SiriBox

SiriBox

I’ve been testing a Google Home for about a month now. It’s a great little piece of technology, but since it lives outside of my digital ecosystem, my use cases are fairly limited.

Google Home integrates with exactly three things in my home: Sonos, Hue and Spotify. The former only thanks to a Sonos bridge and a ChromeCast, the latter thanks to a Spotify family account my parents have.

But, even with only those three use cases, and the occasional timer or search query, I really love the idea of speaking instead of typing.

OK Google, stream Vee-Ar-Tee Studio Brussels on Sonos please. Hey Google, turn on the Slaåpkåmér-lights. Hey Google, play Nothing Else Matters on Sonos.

Yes, the syntax is cumbersome. Yes, sometimes it’s faster to grab an iPhone and use control center, or look outside and check the weather myself. And yes, when music is playing loudly she doesn’t here me. But then again, who does.

The real power of a digital assistant lies with its integrations. And since I live in an iOS and iCloud world, Google Home (or Alexa for that matter) doesn’t really integrate at all with Apple’s services. I can hack IFTTT and its recent iOS integrations to create appointments, but the Apple TV, Apple Music, my reminders, email, messages, FaceTime? Non existing if you ask Google Home.

Fast forward

Now, we all dream. So let’s dream big, by going back to 2006. Apple released the iPod Hi-Fi, their first and only speaker. Great sound, big, heavy and soooo beautiful.

What I’d like is a new iPod Hi-Fi called Siri. A big decent speaker, with integrated microphones, Wi-Fi, bluetooth and all the things needed to add the Siri experience to a speaker.

Hey Siri, play Led Zeppelin. Hey Siri, FaceTime Audio my mom. Hey Siri, remind me to buy Duvel when I get to the mall.

It integrated with iOS and iCloud. It can use continuity to hand-off complex queries to my iPhone or iPad. It does AirPlay, and acts as a HomeKit bridge.

Not that farfetched I think?

Mac Pro SE

Mac Pro SE

Welcome to Mac Pro SE, the most powerful desktop Mac ever. To create it, we started with a beloved design, then reinvented it from the inside out. The dual socket CPUs are the most advanced chips designed by Intel. The high-end GPU handles incredible photos and 4K videos. And Thunderbolt 3 connects your data fast. The result is a Mac Pro that looks old. But lives for the future.

If only.

Mac Pro

Mac Pro

Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them – Daring Fireball

  1. I think they originally wanted to go for iMac Pro’s and forget the Mac Pro all together. But they were impressed/got scared by the “Apple doesn’t care about pro’s backlash” they got after the MacBook Pro with Touchbar keynote? It can’t have taken them three years to realize they needed to reboot the Mac Pro and have nothing to show yet, can it?
  2. As far as those new displays go: LG screwed up the 5K displays so Apple’s taking matters back into their own hands. Also: sometimes wishes come true?
  3. I think the speed bumps are more a matter of: we can’t make the old ones anymore due to lack of parts than Apple wanting to update it right now. And this “controlled leak” about the upcoming reboot is to prevent any major backlash that would have occurred if they would’ve just speedbumped the trashcan without any context. 

Either way this entire story reads more as: we’ve only just begun course correcting the Pro line after the Touchbar-backlash than something that has been in the works for a long time now.

Sonos Network Issues

Sonos Network Issues

We use Sonos at the office for easy music-access across the entire building. We’ve got 8 Sonos AMPs linked to Bowers And Wilkins built-in ceiling speakers, combined with a couple of Play:3 and Play:1 units for smaller offices.

It’s an elegant system. We hooked up one radio, tuned to Studio Brussel to the line-in of one of the AMPs, thus combining one of Belgiums better radio stations with a zero-bandwidth solution.
It’s better to share the line-in of an AMP than to have a dozen Sonos devices all streaming high quality internet radio all day.

Users who do want something different can use the build-in Tune-In radio to pick a radio station of their preference. All hooked up to ethernet.

A perfect solution. Or so we thought.

Issues

For a while now we had some serious issues on the network. Switches would randomly lock, internet would grind to a stop and internal network traffic would just drop.

