“It‘s a goddamn piece of hardware”

“This isn’t a vision quest or zen retreat. It’s a goddamn piece of hardware.”

So said a friend of mine as he expressed his frustration with using his new Apple Watch. And he was right. It is just a piece of hardware.

The problem is there are lots of different kinds of hardware, with all sorts of differing capabilities and ways to use them. You need to know what kind of hardware an Apple Watch is before you can use it comfortably…or, for that matter, decide if you care to use it at all.

More than anything else, an Apple Watch is an iPhone peripheral, designed to give you quick access to some (not all, just some) of the information, and some of the capabilities, that your iPhone provides. An Apple Watch does this by acting like a wristwatch.

And that leads us to its interaction model.

The wristwatch interaction model has never been about interacting deeply. It has been about giving you bits of information, quickly, while you’re doing something else. With a traditional watch, you look at it, see what time it is, then get right back to what you were doing. If you get sucked into fiddling with it, trying to get things done with it, you are doing it wrong. The only times you do much more with a watch than check the time (or maybe, for owners of advanced wristwatches, start and stop a timer) is when you are winding it or setting it.

That’s the basic interaction model on which the Apple Watch builds. You may spend some time from time to time setting it and winding it (that is, configuring its various options and charging it), but, beyond that, for the most part you just use it to quickly check the time (or weather, or current stock prices, or your schedule, or your location, or your pulse, and so on) while you’re doing something else.

Yes, an Apple Watch does have communication capabilities (texting, phoning) that require more lengthy interactions, but the Apple Watch’s form factor and interaction model really only permit the use of these capabilities, they don’t encourage their use. To use these more interactive capabilities comfortably, it’s best if you use them for short interactions only — not for deep heart-to-heart conversations with your beloved or for dictating your last will and testament. Think quick call, a short missive. Hit and run interactions.

If you attempt anything more complex than that with an Apple Watch, you will end up frustrated. And you needn’t because, remember? — an Apple Watch is a peripheral for your iPhone. Pull that device out of your pocket and use it.

A Matter of Time

When I placed my pre-order for the Apple Watch, this is what I first saw:

Initial pre-order status

It continued to show the delivery date range of 4/24-5/8, even after the initial date of 4/24 had passed. That was somewhat distressing because it implied that the system wasn’t even bothering to track the order status but just displaying a canned status report.

After my credit card was charged, on 4/27, the status changed to this:

Preparing for delivery

This was no longer distressing, but it was annoying, because the earliest possible date in the date range had already passed, so it just seemed like a bit of programmatic incompetence.

The correct thing for the order system to do once the initial date in the delivery range has passed is simply not to include the first date in the range. Rather, it should say, in the case of the second status form shown above, that delivery will take place “by 5/8”. Including the original date in the range is useless information.

Update: Of course, this makes it all better.

It has shipped.

Battery and the iPhone 6 Plus

I’m hearing a lot of moaning and teeth-gnashing about how the new iPhones can’t hold a charge any longer than a two-year-old with a weak bladder (e.g., this report). After the first day or so I was a bit worried: I charged my iPhone 6 Plus completely before going to bed on the first day and the next morning it was down to 78% charge after sitting completely unused all night.

The next day charge seemed to go down somewhat faster than it did on my iPhone 5, too. But then things began to change, and last night I completely charged the iPhone 6 Plus again before going to bed. This morning, the reported charge was 100% — it barely dropped at all. Right now, in fact, it is still indicating 100% charge after 43 minutes of usage and 10 hours and 48 minutes of standby.

Seems to me that it takes a while for iOS 8 and the iPhone to settle down. It also seems to me that as the onslaught of background app updates slows down (only a couple apps updated last night), battery life gets better (I didn’t take Adam Engst’s advice to turn off automatic updates for iOS 8 because I wanted to see what the result of leaving them on would be).

All this to say that over the next few days I’m sure we’ll be seeing all sorts of scare stories about bad iPhone 6/iOS 8 battery life problems, but take them all with a grain of salt: it’ll take a week or so of use before you can have a reliable baseline of battery life information.

