In praise of Apple Pay

Until recently I’ve avoided having any financial data on any phone more out of a sense of prudence than being a luddite. When I was in China I carried a separate iPhone, due in part to the rampant thievery there, the realization that the company I was working for tracked my every movement with their required app, and because WeChat was the default payment method.

Recently one night in a string of many mistakes I’ve made of late, I walked out the door to buy groceries without taking my wallet. Having set-up Apple Pay earlier when I arrived at the cashier I gave Apple Pay a try and was struck at how much faster it was compared to the usual tap with credit card.

I’ve always been a bit dubious about any added benefit of using a phone for tap vs a credit card, but for whatever reason the process is much faster with Apple Pay and I’m now sold on it’s usage.

Which makes me wonder about the future of cash – something I haven’t had in my pocket in years.

Devices are boring

I got a new iPhone on Monday and decided to finally take it out of the box today. My kids were curious why I seemed so disinterested in what must be the next great thing, and even Sheryl was asking why it had been sitting on the nightstand so long.

The truth is it’s pretty much the same device as I had before. It fits in the same case, is the same color, and iOS is full of the same problems. The only immediate difference is that I opted for more memory.

There was a time when I was fascinated by the latest gadgets or objects du jour, but for age, different priorities or the lack of anything really interestingly new, I find this as about as exciting as buying a pair of socks. Unless they are new running socks, which I would find more interesting.

What is exciting is the 4 lbs of coffee coming from Taiwan, and the 3 bags coming from the 49th Parallel in Vancouver.

Apples broken audio

I wasn’t intending to update my Mac or my iPhone to the latest versions of the operating systems that were recently released. My greatest concern was with Xcode, as I have a renewed focus on development this month I didn’t want any hiccups from Apple’s recent software QA problems. Most I talked to stated they experienced no problems and since I saw the updates as an excuse to clean out old Microsoft apps and do some general file management chores, I went ahead and installed the updates last week.

Generally I’ve experienced no problems and nothing really interesting in the updates as a whole. Until I can have a natural conversation with my computing device, I doubt there will be much in the way of ‘wow moments’ from any of these incremental updates (though I do appreciate some of the small advancements with SIRI).

What I didn’t give any thought to was Apple’s consumer software, like Garageband, which I use to produce our podcast Sleep Tight Stories. Sleep Tight Stories, and the others we plan to launch, are only viable if I can produce them in a very short period of time. “If only I had more time,” is a determining factor in many projects. To this end I have created a master Garageband file that I use for each episode, which is tuned for our usage and the equipment we have on hand. The latest version of Garageband breaks this in a couple of ways:

– As the screenshot illustrates the timeline is completely out of sync, ignoring the first 10 seconds where there is a sound file.
– Anytime I place an audio file in the timeline it changes the speed of the file, making all the sound files I’ve licensed or created unusable.

So lesson learned. Rolling back to a previous version of the software does not work. But converting files to wave format does for some. Perhaps I will take this opportunity to try Adobe’s more capable software, which will also slowly remove my reliance on Apple for all my professional or semi-professional computing needs.

Infinite Loop

I’m caught in an infinite loop with Apple trying to get a refund for a charge that should never have happened. I purchased Minecraft for iOS some time ago and it should be available to download to others in my Family Sharing scheme. It worked for my son, and across other devices, but not for my daughter, and I was charged $9.99.

Following multiple entry points through Apple support always ends up in the same place, the “Report a Problem” page where it lists all your purchases – except for the recent Minecraft charge.

I’m guessing that by the time I have this sorted, and assuming I work for minimum wage or less, I will be out far more than the $9.99 mistakenly charged to my account.

Despite being charged to my account, I guess I am to assume it may show up in my daughters list of purchases, of which this would be the only one.

This has happened in the past, and I don’t recall it being this “loopy”. Unfortunately, much of the Apple Experience I am having these days is less and less Apple-like. That’s my impression anyway.

And this is secure how?

Two Factor Auth code

I realize some people only have one device but sending a two factor code to the same device seems to me to be a pointless exercise. Apple knows I have other trusted devices, why not send it to them? This happens every time I log in to an Apple developer site.

iCloud storage vs. the other guys

As I wrote on twitter this AM my iCloud storage is full. Currently we have 200GB which I share amongst our Canada based family for $3.99/month. We switched to a family plan as soon as Apple allowed for storage sharing amongst families, so considering all the photos I take, it’s not surprising that we’ve almost used up our quota.

