iOS 8 Beta 5 – Finally… PROGRESS!

Music, Sync and iTunes 12 Beta

Much of what you see in iTunes 12 Beta is a coat of paint; or nothing more than a UI make over. However, there does seem to be some general bug fixing going on. ITunes 11 had issues determining the actual on-board storage use of my iPhone 5. Its free space was rarely reported correctly. iTunes 12 also seemed to have some problems doing that under OS X Yosemite Beta 4. That issue seems to be resolved as of this writing, though I will be monitoring it over the next few days as the beta release settles in on my Mac. Music on your iDevice was also fixed so that it wouldn’t freeze when downloading an album.

Also fixed according to the iOS 8 Beta 5 release notes is restoring a backup from iCloud to your iDevice. Previously, if you tried to restore a backup from iCloud, the backup would get corrupted and you’d have to delete it. I even had problems restoring backing up something to my Mac via iTunes. That backup would also become corrupted and would require not only its deletion, but possibly the deletion of other backups as well.

New issues with backups currently exist and have been documented. If you try to encrypt your backup to your Mac via iTunes, the backup with fail. iOS 7 backups restored on an iOS 8 device also won’t properly restore photos due to changes in how backups and iCloud photos now work.

Additional issues with device sync also prevent apps from copying from the device over to iTunes. Apple did not say if there were any issues in synching apps to the device (so one would assume, not; but… you know.)

Also still at issue is the amount of heavy lifting to turn off iTunes Match. Even if you have a large amount of mobile bandwidth – I have 15GB every month, but I share it between three lines – not everyone wants to stream music from iTunes Match. It’s nice, but not a must have for me. I’d rather play the content locally. If I wanted to stream stuff, I’d chase after iTunes Radio, but that’s a different story all together. Anyhow, not only does both iTunes and your iDevice default to iTunes Match = on; but it takes a lot to get iTunes to recognize that iTunes Match has been turned off. It may require numerous device connect/ disconnects before iTunes will provide options to sync content from a local library.

Notifications

As I mentioned earlier, Notifications are a work in progress. Things have gotten a bit better, especially now that issues with BT-LE appear to be either resolved and Notifications appear on my Pebble Steel. However, getting them to fire consistently is still a work in progress. Even though my notifications appear to be configured correctly, they don’t always appear on the device or don’t fire consistently.

As wearables become more and more popular, having Notifications function and fire as needed will become more important. This will be an area where Apple will have to spend a bit of time working on before the mobile operating system is ready for public consumption.

System Issues

My biggest system related issues have evolved around two different bugs I currently have filed with Apple via their consumer beta bug tool, Feedback Assistant. I’ve got issues using multiple monitors and with my MBP fans spinning up past 5000 RPM’s and staying there when those monitors are connected.

First, a bit of background. I’ve got two external monitors connected to my 15″ MBP. One is a 27″ Thunderbolt Display. The other is a 22″ SD VGA monitor. It’s a bit older, but still very usable. I am using my Thunderbolt Display as a docking station with all of its external ports occupied with network, USB and Firewire cables. When my MBP is in use, but not connected to these monitors, the RPM’s on my fans average about 2000 RPM’s between both of them. When connected to both monitors, RPM’s on my fans jump past 5000 RPM’s and stay that way the entire time I’m connected.

My biggest problem at this point is use of FaceTime. FaceTime callers tell me they can’t hear me above the fan noise from my MBP. All they hear is “snow.” I did get some of this while on Mavericks, but Apple really needs to address the issue, as my setup is not at the power user level or unusual. In other words, it’s a common use case (external, 3rd party accessories plugged into the ports in the rear of the display and connected to my MBP via the thunderbolt cable). It’s reasonable to assume that callers would be able to communicate with me, especially since Apple is intending for your Mac to act as a speakerphone for your iPhone (and ALL calls – cellular and both audio and video VoIP calls – run through FaceTime on your Mac).

The other issue I have with my monitors is that they don’t actually activate until well after the OS and the computer have finished booting and the user has logged in. Even though they are both connected to the Mac at boot, they don’t activate until after the user has logged in.

If I wanted to use something like Henge Dock’s <a href=”http://hengedocks.com/pages/horizontal-mac-dock”>Horizontal Mac Dock</a>, I’d have to leave the notebook open until after it had finished loading all startup items after I logged in before either monitor would activate. I don’t think that’s completely kosher… but that’s just me. I don’t know what Apple is really wanting to have happen here.

I do know that if I restart my Mac with both monitor’s connected, the Thunderbolt display won’t activate until after I’ve logged in, regardless of whether the VGA monitor is plugged in or not. I find that strange, as having it the other way around (where Apple’s monitor would truly function as a default monitor over other, non-Apple equipment) makes more sense to me.

While both of these are troublesome issues, I’m not sure what’s at the root of either. My gut tells me video and/or thunderbolt drivers are the cause of both; but I have nothing to blame this on, other than the fact that both these issues occur only when the Thunderbolt Display is connected. If anyone has any insight, I’d appreciate you sharing it, as I haven’t received any feedback from Apple on either of these issues.

Conclusion

Wow. What a difference a beta release makes!

iOS 8 Beta 5 is much more usable than Beta 4 was, though there are still instances of 3rd party app force closes, and other bumps in the road. While it’s clear that Apple still has a ways to go on resolving issues with both operating systems, as well as the issues that will crop up because both your iDevice and a Mac work best when used in tandem, it’s clear that Apple’s vision for Yosemite and iOS 8 is probably where many of their users would like to go. They’re both going to be good by themselves, but they’re going to be great when used together… or at least that’s what Apple hopes most of the tech-bloggy people will say.

iOS 8 Beta 5 is a great deal more usable than any of the four previous betas. A lot of the debug related code that was active in betas 1 through 4 has been either removed or disabled and as a result both battery life and performance on my iPhone 5 is much, MUCH improved than with any of the previous 4 beta releases. The operating system is also much more stable than it has been. While you can clearly see that Beta 5 is just that – a beta release – this is likely the first release where a non-SDLC (software development life cycle) professional would be able to install it and use it.

Third party application developers would also have a decent time with this iOS 8 beta and their applications than in previous releases. If you’re a third party developer and you want to get a jump on testing your apps with iOS 8, Beta 5 is the release to start with. At this point your app has a decent chance of running and functioning as designed and intended than in previous beta releases.

Do you have any specific questions about iOS 8 Beta 5 that I can answer? If I can, I will. Why don’t you hit me up in the Comments section below and I’ll do my best go give you an answer straight away.

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