Reading the Writing on the Wall(paper)

With the release of iOS 7, I’ve been hearing lots of muttering about how hard the home screens are to read with new system font (a variant of Helvetica Neue). While I do agree that the new font is slender and not particularly friendly to older eyes, I suspect much of the problem has to do with the wallpapers that people are putting on their home screens.

Here’s the thing: If you choose a bright, highly textured wallpaper image, like the image shown here, you’ll have a real problem.
Bad wallpaper choice

But, if you choose or create a wallpaper image that is relatively dark with few or no highlights, like this one here, the icon labels are much easier to read, and the color bleed-through in Notification Center and Control Center is much reduced.
Better wallpaper choice

What I learned in the TWC-CBS war

Time Warner Cable and CBS are having a spat over pricing, and, as a result, no CBS channels are currently available on Time Warner Cable in my community. CBS, to retaliate, has decided to block access to CBS Web sites from anyone who uses Time Warner as an ISP—a bizarre attempt to win hearts and minds by attacking non-combatants in the struggle.

This war of media predators should not affect me very much, however, but it does mean that I was unable to watch the premiere of the retooled CBS TV series “Unforgettable” last night. This show, in its original incarnation, was not a particular favorite of mine—I think I’ve seen about four episodes—but I was curious about the changes the producers were going to make to it in an attempt to resurrect the previously cancelled series. (It is not unheard of for a failing or flailing TV series to be, as the Firesign Theatre put it, returned for regrooving, and I always find it instructive to see what choices TV producers make in their attempts to revivify shows that have failed.)

As luck would have it, though, the show was available for purchase from iTunes, and, on a lark, I decided to buy the premiere and watch it on my Apple TV 2, something I have never done before (I use my Apple TV quite a bit, but not for purchasing TV episodes). I was impressed: not with the show itself (which was, as I more or less expected, not particularly superior to previous episodes), but with the technology. Although my Apple TV is of the previous generation, capable of only providing 720p resolution instead of the 1080p resolution that current models provide, the video was distinctly sharper than the 1080i feed that I get from Time Warner Cable. What’s more, the purchase process was painless, the download was playable within moments, and was accessible well before the west coast air-time of the show. Even better, the show is available for me to redownload from Apple’s cloud service any time I like on any of my Apple devices, so I don’t have to worry about backing it up, either, or taking up storage space on my Mac.

My takeaway lesson? Time Warner’s cable service technically sucks, and I need to reconsider whether or not I wish to continue as a TWC subscriber. If those two media giants had not gone to war, I may not have discovered that.

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 Lightning Reversion

My new iPhone arrived today, and with it, the new and controversial Lightning connector that replaces the Dock Connector of earlier models. And it has forced me to take a step back in my syncing and charging habits.

Over the years, I have accumulated a handful of power adaptors and Dock Connector cables, so I have scattered them about my digs: one by the sofa, one at my sitting-down desk, and one attached to the iMac at my standing desk. With Wi-Fi syncing and iCloud backup, I could pretty much plug my phone or my iPad in anywhere.

With my new iPhone I only have one Lightning cable, which I have attached to my iMac. That means, of course, my new iPhone gets no benefit from Wi-Fi syncing or iCloud backup. On the other hand, I spend much of my day at my iMac (hey, it’s where I make my living), so it really isn’t much of hardship to plug my iPhone in each morning to charge, sync, and back up as I start my workday. And, it must be said, tethered syncs and backups are considerably faster than those over the air, something I had forgotten in recent months.

So my disgruntlement level with the new connector is low. And I have a birthday coming up: maybe someone will buy me one of those Lightning-to-Dock connector adapter plugs.