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Small Changes in iOS 7 Cause Big Smiles

The largest overhaul yet of the Apple mobile operating system will come with the new iOS 7.  The new system is already causing a divide in the Apple community.  There are the users who love their current iOS version and are reluctant to embrace any change, while other users are eagerly awaiting the new system and are excited to see the changes.

These relatively diminutive additions and tweaks have already captured the hearts of some users, even though they don’t deal with any of the large-scale changes that are typically touted on the commercials for the latest iPhone.  While there won’t likely be a smarter Siri or apps that update themselves, these changes will most likely be just as important in the final tally.

 

Folders Get an Update

When folders were first introduced on iOS, many users were ecstatic.  Gone were the pages upon pages of apps, but in their place, users soon realized they had pages upon pages of folders, instead.  This is due to the folders only holding a specific amount of apps.  In iOS 7, folders will be equipped with pages that can be flipped through, finally allowing all of your related apps to be in one folder.

 

Compare and Contrast

If you’ve ever had trouble reading your lock screen clock due to interference from a specific wallpaper, iOS 7 has fixed that for you.  The new version monitors the background brightness and automatically adjusts the color of the font.  Shading will be employed around text, enabling it to be more clearly defined in low contrast areas.  The font will also switch from black to white, depending on the background wallpaper that is selected.  This may be one of the most helpful (and most easily overlooked) new features.

 

Safari Gets a Touch-Up

There’s nothing really wrong with the way Safari handles multiple tabs, but it is a less aesthetically pleasing than it could be.  That problem is solved in iOS 7 with a wonderfully smooth tab switching upgrade that makes closing unwanted tabs easier and faster, while allowing you to snap to the tab you want with no fuss.  Its buttons also get a bit of a tweak; they’ve been redesigned to feature icons rather than the labels present in previous versions.

 

Lock Screen Improvements

The familiar “slide to unlock” feature gets a makeover.  The highlight color will now be presented as a shifting color and there’s a new arrow that makes the feature a bit easier to see.  The arrow located at the top of the screen for the Notification Center has been transformed into a rounded linear shape.

 

Control Center Gets Easier Access

It’s easier than ever to access Control Center in iOS 7.  Just make a quick swipe up from any page for immediate access to activate Airplane mode, switch wi-fi on and off or access any other Control Center option.  You can even do this from the lock page, making access to Control Center actions more convenient and less time consuming.

 

Notification Center Employs Swiping Accessibility

The major change for the Notification Center comes in the form of being able to swipe between notifications by when they were received.  This includes being able to switch between “today,” “all” and “missed.”  This option makes it easier to look over older notifications that may have been buried in the previous version, as well as allowing for greater organization.

 

Multitasking Taken to a Whole New Level

The way you multitask is about to change, too.  The new version of iOS will be able to learn about when you typically use your apps, automatically updating the content for those apps prior to the time when you usually launch them.  Pressing the home button twice allows you to see preview screens of any apps you have open.  Updates become less of a battery drain and more convenient with iOS 7.  The new iOS will schedule any updates at times when the iPhone is already on and connected to a wi-fi source, resulting in less downtime and better battery usage.

 

AirDrop Comes to iOS 7

AirDrop is available for the first time on an iOS platform.  You can share virtually any type of document without e-mail or text.  AirDrop allows sharing of documents between users via wi-fi and Bluetooth.  You won’t have to set anything up to start sharing and your files are encrypted for security.  You can choose to share your file with a single recipient or send it to an entire group.  You’re automatically visible, but you can become invisible to anyone or everyone with a quick visit to the Control Center.

 

Many Other Features Get an Upgrade in iOS 7

From mail to photos and far beyond, there are many tweaks to existing features that make them more accessible and user-friendly.  The phone buttons get a makeover and so does the camera.  Sharing gets easier via iCloud and you’ll also have access to an iCloud “key-chain,” an encrypted and very secure service that can remember your passwords for any site you visit.  There’s also an option for password generation, where Safari makes a hard-to-guess password and even remembers it for you.

