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Case Review: Inatek Felt Kindle Sleeve

Inatek case1After I cracked my Kindle Paperwhite’s screen (which somehow miraculously healed itself), I replaced it with a new Paperwhite and bought a case for it. It was a standard folio case from Anker; the kind that has a back shell and a flip-open cover. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

This is a good case, and it protects the Kindle very well, but it’s annoying to read with it: the hinge is loose, and the cover, folded behind the Kindle, gets in the way.

So I browsed on Amazon recently, and found a neat case: the over-zealously named Inateck Compact Kindle Paperwhite Envelope Case Cover Sleeve Felt Carrying Protector Case Bag for New 2014 2013 2012 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 6″ 3G / Wi-Fi + 3G – Simple & Lightweight – Grey. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Inatek case2As you can see, it’s just a sack of felt, with a small leather strap that prevents the Kindle from falling out the top when you carry it around. The felt is thick enough to protect the Kindle, and when I read, I can take the device out of the case, and not be hindered by it. The main risk of damage, in my opinion, is when I’m not reading; when I have the Kindle on a table or my bed, and something gets tossed on it. (That’s how I cracked the screen of the Paprewhite in the first place.) This case is also good because it’s not limited to a specific Kindle model; I’ll be able to use it when I get a new Kindle Voyage next week. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

That leather strap is pretty nifty. It attaches on the outside of the case with velcro, and it connects to a sort of ribbon inside the case. When you pull it, it pulls the ribbon up, raising the Kindle from the case. It means that, to get the Kindle out of the case, you don’t have to put your fingers inside the case.

I also like the fact that the felt is organic, unlike the previous plastic case. I do miss the auto-wake when I open the other case, but that’s a small price to pay for being able to read the Kindle without a case, and still protecting it when it needs protection. It’s comfortable, practical, and inexpensive.

iTunes Radio Plays the Same Songs Over and Over

I’ve used iTunes Radio off and on since its launch, and I’ve not yet been won over by its approach. It plays the same songs over and over, until I try to exclude them by telling iTunes to not play them any more; and this even for songs I like. Since you can only skip six songs per hour per channel, there’s not much point in listening to it, unless you absolutely want to hear the same songs.

There is some variety, of course, if you choose the Discovery setting; but even then, I get a lot of the same songs. This is especially the case with my Contemporary Classical station; I’ve really gotten tired of hearing the same stuff.

I added an Alternative Singer/Songwriter station a few weeks ago. This is one of iTunes’ preset stations, not one you create by seeding it with a specific artist, song or album. And every time I play this station, I hear the same songs:


2014 10 28 12 11 40 2014 10 28 12 11 44
2014 10 28 12 11 49 2014 10 28 12 15 57

To be fair, the order often changes; sometimes I get Let Her Go as the fourth or fifth song; sometimes the Mumford & Sons song comes in a different position. But I get these songs EVERY SINGLE TIME I LISTEN TO THIS STATION.

I took the above screenshots yesterday; today, out of curiosity, I played the same station on my Mac, and here are the first five songs, in reverse chronological order:

Radio history

I know how iTunes Radio is supposed to work. It’s not designed for listeners’ enjoyment; it’s designed so listeners buy music from the iTunes Store. And, as such, there are certain songs that are “heat-seekers,” or promoted, which means they get extra play.

I find it hard to understand how iTunes Radio can be a player at any level in the streaming music landscape. It’s just the wrong approach. Maybe this will change with Apple’s integration of Beats Music into the mix; but I’ll have more about that in another article soon…

Fitbit Connect Software and High CPU Usage by galileod Process

I have a Fitbit One, and I use their Fitbit Connect software on my Mac so the device can sync silently using a USB dongle. When I got my 5K iMac the other day, the dongle wasn’t recognized, so I re-installed the software.

I’ve noticed since then that, at times, my Mac lags a bit when I’m typing. I spotted a process using from 50-100% of one core’s CPU time. This process, galileod, is part of the Fitbit Connect software.

It seems that the only solution is to uninstall the software, using the uninstaller on the Fitbit Connect’s disk image. I’ve contacted Fitbit support to see if they can resolve this, but if you have a Fitbit, and you’re Mac’s running slow, have a look in Activity Monitor (this is in your /Applications/Utilities folder) and see if that process is slowing you down.

Note that the Fitbit software uninstaller does not uninstall all the software. You will need to manually remove /usr/local/bin/Fitbitd and /Library/Launch Daemons/com.Fitbit.Fitbitd.plist.

Update: After contacting Fitbit Support, I received an email saying the following:

Please be aware that Galileod is a patch that Apple has launched to fix a bug on the previous OS X. The Fitbit software doesn’t use Galileod to run on your computer.

We would like you to try uninstalling your Fitbit connect using the steps on the following link: https://discussions.apple.com/docs/DOC-5471

If after following the above steps to uninstall you are not able to do it, or you still see an issue with Galileod we recommend to contact your Apple manufacturer for further assistance.

This is surprising, because galileod is part of the Fitbit software installer:

fitbit.png

Well, it won’t be the first time that a support rep told me something, um, untrue…

Apple Discontinued iPod Classic Because They Couldn’t Get Parts Anymore?

Tim Cook was interviewed yesterday at the WSJD Live conference, run by the Wall Street Journal. Among his comments in the interview was one that the Wall Street Journal quotes or paraphrases Cook saying:

Apple stopped making the 160GB iPod Classic because it couldn’t get the parts anymore from anywhere in the world.

This is surprising. If they couldn’t get the hard drives, why couldn’t they just have re-jiggered the device to use flash memory? They could have made a 128 GB device – a bit less than the 160 GB the hard-drive based model held, but more than the iPod touch – for those people who still want a music-only device.

