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How To: Delete Apps on iOS

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You may not realize it, but there are several ways to delete iOS apps. You can do so on an iOS device (two ways), or in iTunes (two ways). Learn how in my latest Macworld article, Four ways to delete iOS apps.

App Review: James Joyce’s Ulysses, A Guide

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What better way to celebrate Bloomsday – June 16, the day on which James Joyce’s Ulysses is set – than by discovering the novel in an interactive iPad app? Naxos, known for its classical music releases and audiobooks, has released the $9 Joyce’s Ulysses: A Guide which gives you Joyce’s great novel, plus a plethora of features to help you better understand this work, which can be daunting.

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The heart of this app is the full text of Ulysses, with annotations that help you understand the text, its references, the Dublin it’s set in, and its characters. Annotations appear in the right margin, allowing you to read without them obscuring the text:

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But the app contains multitudes: an abridged audiobook of Ulysses, from Naxos Audiobooks (I’d rather see the full audiobook, but that’s a lot more expensive), information about Joyce’s life, the music in the book (with recordings), photos of Dublin, and even the full text of a translation of Homer’s Odyssey, which is the template for Ulysses. You can even hear Joyce himself read a bit of the text; hearing Joyce’s voice was, for me, many years ago, something that opened up his texts, especially Finnegans Wake.

While you can buy ebooks of Ulysses, and even download it for free (since it’s in the public domain), it remains a complex text, and the annotations alone make this app worth the price. The additional features help understand the context and setting of Ulysses, and the only thing that I would like to have that’s not in the app is a map of Dublin, showing the travels of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedelus. (I actually bought a book with maps and photos the first time I visited Dublin to see some of the landmarks.)

This is just one of a growing number of excellent apps that let you explore literature on the iPad. Naxos has done a great job on this, and I hope they do more in the future.

Will Apple Allow Headphones to Use Lightning Ports? What’s the Point?

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Apple has reportedly introduced specifications for headphones that use a lightning connector; that’s the one you plug into your iOS device to sync and charge it. According to 9to5Mac:

Apple will allow two configurations for the headphones. Standard Lightning Headphones are described by Apple as using minimum components when paired with a digital-to-analog converter supported by the Lightning Headphone Module. It also has an Advanced Lightning Headphones specification that allows digital audio processing features like active noise cancellation and uses a digital signal processor and digital/analog converter.

This makes no sense. The 3.5mm headphone jack is a standard around the world; you know that any headphones you buy will work with that jack, unless they have a larger plug, 6.5mm, which only works on amplifiers. (In that case, you generally get an adapter.)

Would you buy headphones that you can only use on Apple devices? I wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone buy such headphones. Why spend money on good headphones – because these specs aren’t talking about earbuds – and not be able to use them on other devices? Also, you wouldn’t be able to use the headphones when charging a device. I sometimes do this to talk on my iPhone while it’s charging.

Financially, this would make sense for Apple, since they own the lightning specification, and charge licensing fees for its use. But for users? Ridiculous.

This sort of specification makes sense for other devices: DACs, headphone amplifiers, docks, and DJ tools. But for headphones, it requires that the devices have batteries; it’s sending a digital stream, and it’s not clear if it can also send an analog stream. There are times when you want powered headphones, for things such as noise cancellation. But powered headphones don’t sound as good as passive analog headphones, which don’t alter sound in any way.

The future for powered headphones is wireless, using Bluetooth technology. If you’re going to have powered headphones, the idea of connecting them with a wire is foolish. There are better Bluetooth codecs, such as aptX, whose lossless version can even handle 24-bit 96 kHz audio. It would make a lot more sense to work in this direction, and eschew the cord.

Some comments I saw suggest that removing the headphone jack from an iPhone will allow it to be thinner. I think people making such comments have never seen an iPod touch, which has a headphone jack, and is substantially thinner than an iPhone. When you look at it, you can see that the lightning connector and the headphone jack are about the same thickness.

If this rumor is true – and it’s healthy to be skeptical, given some rumors that have run rampant recently – I don’t see this as being for headphones, but rather for other audio devices.

Update: Turns out that this is true. However, nothing suggests that this would replace the standard headphone jack. I’d still not buy headphones that can only plug into that connector.

With OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 Apple Plays the Long Game

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In speaking with colleagues over the past few days, the consensus is that Apple’s Keynote at the WWDC on Monday was the most impressive that we have seen in many years. Sure, there was no new hardware: no iWatch, no retina iMac, no 4K display, but what we saw was two operating systems getting massive under-the-hood changes.

With a raft of new technologies designed to connect Macs and iOS devices, Apple has outlined the way the company envisions computing in the years to come. You will be able to make and receive phone calls on your Mac, if you have an iPhone. You be able to start working on one device, and continue working on another device, if you have, say, a Mac and an iPad. You will be able to get SMSes on your Mac or on iOS devices, and if you’re in an area where you don’t have Wi-Fi, your iPhone can create a hotspot for your Mac so you can get online.

People have been speaking of the “post-PC” era for a while, but Apple isn’t ditching the desktop computer. Quite the contrary, Apple is doubling down on the desktop, providing reasons to own both a computer and a mobile device.

Part of the reason is no doubt financial. Tim Cook gave some numbers: 800 million iOS devices, and 80 million Macs. That’s ten iOS devices for every Mac. Imagine if the company could change that ratio to, say, seven iOS devices for each Mac. The Mac is a very high-margin product, and if Apple provides more reasons for iOS users to buy Macs, they can increase sales, and guarantee a long stream of revenue.

OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 are clearly designed to be better together. Apple is making computing better for people who have both types of devices. Rather than giving up on the desktop, Apple is showing just how practical a desktop computer is. If Apple can convert more iOS users to OS X, they can guarantee revenue for at least another decade.

Because once you get locked into a platform, it’s very hard to change. Whether it be hardware or software, or even third-party apps, Apple is providing more compelling reasons to buy its products, while it’s making computing easier for all of us.

In Praise of the Dvorak Keyboard Layout

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Hi, I’m Kirk, and I use the Dvorak keyboard layout. This has nothing to do with composer Antonín Dvořák, best known for his New World Symphony (and less well known for his string quartets, a wonderful collection of which is this one by the Emerson String Quartet). No, the Dvorak keyboard layout was created and patented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey, in order to make typing easier.

The Dvorak keyboard layout was originally designed to correct anomalies present in the QWERTY layout. For example, on a QWERTY keyboard, the E key, the one you type the most in English, requires that you stretch a finger. (This, and other differences, assume that you touch type.) Also, certain letter combinations can be hard to type on a QWERTY keyboard. Look where the letters THE are found. You type this word often, and the three letters are in very different locations. And with four vowels on the top row, you have to stretch your fingers much more often.

The Dvorak keyboard layout, as you can see in the image above, groups all the vowels and most common consonants on the middle row, where your fingers don’t need to stretch. 70% of letters you type are on this row, compared to only 32% on a QWERTY keyboard. The Dvorak layout also has all the vowels on the left, so you can often alternate typing, right-left-right-left, as you type consonant-vowel.

I started using the Dvorak layout in 1996, when I became a freelance translator. Realizing that touch-typing would be an asset, I proceeded to no longer look at my keyboard, but look at a printout of the Dvorak layout pasted on the bottom of my monitor. Since my keyboard has never had keys in the Dvorak layout, even looking at the keys wouldn’t help. It took a few months to be able to touch type, and it’s now second nature. I can type about 80 words per minute, and sometimes I can go faster than that.

While the Dvorak layout is available by default on OS X, and on Windows, this wasn’t always the case. In the early days, I had to add a keyboard layout to my Macs, and in some cases, this wasn’t easy. And now, the real difficulty I have is using an iOS device, where the Dvorak keyboard is not available. (Yes, I could jailbreak my iPhone and iPad, but I don’t want to do that.) Having fat thumbs, and using an unfamiliar keyboard layout makes it difficult to type on an iPhone, but I compensate by dictating as much as I can.


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I’d very much like to see the Dvorak keyboard layout as on option on iOS devices. (You can use it with an external keyboard; this has been possible since iOS 4.) While it may not be obvious, I think that the ability to alternate from side to side, consonant to vowel, might lead to more efficient typing. I would at least like to be able to try to find out if that’s the case.

Who’s Going to Make a Dvorak Keyboard for iOS 8?

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Just curious. If anyone’s got plans, get in touch. I’m a long-time Dvorak user on my Mac – getting on 20 years – and it’d be great to have a Dvorak layout on iOS.