 

Apple Fans Anticipate Roll-out

The new version of the popular Apple mobile operating service is eagerly awaited by scores of Apple fans.  New versions of old features are creating a lot of excitement with the select few who have the beta version and Apple’s new iOS 7 seems to be a slam-dunk before it even arrives.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Review – Mobee Magic Charger for Magic Mouse

Published on March 13, 2013 by in Apple, Mac, Reviews

It may seem odd for me to review a piece of hardware meant for something I don’t love (I’m far too attached to my Magic Trackpad to really love the Magic Mouse), but I’m writing for those folks who do love their Magic Mice and might be considering the Magic Charger, an attractive rechargeable-battery solution for the Magic Mouse. My first impression of it was overwhelmingly positive. Several online reviews mentioned fast, effortless charging. Other reviewers praised both its form and its function. Goodness knows that the Magic Mouse has a large enough appetite for batteries that a rechargeable solution is absolutely welcome.

In fact, I was coming to the same conclusions as other reviewers when I first put the charger to use with a brand-new Magic Mouse. This is one of those accessories that are so clever you might wonder why Apple didn’t just design the thing itself. With the Magic Charger, you might end up wishing that Apple actually had made it; it likely would have shown in the build quality and design choices.

At first, it seems like completely straightforward. Just set aside the battery cover and AA’s that came with the Magic Mouse, replace with a battery pack designed to fill that space, and you’re ready to get your double-click on. Once your battery level gets too low, rest your mouse on the Magic Charger’s pad overnight and let the wireless inductive charging fill it back up. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy, right?

It would be great if it were all that simple.  I ran into issues from the very beginning with the battery pack. It had a tendency to slip out just a little, rather than clicking firmly into place like Apple’s own battery cover for the Magic Mouse. Something else to keep in mind is that rechargeable batteries are 1.25 volts instead 1.5 volts like a AA battery, so the battery indicator in System Preferences is always going to be inaccurate.

One other shortcoming I found with the Magic Charger is that the only charging connection Mobee offers is USB. If you leave your Mac on all the time, that’s no problem. But if you’re “green” enough to want rechargeable batteries in the first place, you’re probably also saving energy by powering down your Mac when you’re done with it. This cuts power to the Magic Charger and defeats its whole purpose.  I have a wall adapter that offers multiple open USB ports, so I plugged into one of them.  It would just be much more convenient if Mobee provided or sold an AC power cord.  That said, the charger is less than half an inch thick, and weighs just under 2 ounces, so it’s easy to slip into pretty much any compartment or pocket in a laptop bag for travel use.

I’d really like to see Mobee rethink a few things about the Magic Charger, because it has real potential to be an amazing product instead of one that’s just “good” with a few glaring flaws. For instance, offer 2 charging packs instead of one, and include an AC power source. This would eliminate charging downtime, as well as leaving a USB port free that the current design “steals”.

My final quibble is the price. $50 buys some fancy inductive charging (which didn’t charge very fast for me); that same amount would get you a great wall charger and 3 sets of AA batteries, with enough left over for lunch.

Bottom line, if you’re okay with no AC power and a possibly fiddly battery-pack fit, the Magic Charger beats the heck out of coughing up for an endless pile of AA batteries.

 
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Top 10 iPad apps of 2012

The odometer’s about to tick over on another year, and as sites like ours often do, we’re looking back at the most popular and useful apps released for Apple’s iDevices in the past year.  My last article was devoted to the top 10 iPhone apps of the year.  This time we’ll be looking at the top 10 iPad apps of 2012.  What’s most interesting about this year’s list is the number of games – just 3, versus 7 apps meant for productivity and communication.  Drum roll please – the top 10 iPad apps of 2012, split between the top of the paid and free charts:

Top Free iPad Apps:
1. Skype for iPad (Skype Communications S.a.r.l) – This app is a shining example of the future totally living up to its science fiction hype. We may not have flying cars, meal replacement pills or hover boards, but by golly do we have video phones! The current version of the app also uses cellular data, so users aren’t tied to just places with WiFi access.  If the future is calling, we’ll likely be answering it via Skype and waving to it through the FaceTime cameras on our iPads.

