With the release of Instacast 2.0, however, I began having problems. Mainly, there were a bunch minor bugs, such as the app crashing when I tried to restart playing a podcast after having it on pause for more than 2 or 3 minutes, that annoyed me but did not make me consider dropping the app. Most frustrating, however, was how easy it was to “Mark All Played” in the various menu options. I did it once when trying to “Delete all Played” and twice it happened via a “pocket dial”.8

Instacast allows for iCloud syncing. This, for the most part, works pretty well. Last week, however, my iCloud syncing started to throw error messages. It presented me with two options “Reset” or “Try Later.” I attempted to “Try Later” a few times. That did not put an end to the repeated error messages. I eventually selected the “Reset” option, but that too did not put an end to my error messages. I eventually resorted to manually deleting the iCloud sync file9 and starting over.

My frustration with Instacast’s iCloud syncing led to my attempt to switch to Downcast.10 I began the tedious process of moving my 102 feeds from Instacast to Downcast, making sure that I set the correct unplayed episodes and the correct timestamp on the partially played episodes. The process took about 3 days of very, very part-time work.

Downcast seemed much more reliable to Instacast, both for application stability and for iCloud syncing. Unfortunately, it had two major issues: (1) the syncing of my feeds was insanely slow11 and (2) having the application open caused rapid battery drain. The slow feed syncing prevented me from taking advantage of one of the benefits of using a podcaster app: on the go episode downloading. With Instacast, I could quickly download a new episode of Geek Friday right before leaving for dinner on a Friday night. With Downcast, I had to plan 10 minutes of update time around any feed refreshes.

Though the slow feed update was annoying, it was not the “show stopper” that Downcast’s battery drain was. I first noticed the battery drain during my morning workout. Normally, when I got back from the gym, I would have about 96-95% battery life remaining on my iPhone. When I’d get back from the gym after using Downcast during a workout, I’d have 75-72% remaining. That translates to about 25% of a full battery charge gone within 2 hours of me unplugging my iPhone from the charger. With this kind of battery performance, Downcast clearly could not be my solution going forward.

My Solution

I’ve decided that since neither Instacast nor Downcast individually can fulfill my podcasting needs, I will simply use them both. My current solution is:

  • My top rated 12 podcasts are stored in Instacast
    • This allows me to take advantage of Instacast’s superior speed. Also, since these are episodes I consume very soon after they’re released, Instacast’s iCloud syncing issues and its easily triggered “Mark all as Played” functionality are much less problematic.13
    • Secondarily, Instacast’s new “podcast parking”14 feature means that I can get push notifications from Instacast for new episodes of all my podcasts but only have to refresh my top rated feeds.
  • Everything else is stored in Downcast
    • This allows for Downcast’s much more reliable iCloud syncing to keep all my less frequently listened to podcasts in sync.
    • It also means I can use Downcast almost exclusively when I have the option to plug in my iPhone or iPad, so I do not have the issues with Downcast rapidly draining my battery. “ I fully admit that this solution is kludgy and less-than-ideal. With the options I have available currently, however, it accomplishes my podcast listening goals.

  1. I currently have 102 feeds in my podcast apps. 

  2. The proverbial elephant in the room is that the real solution to my problem is to unsubscribe from some of the podcasts I hardly, if ever, listen to. 

  3. I’m going to ignore the basics like “check for new episodes.” 

  4. Similar to Apple’s Smart Playlists in iTunes that let you select specific criteria to build a playlist from. 

  5. I do not care how this sync takes place. I’m fine if it uses iCloud, Dropbox, or magic beans. 

  6. Apple recently released its Podcast app, however, it doesn’t come anywhere near meeting my requirements for syncing or playlists. 

  7. I put the iPhone in my pocket and sometime between when I first put the iPhone in my pocket and when I pulled it out of my pocket, all my unplayed episodes had been marked played. 

  8. I have begun monitoring and manipulating my iCloud files on a fairly regular basis, so this was no big deal for me. 

  9. Recommendations from Macro Arment and Dr. Drang also helped. 

  10. Downcast sync time is measured in minutes, while Instacast is measured in seconds. 

  11. Those podcasts I want to listen to as soon as possible after their release date. 

  12. Since I’m burning through these podcasts quickly, there are less episodes to get messed up if iCloud syncing goes wonky or “Mark All as Played” gets triggered. 

  13. “Podcast Parking” means that Instacast will still check to see if there are new episodes of a podcast for push notification purposes, but it will not do anything with the feed or the episodes during the “check for new episodes” process when the app itself is open. 

→ Office for Mac and iOS

Office for Mac counts for the 365 Home Premium Subscription. Also, The Beard says Office for iOS coming at the release of Office 15.

iOS Default Apps

Last week, John Gruber, had a series of posts on Apple not allowing iOS users to set the default browser or mail application on their devices. I agree with what Mr. Gruber says and I, personally, wish that I could set Sparrow1 as my default mail application. Until then, my “workaround” is to run the default mail application to notify me of new emails and then open Sparrow to do that actual email processing.


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→ Tumblr Launching a New iOS App Next Week

Elyssa is pumped up about this.

WWDC 2012

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off today with a keynote presentation that featured a number of major announcements. I was particularly interested in:

  • New Macbook Pro: For years I have thought that my next computer would be a new desktop to replace my aging iMac. The release of this new Macbook Pro, however, has changed that. I am pretty sure that my next computer will be one of these paired with a Cinema Display. I think the combination of SSD drives and Thunderbolt will be able to handle any RAW files I throw at it.

  • Mountain Lion: $20 to upgrade. As a friend of mine said “pretty soon they’ll be paying us to upgrade.” I’ll start with the one negative of Mountain Lion from my perspective: it won’t run on my black Macbook. I bought my Macbook a few months before the Macbook’s went to the unibody design. It looks like Apple decided it was time to end support for Intel’s fairly pathetic integrated graphics. I’ve managed to get an extra year or two of life out of my laptop because of a SSD replacement, so I really cannot complain. With that caveat out of the way, I am excited for Mountain Lion. The two main things I’m looking forward to are iCloud integration and dictation. I’ve been using iCloud, particularly with iA Writer on Mac and iPad, and it seems to work even better than Dropbox for real time syncing of simple documents. I’m hoping that new iCloud features allow for a similar workflow with Pages documents. I’ve been wanting to try dictation for some time, but I haven’t wanted to pay the upfront cost for a Dragon product if I was not sure I would stick with it. I had been debating whether or not to pick up Dragon Express as an alternative. I am now glad I waited, since next month I’ll have dictation built right into my operating system.

  • iOS 6: iOS got some major updates. My fiancĂ© was particularly excited that her new iPad will be getting Siri in the Fall. It’s not the same Siri that is currently on the 4S, either. It’s a new, improved Siri that includes improvements in areas likes sports stats and restaurant reservations. iOS 6 will also include a new Passbook application that is a storage place for all the frequent buyer cards, gift cards, travel tickets, etc…that we carry around. It has an API, so hopefully it develops a high level of ubiquity. Of course, the major feature upgrade in iOS 6 is the new Maps. iPhone will now include turn-by-turn navigation in their Maps application. Though Motion X has treated me well the past year, I fully anticipate that the new Apps will mean I do not renew my subscription to Motion X’s turn-by-turn service next year.

Summaries of the event are available from: David Pogue, Andy Ihnatko, TechHive, and Macworld.