Apple

The Unheralded Awesome New Feature in Apple TV

A couple of weeks ago, Apple released a software update to the Apple TV, and the news was mostly under the radar.  The fact that Vimeo support was added got a bit more play than the feature I care most about — streaming previously-purchased TV shows through the Apple TV via iCloud!

I’ve written a few times about my use of external hard drives to store my iTunes media, and the purchased TV shows are the big space hogs.  Then, when I had a major data loss, I resigned myself to never being able to get back to the media files that were lost.

We have two Apple TVs in the house, one in the living room, one in the bedroom.  Any time that I wanted to watch something I’d purchased from Apple, I needed to have my external hard drive connected to a computer in the house, and leave iTunes up and running on that computer, in order to stream the media using the Apple TV.  Not a big deal, but a White Whine / First World Problem on those nights when I go upstairs to bed, want to watch TV, but forgot to set up the computer downstairs for this scenario.

Now, with the Apple TV software update, the problem goes away.  No more do I have to leave the hard drive plugged into the laptop and leave iTunes running.  No more do I have to lament losing the previously purchased TV shows.  I can now offload the files from my external hard drive, freeing up space for other things.  This could easily be my favorite new Apple feature of 2011… which is kind of sad, now that I think about it.

Update: As I go back through the news about this software update, looks like John Gruber agrees that the pre-purchased aspect was more interesting than the Vimeo inclusion.  Nice to know I’m not the only one.

Want: BookBook for iPhone

I see my next gadget purchase, and it’s name is BookBook for iPhone.  The short description from the Twelve South site:

BookBook for iPhone is a wallet and iPhone case rolled into one pocket-sized, vintage book. Open this beautifully designed leather book and you will see a wallet on the left and a slot for your iPhone 4 on the right. Trade your wallet for this handsome little book and you’ll have one less thing in your pocket or purse when you walk out the door. And, as long as you remember your phone, you’ll never forget your wallet again.

April uses a similar iPhone/wallet case from Michael Kors, but that’s, uhm, a little flashy for my tastes.  I can’t really see myself carrying around a gold designer clutch.

However, I can see myself using the BookBook for iPhone.  It would require cleaning out my wallet and carrying around less cards and cash, which is not a bad thing.

If only it were my birthday coming up… I don’t think I can wait 6 months to have someone buy it for me as a gift!

See the BookBook for iPhone in action:

Originally seen on Mashable.

Do It (Tomorrow) — My New Favorite App

I think my new favorite application is going to be Do It (Tomorrow), from Adylitica.  It’s ultra-simple task management, with a snazzy interface.  You’re only putting in your tasks for today, and then you have the ability to postpone them to the next day.  It’s available as a web application at http://tomorrow.do, and there’s a paid version for the iPhone/iPad (only $1.99!) that allows you to sync with the web app.  Free versions of the app are also available for iPhone (without sync) and Android.

I’ve been on the lookout for something like this, with the following features:

  1. Super-simple to add tasks
  2. Sync between a web interface or a Mac thick client, and iPhone and iPad
  3. Re-order task list
  4. Postpone tasks manually
  5. Automatically roll over incomplete tasks to the next day
  6. Give me a way to search for completed tasks by date range

I’ve tried a number of solutions, never really found one that felt right for me — either too many bells and whistles, or a clunky interface, or missing a web interface or a mobile app. In just a few minutes with Do It (Tomorrow), it looks like they cover the first four features on my wish list.  I’ll know tomorrow if they handle #5 on the list.  Doesn’t look like #6 is possible at this point.  But for a measly $1.99, to get the first four features?  Gimme!

The design of the web application is really beautiful, too, see below with my tasks for tomorrow blurred out so you don’t have to read what I’m doing for work tomorrow.  It looks like a Moleskine notebook, and the font is a simple handwriting font.  They even add the obligatory coffee stain image!

Lion Spotlight Doesn’t Like External Hard Drives

I think I’ve narrowed down the external hard drive problem that I wrote about yesterday in my post about Mac OS X Lion.  There’s something failing in the Spotlight indexing process that’s causing the external hard drive to unmount.  When I tell Spotlight to ignore the external hard drive partitions, then the OS will keep the hard drive mounted normally.

SpotlightChecking the system.log through Console, I’m seeing these errors:

Jul 22 13:39:06 Jason-Nassis-MacBook-Air mds[44]: (/Volumes/iTunes/.Spotlight-V100/Store-V2/98C64515-4F23-400B-8608-B8D79F12A34D)(Error) IndexCI in store_stream_init:store_stream_init err:2
Jul 22 13:39:06 Jason-Nassis-MacBook-Air mds[44]: (/Volumes/iTunes/.Spotlight-V100/Store-V2/98C64515-4F23-400B-8608-B8D79F12A34D)(Error) IndexCI in indexPrepareForSyncBulk:indexPrepareForSync error: 2, 0.
Jul 22 13:39:06 Jason-Nassis-MacBook-Air mds[44]: (/Volumes/iTunes/.Spotlight-V100/Store-V2/98C64515-4F23-400B-8608-B8D79F12A34D)(Error) IndexCI in _CISyncContextSync:indexPrepareForSyncBulk error:2
Jul 22 13:49:02 Jason-Nassis-MacBook-Air mds[44]: (/Volumes/iTunes/.Spotlight-V100/Store-V2/98C64515-4F23-400B-8608-B8D79F12A34D)(Warning) IndexGeneral in _SIOpenIndex:datastore clean, reverse store dirty
Jul 22 13:53:59 Jason-Nassis-MacBook-Air mds[44]: (/Volumes/iTunes/.Spotlight-V100/Store-V2/98C64515-4F23-400B-8608-B8D79F12A34D)(Error) IndexCI in indexPrepareForSyncBulk:indexPrepareForSync error: -1, 0.
Jul 22 13:53:59 Jason-Nassis-MacBook-Air mds[44]: (/Volumes/iTunes/.Spotlight-V100/Store-V2/98C64515-4F23-400B-8608-B8D79F12A34D)(Error) IndexCI in _CISyncContextSync:indexPrepareForSyncBulk error:-1
Jul 22 14:08:59 Jason-Nassis-MacBook-Air mds[44]: (/Volumes/iTunes/.Spotlight-V100/Store-V2/98C64515-4F23-400B-8608-B8D79F12A34D)(Warning) IndexGeneral in _SIOpenIndex:datastore clean, reverse store dirty

Not sure what else I should do to debug this, other than just leave Spotlight ignoring the external drives.  Any suggestions, Mac experts?