2. Temple Run (Imangi Studios, LLC) – Temple Run feels like an old school platformer, with a couple of changes.  The camera angle is top-down rather than side-scrolling and uses the player/avatar’s point of view, and there aren’t really “levels” to complete – just threshold numbers of coins to collect to unlock parts of the mural in the game.  Although the game is free to play, the app allows players to purchase upgrades to various items in the game’s “store”.

3. Facebook (Facebook, Inc.) – I’ll re-iterate here what I said about the iPhone version: “Here it is, the 800-lb gorilla of social media – an app for the site that everybody loves to hate, but can never give up on… It’s been updated this year, to be faster and leaner and it really does seem to be getting better as time goes on (even though the developers seem to be bent on changing it all as soon as everybody gets used to one layout).  Just about the only thing not available in the mobile app is the ability to play games, since the browser-based games are all dependent on Flash – and we all know what Steve thought about Flash!”  Also note that the iPad version of the app bears a positive resemblance to the website itself, and has the redeeming characteristic of making Timeline actually bearable.

4. Netflix (by Netflix, Inc.) – This app is just about the most entertaining way I can think of to completely max out a wireless data plan in the space of an afternoon!  In fact, a 2011 report cited Netflix as the largest source of North American web traffic, accounting for 33% of traffic during peak periods. That’s a lot of movies and TV shows streaming to iPads, kids! (In fact, at the highest bandwidth tier, it’s possible to stream just over 2GB/hour – best to stay close to the wireless router for this one…)

5. The Weather Channel for iPad (The Weather Channel) – When you absolutely, positively have to know whether to grab a jacket or an umbrella, accept no substitute. This is the mobile app presence from the venerable cable/satellite channel. The app features animated, customizable weather maps; radar maps and pollen information; tweets and user photos; as well as news coverage and storm footage.

 

Top Paid iPad Apps:
1. Angry Birds Space HD (Rovio Ent. Ltd) – Again, I’ll copy here what I said about this app in the “Top 10 iPhone apps of 2012” article, as well as mentioning that this game (like any other) benefits from the extra screen real estate offered on the iPad: “The number 1 mobile game of all time returns for a fourth installment, and this time it takes the physics off land and literally into outer space.  Each planet in the game has its own gravitational field, which all affect the birds that players can launch at the bad piggies. The game was debuted in March with a video presented by a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The NASA connection continued in August with the release of the first 20 levels of the Red Planet pack, which coincided with the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars.”

2. Where’s My Water? (Walt Disney) – This app is also a repeat from the iPhone app roundup: “This is a physics puzzler that involves water, pipes, cartoon alligators and rubber duckies. Players are required to fill Swampy the Alligator’s tub so that he can take a bath. In order to do that, they must dig through dirt and reroute the flowing water to Swampy’s tub.  They also have to avoid obstacles such as algae, poison mud and toxic mud. It has the distinction of being the 25 billionth app downloaded from the app store, by a user in China, and won an “Apple Design Award” at the 2012 WWDC.”

3. Pages (Apple Inc.) – This is the first of the top 10 iPad apps of 2012 that comes directly from Apple, instead of third-party developers. It’s more than just a mere word processing program.  Paired with iCloud and a Bluetooth keyboard, Pages transforms your iPad from just a way to consume data into a way to actually create amazing content of your own. And, using Mail and iTunes File Sharing, you can move your documents directly from the iPad to your Mac or PC.

4. Draw Something (OMGPOP, Inc.) – This is the last of the repeat apps from the iPhone list, and I’ll mention again that it benefits from the iPad’s larger screen. “This is the paid version of the app listed above in the top free iPhone apps, which means no ads in-app, as well as 2000 more words, 200 free coins and 5 free hints.”

