iOS 8 Beta 5 – Finally… PROGRESS!

iOS 8 Beta 5 has been released. Let’s take a look to see how (well) things have progressed…

iOS-8-beta-5-630x208

 Introduction

Over the past ten weeks or so, Apple has been releasing betas of iOS 8, their new mobile operating system. I’ve covered the first four betas with some rants that have left me (and I would assume other developers and testers) lamenting. You can read up on how things have progressed here:

Beta releases of iOS 8, to put it politely, have been a train wreck at best. They have been nearly unusable, crashing and causing issues and problems with nearly each and every core, as well as nearly every third party app I have had installed, too. Apple recently released iOS 8 Beta 5. Let’s take a look at how things are going and see if iOS 8 is (finally?) ready for a wider audience as well as some other third party app work by developers worldwide.

I’m also going to touch on a few OS X Yosemite Beta 5 issues, as I bumped into updates on them while looking at iOS 8 Beta 5. So much of what is cool about iOS 8 requires Yosemite and a Mac, that it’s hard to draw the line between the two devices and operating systems… at least when they are close by (and vice-versa)

 Installation

Installation of iOS 8 Beta 5 was only slightly smoother than previous versions of iOS 8. I did have problems with iTunes Match again (see Music, below), and almost had to blow the device and reinstall, but thankfully, have not… Yet.

There are still a number of know issues with iOS 8 Beta 5, and as always, caution should be used when deciding to install any kind of beta on any mission critical equipment. Generally, it’s not a good idea. For example in Beta 5, updating iCloud settings may appear to hang when you try to change them. The thought is that the device will eventually come back. Try to see if you can wait it out before you kill the app, or perform a hard reset (power + home button until the Apple logo appears), which will clear all settings and reboot the device.

While using Beta 4, I didn’t blow the device and rebuild it from scratch. I toughed it out and made it the entire two weeks. However, during the 2-3 days prior to the release of Beta 5, I REALLY did want to. I didn’t as I knew that I would be doing exactly that for Beta 5 soon. However getting to that release wasn’t a lot of fun (though it was mildly better than with Betas 1 – 3).

The question of stability of iOS 8 Beta 5 is still to be determined.

 Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

According to Apple’s release notes, there aren’t any known issues with Bluetooth in iOS 8 Beta 5. There weren’t any documented issues in Beta 4 either, but it was still a mess. I am pleased to say that things are a bit better here in Beta 5.

BT-LE (Bluetooth Low Energy) seems to be working and communicating with my Pebble Steel smartwatch. However, the Pebble app does seem to be sending some corrupted data, as the watch doesn’t always vibrate at configured intervals and the display often gets corrupted. I haven’t had to hard reset the watch (return it to factory settings), but I’ve wanted to at least once since repairing it with my iPhone 5.

Now, the only issue I need to verify is the secret sauce connection (Continuity and Handoff) my iPhone shares with my MacBook Pro.

Speaking of secret sauce connectivity, little to nothing related to Handoff or connectivity (both relying on Wi-Fi and home network connectivity) worked well for me in the iOS 8 Beta 4 – Yosemite Beta 4/Consumer Preview 1 combination.

There are currently two huge known issues with Handoff

  1. Handoff will not work on systems configured with multiple user accounts.
  2. Handoff icons may not appear in the Dock after using the corresponding app on another device. Trying another Handoff-supported app may resolve this issue.

At this point, Handoff should be considered a work in progress. Though when it does work, it IS pretty cool, especially if you’re using apps that save to documents in iCloud Drive.

 FaceTime, Phone and Contacts

In previous versions of OS X as well as iOS, Apple had a clear line of separation between the Phone app and FaceTime. With Yosemite and iOS 8, that line is SERIOUSLY blurred. This is both good and bad. Now, you have a choice in how you communicate with someone given the type and speed of the network you are connected to. On your Mac, all of your calls regardless of type – FaceTime or cellular – all show up in FaceTime. It looks like it wants to function as the main phone app for your Mac, though you can dial from just about anywhere you can find or see a phone number, Calendar, Contacts and Safari included. In Beta 4 of both OS X and iOS 8, this was nothing more than a total train wreck.