Frustrated and confused, because there was no obvious culprit to be found, I spent last weekend rewiring and checking our entire server-backbone. To make this process easier I decided to turn off any devices that weren’t necessary to work productively.

Accidentally I noticed that the network behaved a lot better after I disconnected the switch that contained all the Sonos devices. And said switch still acted weird even when unpatched from the rest of the network.

Turns out: Managed switches and wired Sonos is a big no-go. If you have more than one Sonos connected via ethernet, things may go wrong.

Since Sonos also talk to each other, they have the downside of possibly creating a Broadcast Storm on your network, and thus taking down a part or all of the network.

Luckily there’s a solution: either use a dumb unmanaged switch (not gonna happen), or adjust the Spanning Tree State settings of your switch(es). So a few configuration changes later, we again have a stable setup.

If you happen to have some managed switches, and think about hardwiring your Sonos to reduce the load on your wi-fi network: file this article for future use. It may save you from spending a sunny afternoon in a server room surrounded by ethernet cables and switches.

Why Apple hasn’t build an Apple 5K Cinema Display yet

Why Apple hasn’t build an Apple 5K Cinema Display yet

Look at the past

Apple doesn’t regularly update their displays. They provide a significant update every few years and then they keep selling that same display for years. 

  • 27″ Thunderbolt Display : 5 years
  • 27″ Led display: 3 years
  • 24″ LED Display: 2 years

So, if they had released a new 5K Thunderbolt 3 display last fall, chances are they’d keep selling it for years. Unchanged. 

The iMac

Apple’s iMac and displays go hand in hand. Technological advances in one, often show up in the other. When Apple released their first 27″ iMac, the display followed swiftly. When the iMac got a brighter screen, the Thunderbolt Display followed and also got a better panel. 

So, normally we’d expected Apple to take the retina iMac 27″ 5K panel, and turn it into a display for their notebook and desktop lineup too. 

So why not?

The iPad

In iOS 9.3 Apple added Night Shift mode to iOS. Now finally in macOS 12.4 they will also add it to macOS, sherlocking F.lux while they’re at it. 

The iPad Pro 9.7″ is their first device that has a True Tone display. A display that Phil Schiller described as:

“It’s really natural to use,” Schiller added. “Once you use this display, you’ll never want to go back. It is quite a breakthrough.”

Some people expect the next 12.9″ iPad to have one too, and sooner rather than later the iPhone will too. 

My Guess

Imagine a new 2017 iMac doesn’t only has Night Shift mode via software, but also gets a True Tone display. That combined with Thunderbolt 3 and USB C would make it a great update that builds on technologies that exist in their current lineup. 

Now, if they release such an iMac it would immediately make any 5K display that doesn’t support True Tone look old and lower specced. 

So:

  • Apple’s Displays have a slow refresh rate.
  • They don’t make an Apple 5K Cinema Display (yet).
  • They don’t sell any True Tone desktop Macs (yet). 

If you were Apple and you could choose:

  • Release an Apple 5K Cinema Display in 2016 and sell it for a few years unchanged. 
  • Push an LG display in 2016, and release an Apple 5K True Tone display sometime in 2017.

Which one would be the most logical?

Right. And that’s why they haven’t released a display of their own yet. 

Apple Pencil v2

Apple Pencil v2

There’s some rumors doing the rounds on a possible Apple Pencil v2 being released this spring.

I love the original Apple Pencil and use it daily for mind mapping, throwing down quick thoughts or sketching out code or network plans.

So.. v2. What’s to improve. The easy parts: higher precision, better battery. But there’s more.

1. Connectivity

Pairing a Pencil via lightning is easy. But after you’re used to the AirPods, pairing via anything else than mere magic is barbaric. So I’d like a W1 chip in the Pencil, which would make pairing the Pencil as easy as.. tapping the screen?

2. Charging

Similarly, charging the Pencil with power drawn from the iPad is convenient. But the Pencil poking out the side of the iPad is just ridiculous. Try charging a Pencil on a train or plane or anywhere public and people will just laugh. 