Lots of New Stuff from Apple at the WWDC

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Yesterday’s keynote at Apple’s WWCD was one of the most interesting I can recall. It’s been a long time since there have been so many new features unveiled for one operating system, let alone two. It was clearly the most impressive keynote, as far as software is concerned, in many years.

To begin with, we got the skinny on OS X 10.10 Yosemite. With a sleeker designer, redolent of iOS 7, yet not too iOSified, Yosemite looks like a fairly large change in approach. While Apple demoed things such as Safari (a much cleaner look), Spotlight (the first real update to that feature in years), and Mail (who wants to “mark up” their emails?), the real takeaway to me was iCloud Drive. iCloud will finally be able to store ad hoc files, and it will be a bridge between OS X and iOS. This may be the first step in making iCloud the new filesystem.

There were some cool new features, such as Handoff (stop working on something on one device, pick it up on another), and the ability to link your iPhone to your Mac, to make and take phone calls. Messages lets you send voice messages, and AirDrop finally works between OS X and iOS.

What I felt watching the presentation of Yosemite yesterday was that Apple is making OS X for iOS users; to try and get more Mac purchasers among the hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users, showing them how they can work seamlessly between the two devices.

As for iOS – why doesn’t iOS get a name, and not just a number – the most useful user feature for me is predictive typing. This isn’t new; my cheap Android phone has it, but it’s about time that Apple brought it in. Family Sharing is a nice way to sort-of-merge iTunes accounts. And the Health app, and HealthKit, looks promising, but it will take a while to see how that works in practice.

But the biggest news about iOS is under the hood. Extensibility, the ability for apps to share “extensions,” is a huge innovation, and will allow deep interoperability among apps. Again, we’ll need to wait and see how this translates into real-world use, but it already looks as though apps such as TextExpander will be able to integrate into, say, text editors, and 1Password might be able to sit inside Safari.

Apple didn’t announce any hardware yesterday, focusing entirely on new features in its OSes. Tim Cook only spent a few minutes on stage, and didn’t even tout retail numbers, or show off new Apple stores. It was all about the software, and the new features that were shown yesterday will change the way we user our Macs and iOS devices.

What I’d Like to See at WWDC

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In a few hours, Tim Cook and others will be taking the stage at the 2014 WWDC (WorldWide Developer Conference) to present new Apple software, and, perhaps, hardware. There are a lot of expectations, but we know that, at a minimum, we’ll get previews of OS X 10.10 and iOS 8. In addition, preview versions of one or both of these will be available to developers today. (Watch the keynote live on the web or an an Apple TV.)

But there could be much more in this two-hour keynote. Here’s what I’d like to see.

Hardware:

  • A retina iMac: It’s time that Apple improve the resolution on their displays. A retina iMac would be great; it doesn’t need the same pixel density as an iPhone, or even a MacBook Pro, since you generally have a desktop display further from your eyes.
  • An Apple 4K display: This could, of course, be the retina display. Whether it’s a standalone display or one that is also available on the iMac remains to be seen, but it’s obvious that Apple, who already has 4K support in the Mac Pro, will have to create their own. The current Thunderbolt display hasn’t been updated in years.
  • A new Apple TV (with SDK for third-party apps): The Apple TV needs to open itself up to third-party apps. This would be a huge boost for the platform.
  • Larger displays for the iPhone and/or iPad: We may not see these announced, but there may be some announcements for developers about tools to develop apps that adapt to different display sizes.

Software:

  • Healthbook: There have been lots of rumors about this, a sort of health information app. This will be a big field in the future, together with wearables.
  • Mobile payments: Again, there have been rumors about Apple being in talks with retailers. This would be a great feature for the iPhone, especially since Touch ID can be a secure biometric way of proving one’s identity.
  • iCloud that works: iCloud is so broken, and has been since it was unveiled. It’s time to improve it; something that would require a huge overhaul. It also needs more storage by default, perhaps linked to the number of devices one has registered iCloud.
  • Music streaming subscription service: We know that Apple will be running one, with Beats Music, but perhaps Tim Cook will tell us more about how it will work. It’s possible, however, that Apple won’t discuss this, since the Beats deal will take several months to close, because of regulatory approval being required.

What about you? What are you hankering for from Apple today?