I have no idea if this is because of development issues with Phone on my iPhone 5, with Contacts on either my device or my Mac or with FaceTime on either my iPhone or my Mac. There are too many possible integration points for me as a tester (without direct access to design docs, code and/ or developer resources) to determine. I’m going to have to give this a shot when I get a moment back at the house.

Besides the “progress” made, above, Apple has also fixed the ability for users to use FaceTime in landscape orientations on your iDevice. In earlier betas, this didn’t work. It does now, in Beta 5. Fixed – at least somewhat – is also the ability to determine which number to specify as a Favorite, though the Favorite chooser in Phone. Favorites now provides a contact method picker, but force quits the Phone app when a contact method is chosen. We’re close, but no kewpie doll yet. Unless Apple has gotten the iPhone integration working correctly with both Beta 5 releases of iOS 8 and Yosemite, it’s going to be a very long beta period for both operating systems.

UPDATE: While this article was being written, a new <a href=”http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/08/05/apple-to-hold-iphone-6-media-event-on-sept-9—report”>rumor was breaking</a> regarding a reported Apple media even scheduled for 2014-09-09. <a href=”http://recode.net/2014/08/05/codered-apple-to-hold-iphone-event-on-sept-9/”>Re/code</a> is reporting that both new iPhone 6 devices – the 4.7″ and the 5.5″ iDevices – will be announced with a projected order rate of 80M units. It is not known if the iWatch will be announced at the same event or not. However, you can expect new iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina models to be announced with TouchID sensors.

UPDATE 2: The integration between iPhone with iOS 8 Beta 5 and OS X Yosemite Beta 5 is MUCH better than in the Beta 4 release of both operating systems. Previously, while a call could be established by your Mac through you iPhone, no audio would come across. In short, the feature was only partially implemented and didn’t work.

Now, not only is the connection established, but I was able to use my Mac as a speakerphone as intended without too many call quality issues. There does seem to be a volume issue for the person that you’re talking to. The caller I spoke with initially had trouble hearing me, though the call quality for them did improve over the length of the call.

Provided that audio quality and reliability improves on both sides of the call, I can see where this would be very usable as a way to conduct conference calls in a home office. I have my doubts however, how this kind of feature would work in the enterprise. Unless Apple builds some kind of partnership with, say, Cisco, Avaya or some other VoIP vender where the feature was totally integrated into their server(s), I’m not sure how this would be considered valuable or usable in any kind of corporate setting. The feature (even if mic and volume issues were totally resolved and call quality was continuously in the upper 90th percentile), as currently implemented doesn’t seem well suited for anyone else other than regular consumers or SOHO users.

However, it was really kinda cool to be able to get up away from the computer and still be able to converse with the caller without having to wear a Bluetooth headset. This is an area where I will need to do further testing, however, as its clear that this is a work in progress for Apple as well.

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OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: Mac and iOS integration

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 2 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about Mac and iOS integration.

If you remember last time, I talked about Yosemite Installation and Setup. Here, I’m going to talk about integration between a Yosemite enabled Mac and your iOS 8 enabled iDevice.

Yosemite

 Mac and iOS integration

There is some pretty cool stuff going on with Apple’s Mac + iDevice pairings under Yosemite. However, please note that in order to get some of this stuff to work, especially when everything is released, you’re going to have to run not only Yosemite on your Mac (these features simply will NOT exist under Windows…), but iOS 8 on your iDevice. If your iDevice gets left behind at iOS 7, I don’t care what kind of Mac you have Yosemite install on, this kind of integration won’t exist. Be aware both new operating systems will be required on both ends.