Unfortunately, Apple’s next available storage tier takes a giant leap to 2TB which costs $12.99. We’ll never use that much storage, and while their pricing is competitive, it isn’t cheap, and it feels odd to pay for something that we won’t use in full.

Though Google Drive hasn’t worked on my Mac for months, I thought it might be worth considering moving to them for photo storage, except that Google’s pricing is surprisingly more expensive at $13.99 for 1 TB.

Dropbox doesn’t allow for family sharing and its “teams” plan is $17.50/month for each user. It’s not designed for our needs.

Which leaves me considering OneDrive. For $8 a month you get 1TB of storage with Microsoft which includes an Office subscription. I’ve generally avoided Office for years, at least until I was forced to use excel, because design teams love to punish themselves by using it. With my text writing needs far better served by other more pared down software like iA Writer and Bbedit, I’m not sure what value having access to Office has to our family – the kids are forced to use Google for productivity.

That 1TB of storage is for 1 mobile device. For the whole family to use OneDrive we would need to upgrade to Office 365 Home which gives 6TB for 6 devices for $11/month.

I have no idea what the Onedrive experience is like but it’s an interesting value, especially considering it’s coming from Microsoft. I don’t think I’ve even used Windows for anything other than checking website compatibility years ago and most recently for logging into poorly developed HR systems.

But again, Microsoft is offering something we will never fully use.

So I have no answer other than an example of customer lock-in.

Reducing the volume of a track in Garageband

Isn’t it amazing how a company can create polar opposite experiences – magic and distress.

At the same time that I was watching the magic of the new Apple watch during the Sept. 12th keynote, I was cursing the time I was spending trying, through trial and error, to reduce the volume of a simple audio track in Garageband.

It should be simple, and since it is Garageband it doubly should be, but it isn’t. The first course of action is always a Google search but nothing I found applies as they have changed the interaction design of the app. so many times over the years people can’t keep track.

Volume control at the master level and track level doesn’t work (it doesn’t appear to function as a real mixer). Gain is for input but it sometimes worked with an already existing track but other times didn’t. When Gain works it’s from a massive change, fine tuning results in no discernible difference.

So after an hour of stubbornly trying to effect change I gave up, downloaded Audacity, and created the effect I needed in 4 minutes.

Later, after a required cooling off period I found the required controls staring at me in the face in the mix menu. Generally, in desktop software you should have 3 ways to perform an action, as an ex: to delete a file on the desktop you can drag it to the trash, select and then go to the file menu and select move to trash, or right click on the file to move to trash. Garageband does not follow this heuristic and for the context I was in, listening to a keynote and doing what should have been a mindless task, brought about frustration.

I’ll be spending more time these coming months editing audio for a podcast and for our app. Perhaps it’s time to venture outside the Apple software ecosystem and try something that offers basic controls that fit my mental model of how audio software should work.

/end complaint

Changing Country for iTunes Account

One of the last bits of 麻煩, or “troublesome tasks”, that must be accomplished now that I am becoming a resident of Canada again, is changing the country for my iTunes account. I have yet to apply for health cards but I suspect the application for health cards (and not the actual getting to see a doctor) will be actually much easier than changing my iTunes account.

Apple very clearly states what you must do prior to changing your account:

What to do before changing your country or region

  • Spend any store credit remaining on your Apple ID. You must also wait for any pending store credit refunds to process before you can change your country or region. Learn what to do if your remaining store credit is less than the cost of a single item.
  • Cancel any subscriptions, including Apple Music, and wait until the end of the subscription period to change your country or region. You’ll also have to wait for any memberships, pre-orders, iTunes movie rentals, or Season Passes to complete.
  • Have a payment method for your new country or region on hand. For example, only German credit cards can be used to buy content from the German iTunes Store, iBooks Store, and App Store.
  • Back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to iTunes. You might need to temporarily downgrade your iCloud storage until you switch to the new country or region.