Compared to the AirPods it’s yet again something that was ok, until you’re used to the AirPods’ charging case. 

Imagine a new Smart Cover that has a slot to place the Pencil in. Via conductive charging, powered by the smart connector on the iPad, the Pencil would charge while you’re carrying it. Always available, always charged. And naturally, once charged, the Pencil stops drawing power so not to drain the iPad entirely. 

3. Taptics

The Pencil has the ability to simulate force pressing the screen. You can, for example, use the Pencil to clear all notifications on an iPad at once.

What if.. the Pencil would give feedback. And fully emulate force pressing the giant iPad screen.

4. And finally

I’d like a black version. 

5GB of iCloud frustration

5GB of iCloud frustration

Yesterday I got a call from a friend: she had just purchased a new iPhone and didn’t really know how she should move from her old iPhone 4s to her “new” iPhone 5s. Maybe I was naive, but I told her in a short iMessage that: she should just go to Settings > iCloud on her old phone, click on Backup now, wait a while and that her new iPhone would ask her to restore a backup upon first boot.

I didn’t hear from her again, but the day after I got a second message: help. I’ve got no contacts and all my photos are gone on my new iPhone. Since these things are a LOT easier to troubleshoot with access to the devices themselves, and having known good wifi available, I told her to just come over, and that I’d sort things out. How difficult could it really be right?

Fast forward and this is what her old phone’s situation was: she had a 16Gb iPhone with 8GB of photos. iCloud was enabled, but she didn’t have iCloud Photo Library turned on. Her oldest backup was from January, a new backup would require 12GB of storage.
She explained me that her iPhone warned her that her iStorage was full, but that even though she had deleted a lot of apps, she still couldn’t perform a backup.

Look Apple: a regular person does not get the difference between iCloud and local storage. And there is no way she would have figured out on her own that the only easy way to solve her situation was to upgrade her iCloud storage.

I tried to explain her that the easiest thing would be to buy more storage. But the didn’t like the idea of paying up. She had read about apps asking you for money repeatedly and didn’t trust those apps. And, from here point of viewm there’s no difference between an IAP in Clash of Clans, and an iCloud upgrade.

New tactic: I showed her my 45000+ photos in the Photos app and explained her I could have any photo I ever took on my iPhone and that they were also available on the iPad and that if I ever lost all my devices, I still had all my photos. Would she pay 10 euro a year for that?

She now has 50GB of iCloud storage, all her photos are synced to the new iPhone and safely in iCloud, it’s all backing up and IT JUST WORKS.

Conclusion: people don’t buy a service, they buy a solution. But if stupid limitations create a situation where they can’t even try out those features, they’ll never find out it offers a solution,m and they’ll never buy your service.
If Apple had given my friend 15GB of iCloud storage for free, her iPhone would have backup up perfectly, iCloud Photo Library could have stored whatever she had saved on her iPhone before turning on sync, and she would have enjoyed using iCloud.
But thanks to that stupid 5GB cap, she got frustrated and thought she did something wrong, and I spend an hour fixing something that is solved by spending 10 bucks a year.
And I’m 100% sure that if she could have enjoyed using iCloud for free, she would have bought a storage upgrade on her own sooner or later.

If you can’t try out a service completely for free, you can’t enjoy the service, and you certainly won’t pay for it.

Shared devices

Shared devices

Apple announced that, starting from iOS 9.3, they’ll allow schools to share iPads among students by enabling them to login and out of the iPad with their own iCloud account.
There’s been a lot of speculation online already on how this might work, and no one knows for sure until Apple releases more information, but until then, here’s my take:

DEP

A couple of years ago Apple started their Device Enrollment Program (DEP). It’s a program where iPads are bound to the company that bought them, and during the device registration the iPad downloads the necessary profiles so that the device is automatically enrolled in that company’s MDM server.

This has two benefits: if the iPad is stolen, it will always re-enroll after a wipe, so no one can ever use that device outside of company control.

But, the biggest benefit is that companies can automatically push configurations, apps and restrictions to the iPad upon first boot.
It makes the enrollment process a lot nicer, and the user needs to configure a lot less.