FYI – Please note that these features will always require at least matching beta versions during the Beta Period. For example, Yosemite Beta 4 and iOS 8 Beta 4. They’re both going to be revved at the same time (though the public won’t get newer beta versions of Yosemite, but WILL receive some minor OS updates via the AppStore; and the only way to get iOS 8 is via the iOS Developer Program), so the versions will have to match. You won’t be able to have Yosemite Beta 4 and iOS 8 Beta 3 or vice versa on your gear and have this stuff work right now.

  • Phone Calls
    This is probably the neatest thing I’ve seen yet when pairing a Mac and an iPhone running iOS 8. If you have iOS 8 on your iPhone and Yosemite on your Mac, you can use your Mac as a speakerphone. Calls coming into your iPhone will cause your Mac to ring and a notification of the call to display in the upper right corner of your default monitor. You can answer the call, decline the call or reply with an iMessage if needed.You can also place a call from your Mac. Open Contacts, Calendar, Messages or Safari and click a phone number you see displayed. Your iPhone will place the call and your Mac will act as a speaker phone. Dialing into conference calls is super easy now, and totally hands free. Where was this a year ago? I really could have used it then, as conference calls were my life…The cool deal here, though is that you do NOT need to have your iPhone physically tethered to your Mac for this all to work. Through the magic of Wi-Fi, there’s nothing to setup. As long as your iPhone and Mac are connected to the same network, you’re good to go. This means you get this feature at home, at work or at Starbucks…which is cool. Wi-Fi is the magic sauce.
  • Messages
    When you have Yosemite and iOS 8, you can also send and receive text messages with individuals running not only iOS, but Android and Windows Phone – or any other OS that can send and receive SMS/MMS messages – all from your Mac. All messages that appear on your iPhone, appear on your Mac, and vice-versa. You can also begin a text message conversation on your Mac by clicking a phone number in either Safari, Contacts, or Calendar.Unfortunately, I had a lot of trouble with this. I’ve tried this with a couple Android users over the past couple of days, and they never got any of the messages I sent from my Mac. None of those messages ever synchronized with my iPhone. Messages sent from my iPhone got to the user I was texting with, and eventually synchronized to my Mac; but none of the messages that I typed on my Mac in the Message conversation actually sent or were received by the users I was communicating with. There’s obviously still work to do here, as it appears the “send” functionality for non-iMessage users is broken in Yosemite.I have a lot of hope for this feature, as it makes Messages and iMessage a universal way to communicate via text with anyone, on any device, with any mobile OS, at any time. This is a natural progression for the iMessage service, and I’m very excited – or I will be – to be able to use this feature.
  • FaceTime
    While I am on contract with a state government agency and out of town, I use FaceTime as a major communications tool with my family. We speak via cell during the day; but we visit with each other via FaceTime at night. Everyone either has a Mac, iPhone or iPad to communicate with, provided they can get the target iDevice away from my 22 month old granddaughter, that is. She likes to talk to papa, too; but unfortunately, she doesn’t like to share, or can’t necessarily remember where she put her mother’s or grandmother’s iDevice. It makes for an interesting time…I’ve noticed that the new version of FaceTime for Mac has issues searching through large Contact lists. There’s always a huge delay – 30 seconds or more – when typing in a contact name, address or number in FaceTime. It improves slightly after the first search is completed, but there are still lags, especially with larger Contact lists like mine (I have nearly 3000 contacts in my Contacts list).
  • Instant Hot Spot
    One of the coolest features of iOS 6.x and later is the ability to use your iPhone as a mobile hot spot. You turn on the feature, set a password, and then turn on Wi-Fi on your phone and on your Mac. The feature was supported in Lion, Mountain Lion and is supported in Mavericks. Further, if you physically connected your iPhone to your Mac, with the hot spot feature turned on, your Mac connected to the internet automatically without the need to have Wi-Fi on or to configure any password.Apple has taken the feature a bit further now with Yosemite. Now, your Mac can use the personal hot spot feature on your iPhone via Wi-Fi just like it did via USB cable – no setup is required. Your Mac will also display the signal strength and battery life of your iPhone as well. You don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket, bag or anything else. The feature…just works; and now, you don’t even have to turn on the feature on your iPhone beforehand. Your Mac will list your iPhone in the network list of the Wi-Fi menu on your Mac. Selecting your iPhone will turn on the hot spot feature and you’re on the internet.I’m still experimenting with this feature. I haven’t played with it too much yet. However, I would suspect that the bridging technology is not necessarily accomplished not by Wi-Fi, but by BT-LE. You’ll also need to make certain that you’re logged into your iCloud account on your iDevice in order to make all of this work. So here, you need to mix both BT-LE and your iCloud account in order to create the secret sauce. Your cellular carrier will also need to allow the hot spot feature on their network, but that’s really a given…In the end, this looks like a much better implementation of the instant hot spot feature than in previous versions of OS X and iOS. In the end, it’s just on, click, connect and surf.
  • Handoff
    I know when I get home after a long day at the office, the last thing I want to do is get behind the desk in my home office because I HAVE to. Having a laptop makes it easier to compute in places other than an office, but having a hot laptop on your lap for a few hours is neither good for you NOR the laptop. Thankfully, Handoff allows you to use another device.Again, when you pair an Apple iDevice and a Mac running OS X Yosemite, your Mac and iDevices will automatically pass whatever you’re working on between them. You can start working on one device – say your Mac at the office (but it could be the other way around…) – and when you’re ready to go home you save your work to iCloud. When you get home, you can pick up what you were working on at the office on your iPad, at the exact spot where you left off… the availability of the file and the spot where you left off is instantaneous (or as soon as the information get saved to iCloud)…And that’s the secret sauce here – iCloud. As long as your iDevices and Mac share the same iCloud account, the information is traded back and forth with every save. Now you can go to meetings with confidence that the latest information you put in your presentation will show up on the iPad you’re presenting from; and you don’t’ have to do anything else other than save the file. This… is TOTALLY cool; and something that is WAY overdue as a feature not only in OS X, but in Windows AND Linux. Something like this should be available on every platform and computing device; but that’s just me, and probably way too Star Trek for everyone…Currently, Handoff works with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. What is even more important, is that app developers can easily build Handoff into their apps. This is a feature of the OS and not necessarily just Apple’s Core Apps.