The tricky part here is waiting for memberships to complete. I subscribe to iTunes match, which only recently renewed, and as such won’t complete until the Spring of next year. Though I’m not an avid consumer of Apple services, considering I no longer have a Taiwan credit card, that seems like a long time to not be able to use iCloud, Apple music, and the other services I subscribe through Apples platform. So it’s a mess.

I won’t go into how you can’t actually change your country via the web.

I’m on hold with Apple support and will document this journey as it unfolds.


After 1 hour on the phone with Apple support I was finally able to change my Apple iTunes account from Taiwan to Canada and am now basking in all the media that Apple delivers in this country. I talked to 3 different support personal including a “Senior Advisor” in order to make this happen.

Apple was polite and professional throughout the whole process, but it really should not have been this hard. Changing my developer account seemed much easier.

It also raises the question, what other company in the world would I bother going through so much effort to remain their customer? I can’t think of one. Though it’s somewhat of a stretch, you would think that the importance of my Apple ID is somewhat reaching parity with my national ID number.

A few points about the change:

  • I was a subscriber to iTunes match. That database was deleted and I must upload all my music files anew. I’m not sure I’ll bother.
  • I was told my Apple music playlists would be gone, but I haven’t seen any changes. Perhaps some music has been affected, but I haven’t noticed any problems yet.
  • Local apps. cannot be downloaded again, but I think I can live without local Taiwan bus and taxi apps.
  • My Apple music preferences were reset. This could be huge for my daughter but I always found Apple’s music curation to be subpar.
  • iCloud was unaffected.
  • International media regulations suck, particularly in Taiwan, which is largely the source of all these problems.
  • My other subscriptions, particularly Evernote, so far remain unaffected. I think it’s a good time to revisit these subscriptions as my usage of Evernote in particular doesn’t warrant the money spent.

Double click speed setting

Using our old iMac has been a pain of late as it was impossible to open files, folders etc with the usual double click of the mouse. I don’t use the Mac very often so the problem just festered for months as everyone else just used right-click to open a menu, or a key combination whenever they needed to use the command. The old Apple mouse with a click wheel somehow received the blame, perhaps due to it’s reputation for being the worst mouse after the hockey puck.

As I was using it today to access old Firewire drives, of which I have bought far too many over the years, I grew annoyed and found that the problem is easily fixed by simply adjusting the double click rate in the mouse preferences pane. I didn’t dig deeper, but this seems like an ill advised feature, and one which is not immediately obvious as to it’s implications. As far as I can tell, the speed of the double click is tied to your finger and mouse’s ability to click fast enough. Which I guess the supplied Apple Mouse and a child’s finger are not able to map to.

But, problem solved, and we’ll file this UI oddity for use in some conversation later.

Apple Watch and it’s frustrating UI for runners

Imagine you created a product which in one of the main marketed use cases the UI became inoperable. That’s the Apple Watch.

A year ago this past spring I got myself an Apple Watch as a bit of fun for finishing a long contract.

My needs were very simple. It was primarily going to be a device to support my burgeoning running hobby – notifications and music control were an added bonus. GPS would be nice, but at the time I almost always carried my phone so it wasn’t a necessity. Originally I thought of a Garmin, but as things often are here, the model I wanted wasn’t available and others only came with super bright color combinations (it also took Garmin 7 months to reply to my email about when the watch might be available, and the reply was a non-answer).

So I went with an Apple Watch (Series 0).

Generally, using the Apple Watch is a pretty satisfying experience. There have been periods of frequent crashes, especially with the buggy Nike+ app., and the 38mm version’s text and UI is just a little too difficult to read and operate.

But my next watch will likely be a Garmin.

There are a couple neat use cases which I like the watch for, dictating a note into Evernote (which I hardly use) and replying to iMessages with voice dictation. Unfortunately dictation is not entirely accurate and without punctuation becomes just a stream of harder to read text. I do find it a faster experience than typing on the iPhone, which might be the point. Outside of iMessage all notifications are off as I find it annoying.

Otherwise, my primary use case is running, and under optimal conditions it’s fine. You can awkwardly see your key running data and stop and start your run. The lifting your arm to see the display is entirely unnatural. Optimal conditions are rare. If your fingers or the screen are at all moist there is no guarantee your touch will be registered.