HT1353_33.jpg

The iPod classic didn’t have the sales figures that the iPhone and iPad have, but it was regularly in the top five music players sold at Amazon. That might not be a lot of units, as more and more people use a smartphone to play music, but given that the design changes would have been minimal – they could have kept the form factor – I don’t think the choice of retiring the device was about parts. I think it no longer fits in Apple’s concept of what their devices should be like. They do still sell the iPod shuffle, but my guess is that won’t last much longer. However, they have no problem getting parts for that device; it uses flash storage…

Apple’s iOS Remote App Doesn’t Display Album Art

There’s a bug in Apple’s Remote app for iOS 8. It doesn’t display album art for the currently playing track. It does, however, display art if you tap Up Next.


IMG 2309  IMG 2310

This is a bit annoying. I hope Apple fixes this soon, because I do like to see the album art when I’m listening to music and using the Remote app.

Just another bug in iOS 8…

The AirDrop Mess on OS X and iOS 8

I recently wrote about my problems with Handoff and Continuity features in Apple’s new operating systems. Many people I know have similar problems, and another feature that causes grief is AirDrop. This allows you to easily send files from one iOS device or Mac to another. You don’t have to open a network share, or sign in; you choose whether you want your device to be available to everyone, or just your contacts, and when you’re near another device – within ten meters – you should be able to share files easily.

You should be able to share files. In practice, this is very iffy.

Right now, I have four devices: an iMac, a MacBook Pro, an iPad and an iPhone. They’re all AirDrop compatible.

The iMac seems to work best: it can see both my iPad and my MacBook Pro:

airdrop.png

The MacBook Pro can see the iPad (and sometimes the iMac shows up for a while, then disappears). The iPad can see the MacBook Pro. And, most of the time, the iPhone can see nothing, and nothing can see the iPhone.

Right now, as I’m writing this, the iPhone can suddenly see the MacBook Pro and the iPad; but not the iMac. The iMac can see all there other devices, but the MacBook Pro still can’t see the iMac. And all these devices are on the same desk, a few feet apart.

I’ve heard from lots of people who have this problem, along with the Handoff and Continuity problems. The only workaround I’ve seen suggested in to toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which are how AirDrop detects devices and sends and receives files. Nevertheless, I’ve not found that toggling those makes much of a difference. Devices appear and disappear according to the humors.

It’s important to note that for a device to be detected, it must be on and unlocked. At one point, I thought you had to have the AirDrop window visible in the Finder, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any more (I’m pretty sure it was when AirDrop was first introduced).

The thing is, when AirDrop works, it’s great; it’s a quick way to get files from one device to another. But when it fails, there’s no way of knowing why, and no troubleshooting other than trail and error. In the time it takes to toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on two devices, it’s easier to send a file by email, or via a network share.

This is yet another excellent feature in iOS and OS X that just doesn’t work as it should. At a minimum, Apple should have some way of helping us troubleshoot this. There should be an AirDrop Connection Doctor, as there is in Mail. I can’t help but feel let down every time one of these “magical” features fails inexplicably.

Oh, now that I’m at the end of this article… The iMac can see the iPhone and iPad. The MacBook Pro can see the iPhone and iPad. The iPhone can see the iPad. And the iPad can see the iPhone. Go figure.

How to Use iCloud Drive

Much as you may have been satisfied with the way iCloud synced your data in the past, if you’d hoped for comprehensive file syncing between your Mac, iOS devices, and the cloud, you were likely frustrated. Prior to OS X 10.10 Yosemite, iCloud’s file storage was sandboxed, meaning that you could only access files created with a specific application by that application. You could, for example, launch Pages and access the Pages files you stored in the cloud, but you couldn’t use that same app to open TextEdit files stored in iCloud.

Enter iCloud Drive. Taking its cue from Dropbox, which is a simple file repository accessible from any app, Apple has changed the way iCloud manages files.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

iTunes 12: Understanding the MiniPlayer

The iTunes MiniPlayer is a useful floating window that lets you control iTunes without needing the full window. But iTunes 12 has changed the way you access that window.

Miniplayer

First, there are two menu commands that bring up the MiniPlayer. In the Windows menu, you can choose MiniPlayer, to display the MiniPlayer above the iTunes window, or Switch to MiniPlayer, which closes the full iTunes window and displays the MiniPlayer.

But you can also do this with clicks, and this gets confusing with iTunes 12. If you hover of the album art in the iTunes LCD (that’s the status part of the iTunes window, at the top), you see this:

Miniplayer1

It’s not clear what those two overlays are supposed to represent. But if you click on the album artwork, iTunes switches to the MiniPlayer. If you want to display the MiniPlayer and keep the iTunes window visible, then you need to press the Option key as you click.

Once the MiniPlayer is visible, you can expand it to show your album art. Click on the album art section of the MiniPlayer window, and you’ll see this:

Miniplayer art

You can click on the small square with the arrows, below the close button, to hide the artwork. And, in either view – with or without album art – you can display the Up Next queue by clicking the blue Up Next icon at the right of the MiniPlayer window.

When you click the close button, the behavior now depends on how you displayed the MiniPlayer. If you displayed it in a way that hid the main iTunes window, closing the MiniPlayer will bring back the iTunes window. If you displayed it and the iTunes window is still visible, then the MiniPlayer window will close, and nothing else will change. In other words, when you close the MiniPlayer, no matter what you do, the main iTunes window will show up again.

So the main difference here, between iTunes 12 and previous versions of iTunes, is the fact that a standard click in the iTunes LCD hides the iTunes window while displaying the MiniPlayer. And that closing the MiniPlayer brings back the iTunes window in all cases. A bit of a change, but one that’s easy enough to get used to.

If you use the MiniPlayer regularly, you might want to just learn these keyboard shortcuts:

miniplayer-menu.png

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