Do you have any questions about OS X Yosemite’ integration between your Mac and an iOS 8 enabled iDevice? Let me know in the Discussion area below, and I’ll do my best to give you a hand.

Come back next time, and I’ll talk about changes to Apple’s Core Apps and I’ll wrap everything up.

Go back to First Impressions | Go to Apple Core Apps

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OS X Yosemite Beta 4/ Public Preview Beta 1: First Impressions

Beta 4 of Yosemite was recently released to the public as a Beta 1 public preview. In part 1 of this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about Installation and setup.

I’ve been a full blown Mac Switcher since about 2010 or so. Snow Leopard and Lion really got me hooked and I’ve just about made a full transition over to the Mac side of the fence.  The only thing I really still run Windows for (aside from reviewing Windows-based apps) is Outlook. However, I’m hoping that with (what should be) Office for Mac 2015 – if and when Microsoft decides to get off its lazy duff and release it – I’ll be able to make a full transition over to Mac.  I have too much invested in Outlook over the past 14-15 years to leave it totally behind…at least just yet.

And while I kinda say that “get off its lazy duff” thing with a bit of tongue-n-cheek, it’s really said out of frustration. It’s been FAR TOO long since the release of Office for Mac 2011; and I’m actually afraid to give Outlook 2011 another go.  The reasons for that go back to a review I TRIED to write of the “new” app back in late 2010-early 2011. After 2 weeks and well over 24 database corruptions (where Outlook 2011 crashes, says it can’t read your data and then redownloads your entire data store from your Exchange server again – leaving the original, unusable database still on your hard drive) I gave up. I also didn’t publish the review – it was, and is, too critical – for Microsoft, and when something is THAT bad, a good reviewer says nothing. Sometimes silence is more damning than screaming and yelling; BUT I digress…

So, I’ve been very interested in the next version of OS X, code named Yosemite, since its announcement at WWDC.  What really caught my attention was the amount of announced integration between a Mac and an associated iDevice. Effectively, your Mac can become your iDevice while you’re on your Mac, at least according to the demos at WWDC and all of the documentation we’ve seen so far.