More concerning, however, is the functionality of the watch when it gets wet or sweaty. Good luck changing screens or getting the watch to respond. This was an issue my colleague Brian Dalek dealt with while testing the first version of this watch. It’s still an issue. On one hot day, I wiped my forehead to get my hands good and sweaty, and the Watch failed to respond to any touches on its face. This is one reason you still find buttons on running watches.
Apple Watch Series 2 Is a Solid Option

If it’s raining or you sweat a lot like me you can forget any accurate interaction with the UI. It can be impossible to stop a run or pause a running segment. Pretty disheartening if you just ran a great race or completed a great segment. So how do you stop the watch from recording your run? Well, today I had to leave it running until I could get home to wash my hands and polish the screen. Ridiculous.

Like many I’m sure Apple has a vigorous testing program – both for software and hardware. I’d love to understand how this decision was reached – produce a device with a focus on activity but let the lack of being able to control the device when sweating slide.

There are 2 hardware buttons on the side, Apple should open those up to allow 3rd party apps. to use as basic pause/start controls. Until then the Apple Watch is only usable if you don’t sweat.

Apple Bluetooth Keyboard Hack

Apple’s Photos app crashed during export.

My old Apple bluetooth keyboard has been wonky for some time – I initially blamed some weird kind of wireless interference at my China office but realized when typing that either it or my desk was crooked. It wouldn’t be unheard of for wooden things to get all warped in my house in Taiwan, all my shelves are. It was the keyboard, which I guess got bent from my overstuffing my carryon, during one of my recent flights. While I would love to have a new Apple keyboard, the exorbitant prices make a little paper and tape hack far more acceptable.


Screenshot 2015-07-02 20.56.44

In the annals of Apple error messages, of which lately their have been more and more, this must rank up there as one of the most developer centric. I can only imagine what would be going through a users mind when after clicking on iTunes this message appears. This update is rife with problems, testing must be taking a back seat at Apple. Or in the case of iTunes, this is what happens when you put a musician in charge of software product management.

Either way I can’t open iTunes.

Colour reproduction on a new MacBook

I’m exhausted today after a sleepless night and so decided to spend the afternoon setting up my mothers new MacBook with the goodies that she will need to keep in touch while we are overseas. I’m sitting here in the Confederation Mall food court looking a bit like a poser with two Apple laptops in front of me.
My mothers MacBook is such a pleasure to use, it’s much better than my little 12″ Powerbook. I’m starting to feel the pangs of jealousy.
But the default setting the screen uses reproduce color scares me. I dislike the glossy finish as well – I see all the overhead lights which over time must cause eyestrain.
The colour is way off. My Powerbook is certainly not as bright but the colour is very warm by default. My eizo monitor which I use when at home has been calibrated primarily for text entry over graphic design. In fact while all my monitors at home display colour with subtle differences in reproduction none to the extreme that I see in this new MacBook.
I’m sitting through the colour calibration settings now but it’s scared me enough to wonder if I don’t have to revisit every site I’ve designed these past months to check again for colour problems. I thought I had put those batty web safe palette days behind me.


Thanks to Gary on Forumosa for this Mac OS X tip. Pressing the key combo “control-option-command-8” inverts the screen. It is cool in it’s own right (windows look like portals to heaven) but might also be useful for those staring at text all day.

Problems with iTunes Podcast submission

It seems on my inaugural podcast I may have spoke to soon about submitting my podcast to the iTunes podcast directory. It isn’t possible. Here’s why.
You need to be able to purchase music from the iTunes store in order to be able to list your podcast in their directory. That includes registering an account and submitting a valid credit card with a billing address from a country that has the “honour” of having an iTunes Music Store. I am a Canadian citizen living in Asia but have a permanent address in Canada. As I have been living abroad for 8 years all my credit cards originate from Taiwan and as such I can not list my podcast – though I do have a .mac account. It’s a bit of a bizarre twist I think. I want to list content on their site which could potentially bring them customers but they want me to buy something first.
This is Apple?
I’m a bit sleepy and unanimated today (up late playing) so this Podcast might have the unwanted effect of causing you too to want to sleep (might be a common effect of this Podcast).
Listen to: Problems with iTunes Podcast submission – Podcast 2 (4.52min, 3.35 meg)
My Odeo Channel (odeo/647d0a301a218729)

