Volume Limit on Apple Watch

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I’ve just discovered this, hidden away in Settings under “Sounds and Haptics”  is a “Volume Limit” feature. I’d missed this. On the iPhone it’s under Music settings, not sound. Still, I’d recommend everyone set this to 60% to avoid hearing loss when streaming music from your Apple Watch.

Update: the latest operating systems have moved the setting to a new “Headphone Safety” menu.

The Card Missing From Our Digital Wallets

If you’re lucky enough to own a smartphone these days, as most people do, then you can most likely use it to replace your wallet. With Apple Pay and Google Pay, you can spend money without the need for cash for bank cards. Store Cards such as Tesco Clubcard can also be placed in your digital wallet. I even store my library card on my phone thanks to this app which lets you digitise any barcode based pass and place it in your Apple Wallet.  I’m so used to this situation now, that I rarely go out with a wallet on my person. Once train ticket machines started taking contactless there really was no need.  One less thing to lose, one less thing to remember.

However I ran into a slight hitch the other day when I ordered something online from for pickup in an Apple Store. I placed the order while walking through the shopping centre, knowing the item was in stock and would be ready for me to pick up within 30 minutes.  I paid using Apple Pay on my phone, and an order ticket was placed into my digital wallet. About 10 minutes later a notification appeared on my phone saying it was ready for pickup. Excited, I took the escalator to the upper floor of the shopping mall and walked into the Apple Store, phone in hand, QR code ready on the screen.  All went well until the Apple Store employee asked to see some identification. I had none. Why Would I? I use a digital wallet. In many respects, I am the prototypical Apple Customer, using minimal time from staff and making my purchase online using Apple Pay, from an iPhone. Yet they wouldn’t give me my new AirPods without seeing some form of identification.

While I understand that you can’t just handover expensive items without some kind of validation in place, I was surprised that Apple, of all companies, did not have a digital alternative in place. You could argue it’s not the role of Big Tech to be creating digital ID cards, and perhaps there are benefits to plastic-based identification. In the UK, thankfully there are no laws requiring citizens to carry identification (even when driving). That said, I’d love to see a solution that works in tandem with our existing systems and doesn’t exclude anyone who doesn’t own a smartphone, or wants to keep using plastic ID.

Forever Getting “Please Seek Assistance” as You Exit the Train Station? It’s Your AirPods

I thought I was just unlucky. It seemed that around 50% of the time I tried to exit a train station by inserting my ticket into the barrier, I’d receive a message asking me to seek assistance. Whether starting or finishing the journey in my local town of Reading or further afield, it seemed to happen very frequently, while everyone else seemed to strut through the barrier with no problem at all.

Today it finally clicked. I’ve been putting my train ticket in my pocket along with my AirPods. The charging case has the same satisfying click as you close it as a premium brand car does when shutting the door. It achieves this using magnets. My theory is that the magnets are interfering with the magnetic strip on the train ticket.

Paper train tickets probably aren’t long for this world anyway, but if you’re also experiencing the humiliation of having to speak to an actual human being on your commute, check your AirPods or other devices bearing magnets aren’t near your ticket.

Can an iPad Replace a Laptop?

Ever since I was convinced to buy an iPad 4 years ago, I’ve been a massive fan and predicted they would eventually replace laptops for most consumers. Just as not everyone needs a truck, not everyone needs a laptop right?

It turns out however, that iPad sales are falling. This is more likely a combination of people having much larger phones, iPads being reliable and not needing replacing, lack of innovation (today’s fifth generation iPad does the same as a second generation, only faster), and the fact that the vast majority of consumers don’t need anything more powerful than a phone. It saddens me that despite the Internet being a place where anyone can publish anything at very low cost (or for free in many cases), most people use it to consume TV and post frivolous Facebook updates that don’t require much more than a mobile phone – but that’s another topic altogether.