New from : iWork Cross-Platform Incompatibility

Last week Apple introduced iOS 8 and, along with it, a reconfiguring of iCloud document storage. Moving from the old, sandboxed system in which apps had access only to their own documents stored in iCloud, iOS 8 brought iCloud Drive, which allows apps to open documents in iCloud from other apps. This has been a long time coming, but there is a hitch in the transition. It’s this: when you activate iCloud Drive, all of your iCloud documents are moved into the new storage system.

That means, sadly, that apps using the old Documents in the Cloud method of accessing iCloud documents won’t see any of the iCloud Drive files. This includes all apps on Macs that aren’t running a version of OS X that supports iCloud Drive. Such as Mavericks (OS X 10.9)—the most current Mac OS that Apple has released. iCloud Drive capability is coming with OS X 10.10 (“Yosemite”) sometime next month.

Fortunately, Apple has made iCloud Drive optional in iOS 8, though the iOS 8 Setup Assistant really tries to convince you otherwise: if you decline to make the transition, the Assistant makes you confirm your Luddite ways.

Much less fortunately, the iWork for iCloud apps that run in a modern browser do not make iCloud Drive optional: it’s either activate iCloud Drive (which affects all of your iCloud documents on all of your devices) or no iWork for iCloud for you—click “Not Now” and you are booted out of the iWork for iCloud app!

iCloud drive not optional
Click this and lose access to iCloud documents on your Mac running Mavericks

If you click “Upgrade to iCloud Drive” the consequences can be severe: if you are not running the Yosemite beta on your Mac, and if any of your Apple devices are not updated to iOS 8, they all lose access to your iWork documents stored in iCloud.

Here’s a chart that shows what works with what:

iCloud document accessibility matrix
The current matrix of iCloud document accessibility — not even Neo could understand this!

Right now, Apple’s vaunted “Everything you love, everywhere you go” claim comes with a great big asterisk and a footnote that reads, “Eventually. But not today.”

Thanks, Apple!

[Note: Kirk McElhearn, the “iTunes Guy” at Macworld, points out that Windows users can access iCloud Drive with the new iCloud app that Apple released for Windows. But, since they can only run iWork within a browser on a Windows computer, they are only affected if they have iOS devices that don’t run iOS 8. I do note the irony, though, of Apple giving better service to Windows users than to Mac users!]

Beowulf: The monster and the cricket

I like Tolkien and I like Anglo-Saxon poetry. So, when a friend sent me a link to a New Yorker piece by dance critic Joan Acocello, titled “Slaying Monsters,” I clicked.

Then I had to scrape the stupid from my retinas.

Selected quotes from this farrago and my notes on them follow:

* On Beowulf’s lack of a “real psychology”: “Unlike Anna Karenina or Huckleberry Finn, [Beowulf] is not a filter, a point of view, standing between us and his world.” Maybe because Beowulf is NOT A FUCKING 19th CENTURY NOVEL!!

* On Grendel’s piteousness: “Tolkien describes how, after the fight with Beowulf, Grendel, ‘sick at heart,’ dragged himself home, ‘bleeding out his life.’” Because Tolkien meant the passage to…oh, wait, he only translated it.

* On Grendel’s childlike nature: “One reason Grendel seems childlike is that he has a mother.” Because everyone with a mother is childlike. Like George Clooney, and Hitler.

* On the battle between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother: “It also shows a man killing a woman.” That fucking sexist pig, Beowulf, and his misogynist collaborator, Tolkien!!

* On the poem’s treatment of time: “As the time planes collide, spoilers proliferate.” Which must have really affected the poem’s box-office receipts.

* On Anglo-Saxon: “If you don’t know German, it doesn’t sound like anything at all.” Your knowledge of Dutch won’t help you, either, you fools! And don’t even talk to me about Frisian!