Apple Bluetooth Mouse

There is a neat little feature I noticed today where Apple’s Bluetooth mouse will first in a semi-opaque window and then a flashing icon on the menu bar that the mouse batteries are running low. It’s an especially nice touch since I forgot that there were even batteries inside.
Bluetooth menu icon
I like this mouse. The batteries inside give it some additional weight that just feels right in my hand. So many mice (mouses?) I have tried are so light I feel like I am slipping all over the desk surface. The extra weight seems to give me more accuracy. It also tends to make me slower but I’m playing game tournaments just accessing menus.
Bluetooth helps gets rid of all those wires as well. I hate wires. Wires are ugly and, even in the case of Apple industrial design, inelegant. My old Apple mouses’ wire (I’ve never used a two button mouse) always got tangled and in the way. Good riddance.

Dan Harden gets it

“If there’s anything anyone in this field is chasing, it’s Apple’s quality and simplicity. Pick up an iPod, and you get it, you feel it, you sense it. But let’s not forget that these things are made in China. It’s nothing different from what everybody else is doing. The difference is that Apple will spend a lot of time and a lot of money to train quality-control standards. Unlike smaller companies, it can afford to get to the microlevels and really think through how a button feels. As a result, it has made digital audio seem so easy, so fast, so seamless.”
Read the whole Fast Company article

Notes on Tiger

Judging by the volume of noise on news sites Apples Tiger release appears to be an exciting even among those of will little else in our lives to entertain ourselves other than an operating system release. Yes I got caught up in it and yes I spend far too much time sitting at a desk. It’s obvious I have to get out more since after a simple morning of walking on Saturday has left my body stiff and sore. And the Tiger excitement.
Yes it’s cool and I’m certainly digging the refinements to the look n feel of the UI. Other than Spotlight, I’m mostly psyched about the improvements they made to their bundled apps. , safari is much improved. The Wiki dashboard widget should be very useful.
The biggest impression the upgrade has left on me though is the hefty memory requirements. Opening activity monitor shows me that Safari eats up 140megs of ram – it’s a web browser for God sake. Each of those Dashboard widgets take up 30 and mail takes up 20. It’s becoming obvious that if you expect to run a few programs in addition to Photoshop you are slowly approaching 2 gigs of ram. Apple still sells computers with only 256 megs of ram so obviously their is money to be made creating software with bloated memory requirements.

The Joys of Shuffle

For music on the go and having fun creating mixes (again) the iPod shuffle was a great recent purchase. I don’t always buy into the “enjoy uncertainty” or “life is random” concepts that Apple preaches though and find myself creating a smart playlist to autofill my shuffle that pick from higher rates songs in a number of other playlists that have a list of my favourite tracks. I’m not alone in this and I have noticed a few others sharing there ideas.
Matt Haughey writes about the joys of a better

Wireless iPod patent

wifi-ipod.jpgFrom Apple Insider comes the news that a patent was published on Thursday that talks about a wirelessly-enabled handheld player that can beam music and information to multiple other media devices, a docking station for communicating with other devices, and something about wirelessly transmitting

The Steve Jobs way.

Steve Jobs made Time magazine’s Time 100 list, which it bills as “the 100 most influential people in the world today. “Steve Jobs helped create a Silicon Valley icon and, along the way, garnered a reputation as a charismatic yet mercurial visionary.” A short history from CNN.

Mac OS X 10.3.3 Update: Hallelujah!!

Finally they have fixed the ill functioning network browser – with the Panther update you lost the ability to store network passwords and browsing remote servers was a pain at best.
“Specific changes in Mac OS X v10.3.3 include the ability to see network volumes both in the Finder sidebar and on the Desktop; improved filesharing and directory services for Mac (through AFP), Unix (through NFS) and PC (through SMB/CIFS) networks; improved PostScript and USB-based printing; updated Disk Utility, DVD Player, Image Capture, Mail and Safari applications; additional support for FireWire and USB devices; improved compatibility with third-party applications; and the incorporation of previous standalone security updates and Bluetooth Update 1.5, if you’ve not already updated your system.” [Maccentral]
Mac OS X 10.3.3 Update