 

5. Notability (Drive Sync Ginger Labs, Inc.) – This powerful note-taking app allows users to handwrite, type, record audio and add other media to the notes they’re saving. It also includes an auto-sync feature that allows users to save their notes and documents to cloud services such as DropBox and Google Drive. As an aside, I will also mention that my favorite culinary Mac user, Alton Brown (of Good Eats and Iron Chef America fame) has been tweeting with Post-It notes of late, and created the hashtag #MadeInNotability recently when he was tweeting from the road and ran out of physical sticky notes. Can’t get much cooler than that.

 
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SOFTFlex Touch for iPad Review

Soft Touch Flex

A few days ago I received a package in the mail from Soft Touch Manufacturing. This is a little company that you might not heard of. However they had a product that they wanted reviewed. I had a few ideas about the product before it was shipped to me, however this is a new accessory and very few people have had the opportunity to mess around with it. Because of this, even with my amazing research talents, I had no real idea what I was getting my hands on. I present to you the Soft Touch Flex!

 

 

I was mildly interested to give this product a trial run. I opened up the box with a little interest, and found that this system was everything that I was promised.

The holder (as it is described by the manufacturer) was incredibly easy to put together. It was as simple as connecting and tightening the bolt. My iPad 3rd Gen fit easily into the spring powered grips and it was able to hold the weight of my iPad in every position that I had attempted to use it! This made it rather easy to find the best spot on my desk for the mount. There were a few basic limitations that were caused more by the basic nature of the iPad than anything else. One such limitation was the iPad touchscreen. This requires you to mount it within arms reach. The flexible design of the holder made up for this by allowing you to have a bit more freedom in where you mounted your iPad. It works like you would expect. Just slide the iPad into the loving embrace, and let the Flex hold on to it for you.

There were a few details that troubled me. First, though the construction feels sturdy enough, it is still plastic. The arms themselves feel like they could be the weakest link, and should anything fail, it would be that.

Even though I have only used the Flex for a few days it has already found a permanent place on my desk. I would highly recommend picking one up if you, like me, enjoy using your iPad as a part of your every day computer work.

My Apple Approved Rating: 5/10 (Nice product does what it’s supposed to… if I had plenty of spare cash I would buy one)

 
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App review – Mactracker

Mactracker

 

Mactracker (free)

Seller – Ian Page

Rated 4+

Version(s) reviewed: 2.2 (mobile); 7.0.1 (desktop)

Requirements:  iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad; iOS 5.0 or later (mobile); OS X 10.7 or later (desktop via Mac App Store); OS X 10.6.8 or later (desktop via direct download from http://www.mactracker.ca)

I used to support Apple products for a living; I’m also a bit of an obsessive completist when it comes to Apple history. As such, I wanted and needed a complete, accurate list of Apple’s hardware and software. Mactracker provides just that sort of list with a fast, intuitive, truly exhaustive enumeration of every Macintosh ever made.  It begins with the 128k Mac and ends with Apple’s present product lineup.

For both the mobile and desktop versions, Ian has laid the information out in several broad classifications, including Desktops, Notebooks, Devices and Software.  Inside those classifications are finer details. For instance, Devices includes Apple TV, Displays, Printers and the Newton, amongst many others.

Tap a category on the mobile app for a list of all the products in that category — as well as beautifully-done icons for each. Tap on an individual product to see a spec sheet that includes details about hardware, software, release dates, support status and just about any other important bit of trivia you might ever need to know about, say, Great-aunt Myrtle’s Bondi Blue iMac.  The same information is present in the desktop, but the interaction is (of course) more point-and-click.  It’s also possible to have spec sheets open for multiple products in the desktop app, and each has its own window.  The mobile app is optimized for iPad, so the tablet layout looks more like the desktop app.

All this information is fascinating and valuable, but ultimately available online for free from all the same resources that Ian has used.  The thing that would have persuaded me to pay actual money for this app — beyond its sheer usefulness — is the fact that the hardware spec sheets include the startup chime for each and every product that had one.  Making a grown-up fangirl remember how she took her first sip of the Kool-Aid is a happy thing indeed.

This app is a godsend for anyone who supports (especially older) Macs or their owners, either professionally or on a “my niece is the Mac expert in the family” basis.

 
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