I’ve got the Public Beta of Yosemite installed on my MacBook Pro. Let’s take a look at some of my first impressions to see if the hype stands up to scrutiny.  I’m going to cover a number of different areas here, and will likely point out some opportunities for improvement that I hope Apple will address, going forward.  I have let my Mac Developer account lapse at this point and I don’t plan on updating Yosemite with Developer Beta 5 unless things prove to be a total train wreck.

OS-X-Yosemite-578-80

FYI – Please note that the only way to go back from Yosemite to the latest version of Mavericks is to nuke your drive and reinstall Mavericks from scratch.

Installation and Startup
As of this writing, this is probably my biggest pain point. Installation went fairly well. That wasn’t too much of a problem at all, really. It was smoother than I thought it would be, especially for a public beta release. Those can often be problematic at best, because you never really know what you’re going to bump into in the wild, and end users often have the GOOFIEST computer configurations… Managing beta programs and feedback is often a huge headache. I applaud Apple and other major vendors like Microsoft, for doing this when and how they do.

As I said, installation was fairly painless. The new OS downloaded from the Mac AppStore, installation started, and everything went smoothly. However the experience after installation has been less than stellar. I have a number of startup issues with Yosemite and 3rd party apps that I know from the developer are supposed to be Yosemite compatible, but are showing signs of hangs, bugs and issues; and even force quits.  Unfortunately, this behavior isn’t limited to 3rd party apps. There are also issues with some of the Apple Core apps, as well. I’ll cover issues with those, below.

The biggest issue I have, however, is really with startup.  I have two external monitors hooked to my Mac – a 27″ Thunderbolt Display and a 22″ wide screen VGA monitor.  I’ve got my Thunderbolt Display setup as a docking station (I’ve got peripherals and cables plugged into the back of it) and there are issues with device startup, especially with the displays.  I’m not certain what the issue is; but for some reason, neither wants to activate with the notebook closed.  My Mac not only has to start up, but be logged in with the lid up before the other two external displays will activate, allowing me to close the lid. I need to do more troubleshooting here before filing an issue in the Yosemite feedback app.

However, this is really driving me crazy. I’m also having trouble with the Thunderbolt Display flickering; and it wasn’t behaving that way prior to installing Yosemite on my MacBook Pro. I have no idea what the issue is; but knowing the way Apple is apparently remaking nearly absolutely everything with this latest release, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a driver issue. It seems the most common explanation.

I am also having a huge issue with my fans. They are usually pegged at 5700-6200 RPM’s and stay that way 20-30 minutes after I turn my Mac on. I’m not certain if this has anything to do with external monitor use (i.e. a graphics driver issue) or if it is caused by increased network traffic on my home network (i.e. a network driver issue) or something else.

However, while they don’t make a lot of noise for me, I’m told that my family can’t hear me speak over the snow-like noise they create during a FaceTime call.  While I had this problem with Mavericks, its worse with Yosemite. I’m not certain what is going on here, but it’s creating a communications issue for me and my family, and I’m not happy with the results. I have filed a bug report with Apple on this, and I’m waiting on feedback from them.

Do you have any questions about OS X Yosemite installation or setup?  Did you bump into problems?  Let me know in the Discussion area below, and I’ll do my best to give you a hand.