Device Based App Deployment

Apple has long offered a Volume Purchase Program (VPP) for schools and companies. It allows them to buy apps in bulk and distribute them among their employees or students.
Users accept the app with their AppleID and they can update, delete and reinstall the app themselves.

Thanks to Managed Distribution, companies can buy 100 licenses, gift them out, and revoke the license as they feel needed.

New in iOS9 is the option to use a Device Based Employment. Instead of handing of a license to a users’ AppleID, the license is assigned to the device itself. This means a user never has to type an AppleID, apps can be update remotely via the MDM server and are user-independent.

iCloud Drive

Thanks to iCloud Drive apps sync seamlessly across device, almost instantly. Instead of each app backing up their document folder to iCloud, iCloud Drive provides instant sync + cloud ‘backup’ for your data.
More and more of Apple’s own services are moving to iCloud Drive instead of a regular documents folder that gets backed up every night. They moved photos with iOS 8, notes with iOS 9, and now with iOS 9.3 has migrated to this new model. If you want a reason why they migrated iBooks, look no further than education.

Prior to iCloud Drive, if you deleted an app that only backed up via iCloud, that apps’ data was lost. They only way to fix it was restoring a your iCloud backup from the night before. With iCloud Drive you can now delete e.g. Pixelmator. Upon reinstall, the app will find its data in iCloud Drive, and it’s as if you’ve never deleted the app.

A new kind of Deployment.

Thanks to DEP and Device Based Apps, any company with a decent MDM server can now do this:
They buy 20 iPads via the DEP program. Within their MDM server they add the iPads to a group and push a set of specific apps to the device. Thanks to the control they have over the setup-steps they disable everything except for ‘Add iCloud account’ and ‘Wifi’. And as a bonus they disable the installation of Apps by the user.

They gift out the iPads to their users, who launch the iPads, choose a Wi-Fi network and type in their AppleID. While they are looking for their password, the iPads already has started downloading all the apps in the background. Which means that, when they’ve reached the home screen, it’ll contain all the assigned apps and their personal iCloud data.
If they user wipes the iPad and reconfigures it, they have the same iPad again. If they take any other iPad from those 20 iPads and reconfigure the iPad they get.. That same iPad configuration and their own data.

Sound familiar?

Shared iPads

If you take the three technologies above and combine them, we’re really close to Apple’s new education flow:

A school buys iPads via DEP. they push a specific set of apps to those iPads via Device Based Assignment, and they’ll probably won’t allow, or can’t allow, the installation of other apps.
Apps that are pushed need to be compatible with this enrollment type. If the developer didn’t allow for this option, tough luck.

A student than takes any iPad, logs in with their AppleID and all their data gets downloaded. Which thanks to iCloud Drive doesn’t require a restore of the iPad anymore. Apps just start lazely syncing their documents.

But I think there’ll be a new prerequisite for apps that can opt-in for this program: they need to be iCloud Drive compatible or at least support a way to get their data restored on the fly from an online source akin to Google Drive, Dropbox,..

Why? Cause I think the user-switching will purely be based on iCloud accounts. Each time a student gets an iPad, they log in with their AppleID. iOS will remove the previous user’s iCloud login, and remove all iCloud Drive documents, photos, music, iMovie projects, key chains and bookmarks connected to that account.

The apps aren’t removed, but after the login process has finished, they now show the iCloud data of this student. (Imagine numbers with all spreadsheets showing the cloud icon). If it can’t be synced via iCloud, or if the app can’t login to their own sync engine via the keychain and preferences: though luck, it’ll be as if you haven’t used it beforehand.

For example: if you use 1Password in school with iCloud syncing, each time a user logs in it’ll pull the Vault from iCloud Drive. If you sync via Dropbox, you’ll need to reauthenticate.

So the only thing that’s really new here is that Apple will make sure only and all user data gets wiped when a new user logs in.

Cause the rest of the process really doesn’t differ a lot from the current flow that exists in Deployments with iOS 9. The real difference is that they’ll wipe a device, but retain the apps.
At least that’s how I see it.