More Powerpoint madness recent review of Apples keynote reinforces my perception of how Powerpoint has created a legacy of poor visual communication. The author of the review gives Keynote 3 out of 5 stars and states that it is worth it for beginning presenters but pros will not be satisfied. Obviously the review is uninformed but it is interesting to note what these people think “pros” need. The most glaring of which were no gradient-coloring features for text, the ability to edit multimedia within the program, and the amount of the control over transitions. What is with this perception that “pro’s” want products with enormous feature sets. I thought we would assume that people don’t have time for this type of complexity.
I have been using Keynote for a couple months and it’s fairly impressive. It’s simple, displays text very well and has cut ‘n’ paste import of all my media (vector graphics and pdf look superb). It helps reinforce the point of a presentation program – to support the speaker. The downside is a natural one. No one uses keynote and as such no one can read your file. Distribution via .pdf is impractical because of the horrendous file sizes and sharing it in Powerpoint’s file format seems painful as you loose all of the reasons you use Keynote in the first place.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that I create presentations that would make Edward Tufte proud – I don’t. But I am under different constraints. The constraints of language, and lack of paper, force me to put copious amounts of text on the screen. That’s my excuse.
Link: – Apple Keynote review

Speed where art thou

Apple does a brilliant job of integrating hardware and software to create a compelling user experience. Despite introducing a new operating system, seemingly ages ago, based on a Unix foundation, they have managed to maintain a high level of intuitively and ease of use. This coupled with a consistent and refined aesthetic across both their software and hardware products helps define a the brand Apple. But there is one thing which seems to be defining Apple more than these characteristics and that is a lack of speed.
The built in Mail client is unacceptably slow. You cannot view folders while it is downloading new mail and it frequently locks up. All of their iApps stutter when resizing windows. The operating system itself is unresponsive. .Mac their online service is pitiful when compared to services like Yahoo – when it is online. Flash sucks. Director sucks. Networking causes spinning balls and in fact that spinning ball seems to happen quite allot. Copying files take too long. Which brings me to my latest pet peeve.
I just purchased an Airport base-station. It’s beautiful and in typical Apple style a pinch to set-up. I finally get to hide all those telephone wires. But you know that something has to be wrong when you can download a folder containing 40 megs. of files faster over the internet than a local drive. I have been sitting here for 20 minutes waiting for some digital photographs to download off my network firewire drive. Yet another example of this new Apple brand.

Apple’s iPod Design Triumph

An interesting look into the design and development process of Apple’s iPod.

“It turns out that much of the underlying iPod design was performed by outside companies. The Cupertino folk haven’t given up on their heritage of design excellence

Mac OS 10 needs a few things other than iChat

After caused great annoyance by asking for access to my keychain for the fourth time today I wrote a very short rant on a few things that I wish Apple would take care of in it’s “Super Modern Operating System”. While I do at times sit in amazement at how anyway could make such complex things such as software work at all, I often get annoyed when a product in which I have invested a great deal of money fails on some fundamental level. It’s Apples dichotomy. Some things they create are like magic while others seems to uterly annoy. Maybe that is the secret that Microsoft exploits, mediocrity that works with no expectations.

But despite my complaints there is something great about some of the products they make, something beyond industrial design. I never thought I would need an iPod until I saw it and now it’s they only gadget I lust after.

Read:Mac OS 10 needs a few things other than iChat


While I guess I shouldn’t be I can’t help but be suprised with the problems I am having with my relatively new Motorola T191 cell phone. On a number of occaisions now the phone’s operating system (if that is what it’s called in a phone) has crashed. The screens characters go all out of control and the phone becomes unresponsive. I have certainly come to expect this behaviour from computers – I just unloaded a huge amount of cash on a new laptop only to have word and powerpoint crash once every session – but appliances? With the increasing sophistication of computers built into what are considered everyday essential tools what will the future hold? God forbid that my fridge, stereo, or coffee maker start exhibiting the behaviour of a windows pc. It might be rather expensive to have your freeze crash in the middle of the night thawing out all the food in the freezer or the stereo deciding in was time to play Taiwanese pop in the middle of the night. I don’t want windows in my toaster. Perhaps this is all a good excuse to buy a new phone. I rather like the new Treo.