At the other end of the scale you have business and professional users, who tend to use laptops because they offer much more power. Processing power isn’t as far off as you might think, the power difference is now in the software. Take for example a simple task I needed to achieve last week – downloading an MP3 from a web site (legit I might add! It was to accompany a course I was taking) and add it to my iTunes Match Library so it would be available on all of my devices. This is easy to do on a Mac or Windows laptop, but impossible on an iPad. That’s ridiculous.

The other software issue that holds back these devices is the transient nature of applications. At any time your application might get terminated due to lack of memory. This rarely results in any loss of work, as developers usually code with this in min (until iOS 4, this happened overtime you left an app). Not many developers both to restore the state of an application (as they are suppose to), and even when they do having to wait for it to load again is painful.

So the answer is no, an iPad can’t replace a laptop at the moment. I would like to see Apple push forward with this vision. Why not have a simplified version of Xcode for the iPad? It could be a great way to introduce people to programming (and could feature the Playground function introduced last year). The built in applications should be updated to support ‘Open In’ so I can open that MP3 file in the Music app, for example.

For many users, nothing will beat a dual screen setup with a mouse and keyboard – but I can’t help thinking that 90% of my non-work computing needs could be done on an iPad if the software were better.

Update: 31/5/2015

I’ve been using an external keyboard with my iPad a lot recently, so hardware wise it’s more on par with a laptop. Here’s what I miss most from a full blown Windows/Mac laptop:

  • The ability to have more than one document open within a single app. Some apps such as Mail support having mutipe drafts open at once, but all the apps I use most frequently such as Microsft Word, Pages and Excel can only open one document at a time. It takes about 30 seconds to close a document and to load another, which just slows me down.
  • Lack of keyboard shortcuts – such as being able to press ‘Enter’ to send a message, or CTRL + Enter to send an email. Also being able to switch between documents / apps using the keyboard would help too.
  • Applications getting unloaded from memory. Or rather lazy developers not bothering to reload the state of an app when it gets reloaded. Again, like with the document switching – it gets in the way when you return to a presentation and find the app has gone back to the open screen.

Blast From the Past: Netscape 6

While digging throgh the archives, I found a review I wrote of Netscape 6 back in 2000. I rememeber it being printed in the letter pages of .net magazine. By the way,I was 15 when I wrote this..

I started off by downloading the installer, and after about 1 hour, it crashed and failed to resume. So I waited for it to appear on the .net cover disc, and to my excitement, on the 22nd of December 2000 I received issue 80 of .net and installed Netscape 6.

First impressions were OK, at least the installer had worked. The only thing I use communicator for really is to browse newsgroups, and so the first thing I tried was to connect the password protected server I use. Now NS4 didn’t remember my password every session, that was livable, NS6 however can’t even remember it within 1 session, every time I changed group or composed a message I was asked to re-enter my password. Maybe fiddling around in the settings could solve this, but at the speed which NS6 functions, looking around the settings dialogue is a chore. Browsing the web in NS6 was slow and many sites didn’t appear correctly, and please Netscape, for the last time – I DON’T want to join Netcenter!!

So overall, I’m completely unhappy with Netscape 6, it may look nice, but it’s slow and bug-ridden.

Compare it to Internet Explorer and there’s no competition. Internet Explorer works, it works fast, and doesn’t have (as many) annoying bugs. People mock Microsoft for the occasional bug and security hitch, but don’t seem to act the same way with companies like Netscape release a program like this. Netscape is a tacky,  poor quality, below standard web browser suit,  even if it was bundled with Windows sixty times over, I would never use it. Internet Explore works, and I’ll be sticking with my current set of applications: IE5 for web browsing, Eudora for email and Netscape 4 for newsgroups.

That review seems so dated now. “What’s Eudora?” I hear you saying. How times have changed. Now it is IE that is dog-slow and most likely to render your site incorrectly. Microsoft really need to up their game. IE8 might be opening up a new process for each tab, but that’s no excuse for it taking 2 seconds. Chrome manages to do the same and not keep the user waiting. Just as they have done with Windows 7, they need to listen to users. The success of Firefox I believe is not because of its speed or ease of use, they are average, but because if its extentions. It’s a lot more difficult to built an extenion for IE than it is for Firefox.