First Impressions of OS X Lion

I Iz Upgrading Yor Makbuk

I upgraded my MacBook Air today to OS X Lion, and I thought I’d share my first impressions of Apple’s new operating system.

Download and Install

Lion is the first Mac OS to only be available as a download through the App Store, which is perfect for the MacBook Air.  The Air doesn’t have an on-board DVD drive — although you can use an external drive via USB connection — and with Apple pushing out a new model of the MacBook Air, you know they want everyone to go electronic copy only, no discs to ship or sell at the retail stores.

The download took about 20 minutes on my home network, and then the install process took another 30 minutes or so.  My immediate thought after the install started was, “Man, I probably should’ve done this on another computer first and not the work computer… oh well, too late now!”

Launch Pad

The first thing that shows up in the Dock after the install is the new Launch Pad feature.  It’s basically the iOS finder, where you can re-arrange your applications, group them, create new pages for the application lists, etc.  In other words, an entirely useless feature for the Mac.  I have the Dock already for my most-used apps; I have the Applications folder shortcut in the Dock for the less-common apps.  But, really, if you’re a power user on a Mac nowadays, you’re already using something like Spotlight, Quicksilver, or Alfred (my personal favorite).

Mission Control

Pretty much ruins my habits for using Expose and Spaces.  I had six Spaces pre-defined in Snow Leopard, with all of my common apps pinned to one of those Spaces (or all of them, in the case of iTunes).  After the upgrade to Lion, I had to reset my hot corners, and the Spaces become Desktops, but it’s an odd transition.  I wound up killing off all six Desktops for now, until I get the hang of Mission Control enough to start using multiple Desktops effectively.

Up/Down Scrolling

Which is natural to you?

This was the most jarring change for me.  Trackpad gestures reversed the movement of up versus down.  It’s like gravity has no meaning anymore!

Prior to Lion, when you used two fingers to gesture down on the trackpad (towards you, away from the keyboard), your app would scroll down.  In Lion, it’s the other way around — you gesture UP on the trackpad (away from you, towards the keyboard), and your app would then scroll down.

It seems completely unnatural to me, in spite of Apple calling that the “natural” scroll direction.  Luckily, you can disable that gesture and revert back to pre-Lion behavior.

I know that the “natural” direction is what’s used by iOS, and I’m completely fine with it on the iPhone and iPad, but it seems daunting to change that habit on the computer after years and years of mouse movements, scroll wheels and trackpad gestures.

iCal

iCal gets a HUGE facelift, looking just like the iPad version of iCal now.  It’s a huge step forward, and I found it very easy to use.  The quick create for events is going to take some time to get used to, but the couple of events I created today for work picked up my syntax perfectly.

Mail

Another daily use application that gets a major UI update.  I love that the 3-pane view is in the core product now.  Previously, I’d used a 3rd-party app to achieve that view, which of course would break on every OS update that touched Mail.  Conversations view is interesting, a little too much with the animation for my taste.  The new search functionality will be a HUGE benefit for me.  One thing to know when you’re first upgrading is that it takes a while to update your mail database, so carve out some time to let your Mac chug through the process before you need to immediately jump into your email.

Miscellaneous Stuff

  • Overall system performance seems a bit sluggish, especially when you’re switching apps.  I’ll have to see if eliminating multiple Desktops has an effect on that.
  • Full-screen mode is going to take a while to catch on, we’ll have to wait for all the 3rd-party apps to adopt it.  So far, the only apps that I use daily that have it are Mail, iCal and iTunes — none of which I’m ever able to stay in from a full-screen perspective.  I’m sure it’d be great for focusing on writing.  Maybe I’ll use Pages to write my next blog post, and go full-screen mode, just as an experiment.  Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 already has that feature, so no big whoop.
  • Time Machine… ugh… every time you do a major OS upgrade, it takes FOREVER to run a Time Machine backup.  30-something GBs were trying to back up over my home wifi today.  I had to cancel it for now since it was clobbering my network performance as well as the computer’s performance.  I’ll let it run overnight, and with the Ethernet USB adapter plugged in.

Problem!

I use an external Western Digital hard drive to store my iTunes media and my iPhoto library, and it has to be connected anytime I want to A) use iTunes or iPhoto, and B) sync my iPhone or iPad.  Since the update to Lion, though, I’m finding that the external hard drive is unexpectedly being ejected.  I haven’t found any reports on the Internet about that being a problem with Lion yet, and I did a Disk Utility verify and repair, no problems found.  This could be a serious issue for me, I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

Healthy Competition

April introduced me to the new Zynga game, Hanging With Friends. The problem with games like this is we wind up playing against each other… and we’re both a little, ahem, competitive.

This invariably leads to comments muttered my way like, “I don’t like you”, or “You suck”, or “I’m going to start using made up words, like how you’re a monkeybutt.”

It’s not that I’m good at these kinds of games, mind you. I suck at Scrabble… but I’m better than her :)