Go to Mac and iOS integration

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Lessons Learned by a Would be Cord Cutter

Ya know… Getting rid of your cable or satellite subscriptions ain’t as easy as you might think. This is what I’ve learned so far…

 

Introduction

I recently got a new job in a different state. While we wait for the housing market to improve a bit before we sell the house, I’ve got long term, temporary housing set up. In an attempt to manage costs, I’ve decided to forgo with a local cable TV subscription and have decided to become a cord cutter. Internet TV or even getting TV on your computer isn’t as easy as you thought it might be; and I’ve learned some interesting lessons over the past few weeks. I’m going to do my best to cover as many of them as I can.

apple-itv

 

You Still Need a TV

I’ve got a 27″ Thunderbolt Display; and as a computer monitor it’s totally awesome. As a TV, however, it leaves something to be desired. It would be great if the right services were in place to be able to use it as a TV.

iTunes can be controlled with an Apple Remote on every Mac. I’ve also found that my Thunderbolt Display works well from across a small room; and an Apple Remote can perform basic VCR functions as well as control volume levels on my MacBook Pro. This however, is only part of the equation.

However, you can’t “change a channel,” and Apple TV functionality isn’t present on a Mac. Channel surfing really doesn’t exist in this situation. Things like Netflix or Hulu Plus are run in a browser and you need a full blown mouse or some kind of motion control device (like Microsoft Connect) to control your Mac from your couch.

If you have a TV and other accessories (see below) you can still cut the cable, but get the best of both worlds. If the Apple iTV was really a Thunderbolt Display with a built in Apple TV, or if there was a real world way to marry the two together, this would eliminate the need for a TV from the cord cutting equation. Unfortunately, I’m finding that a TV is still a required component.

 

Get a Set Top Box

As I mentioned above, if you REALLY want to have the best “cord free” experience, you’re not only going to need a TV, but you’re going to need a set top box. I’m really talking about an Apple TV, Roku Box, Chromecast dongle or other device that helps you find some traditional network (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) content, cable network (HBO, ShowTime, Cinemax, etc.) content, some specialty content (NFL Network, ESPN, etc.) as well as some streaming services like Netflix and/or Hulu Plus.

While streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus are available via a browser, as I pointed out above, getting a full blown TV experience is difficult without a set top box. It is possible to find traditional network, cable network or specialty content on the web with a web browser; but that often involves a separate fee. The set top box is often licensed by the content owner to play or stream the content without paying an additional licensing fee. It also makes using your streaming service subscription a lot easier, as it consolidates all of your options – including those available on your PC – into a single interface and place. Again, if I could use my Apple TV with my Thunderbolt display, this would solve a big problem for me.

 

Invest in a Really Good Digital Antenna

Services like Aero are really kinda cool. However, Aero isn’t available in all markets, and there really isn’t anything else like it that would allow streaming of local channels over the internet or other network connection. This is a huge problem if you’re a cord cutter and are trying to obtain digital TV services without any kind of cable or satellite TV package.

The obvious thing to do here is to purchase a really strong, really good digital antenna for your TV. While this will insure that you can get local TV programming, the most important thing you have to remember is that even though this is the Digital Age, you’re going to take yourself back to the Golden Age of Television when you do this. In other words, it’s going to be a challenge.

Local TV stations are required by Federal mandate to broadcast their programming over the air so that you can pick them up with a digital antenna. You don’t HAVE to have a cable or satellite TV subscription in order to get these channels, though in many ways, this is the easiest way to insure that

  1. You get the local programming
  2. You’re able to view it all clearly, without reception issues

I’ve used digital antennas before with other digital TV products and I’ve noticed that, like the SD TV’s from the ’50’s to the ’80’s (i.e.: before cable really took hold), a lot of antenna adjusting may be required based on your geographical and topographical location (where you are and the shape of the geography around you). The best thing you can do is to insure that the antenna you have is the best you can afford. The stronger that receiver is, the better the quality of the picture you will receive. (You’ll also cut down on the amount of tin foil and forks you’ll need to use to insure that the picture comes in clearly.)

 

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