* On the duties of being a professor: “That is why Tolkien had a job: at Oxford, for decades, he taught the first half of ‘Beowulf.’” Wanted: professor of Anglo-Saxon. Must know first half of English epic, be comfortable wearing burnt cotton.

* On Heaney’s translation compared to Tolkien’s: “Heaney, to his credit, took responsibility for this poem, and turned it into something that regular people would want to read, and enjoy.” Irregular people read something else while trying to coax a bowel movement.

* On Tolkien’s interest in the poem: “Like Beowulf, Tolkien was an orphan.” After the age of 12; before that he was only half-an-orphan, or an orphan-let.

Pages 5 and Importing Styles

I’ve been experimenting with styles in Pages 5.1, and have finally figured out how to copy styles from one document to another. Figuring this out is important, because Pages 5.1 has no style import function, and to properly export an EPUB, for example, you really do want to have certain styles in your document from Apple’s EPUB Best Practices document (which, by the way, is still in Pages 4 format; it should be a template in Pages 5, but noooo…).

It seems there are a lot of little bugs in Pages 5.1’s styles, as the procedure I figured out demonstrates. First of all, the only way to get styles from one document to another is either to copy and paste the styled text from one document to another or to use the Format > Copy Style and Format > Paste Style commands, as I describe below. Note the same problems arise whether you merely copy the style and paste it or copy text containing the style and pasting that:

  1. Select text containing the style you want in the source document.
  2. Choose Format > Copy Style.
  3. Switch to the document to which you want to add the style and select the text you want changed to the style you copied.
  4. Choose Format > Paste Style. At this point, the style is pasted into the document, but may not show up in the Text Format inspector, so you may have to perform the following step.
  5. Click elsewhere in the text then back in the styled text you pasted. The Text Format inspector should now show the pasted style’s name, but that style is still not in the list of styles, so you can’t use it elsewhere in the document.
  6. Click the down triangle in the Styles popover. Notice that no style is checked in the list of styles, and the pasted style’s name does not appear.
  7. In the popover, at the top, click the + to add a style. Now the new style name appears in the popover and can be used.

Pages 5.1 should really be categorized as a beta…

The bait-and-switch battle for eyeballs

Forbes goes the extra mile in shoving an Apple reference into an article that is actually about something else completely:

The headline: “No iPhone Bump For September Retail Sales”

The first paragraph: “Even though U.S. shoppers raced out to buy the latest model of the iPhone, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates consumers kept an otherwise-tight grip on their wallets in anticipation of the dampening effect of the government shutdown.”

So it’s really an article about the U.S. retail sales report for September. But without an Apple mention, it’s just news, not linkbait.

If journalism is dying, Forbes is sticking the knife in, twisting it, and licking the blood off of it…

What Siri Won’t Do But Should

Siri continues to be a work-in-progress, and though it is useful, it still has surprising gaps. For example, Siri should know basic information about what you have on your iOS device, if not in 3rd party apps, surely in Apple-supplied ones—especially those apps that function as media libraries.

But ask Siri how many books you have in your iBooks library, and Siri instead offers a suggestion that definitely won’t work.

Siri can’t count books in iBooks, even when iBooks is open.

Or ask Siri to open a folder on one of your home pages, and, although it can open apps just fine, folders are beyond it.

Siri must be wearing mittens.

And don’t ask the poor thing to count your songs in the Music app.

Siri can play but cannot count.

I’d love it if Siri could answer questions about the device on which it runs. That can’t be too hard, can it?

The Social Curmudgeon

Posted on Twitter today: When Twitter emails me with suggestions for whom to follow, I want to write back, “I’ll do my OWN stalking, thank you!!”

Posted on Facebook today: Facebook keeps encouraging me for my contacts in order to add more friends. It’s like a tar pit with a megaphone asking for more victims: “Toss me another mastodon: I’m STILL HUNGRY!!”

Posted on Google+ today: When Google+ encourages me to add more people to my circles, I want to shout back, “Who the hell do you think I am? Dante!?!?”