Category Archives: iCloud

The Highs and Lows of Apple’s WWDC 2012 Announcements


World Wide Developer Conference announcements today were chock full of great things including new Macs, Mountain Lion, iCloud and iOS6. I’m going to pick my favorites and identify a few disappointments as well.

The Hardware

Slim New Retina Macbook Pro

The completely redesigned Retina MacBook Pros were the most exciting announcement today. Two new lightweight retina models with 2880 by 1800 pixel 15 inch displays are available now. These are incredible machines weighing only 4.46 lbs but packed with unprecedented power. Their dazzling 4x resolution displays still deliver 7 hours of battery life.

The base model at $2199 has a 256 gb SSD drive and 8 gigs of RAM. The top model with a 512 gb SSD drive and faster processor goes for $2799. Both models are built on the new Ivy Bridge chip architecture. If you have the new high rez iPad, you will ache for one of these new Retina notebooks. Nothing else will do.

All of the new Macs come with a coupon for a free copy of Mountain Lion when it is released in July. Before we get to downsides, I wanted to mention that new iPad Smart Cases in six colors were released today and fit the iPad 2 and 3. $49.

Disappointment #1. Bringing up the rear in the hardware race are new Macbook Airs. Although they are more powerful and offer more for your money than last year’s models, no big game changers here. But, if you are fine working on a really good normal resolution display, you’ll get more speed with Ivy Bridge processors, two much faster USB 3/2 ports and 80% faster graphics processing. You won’t be hurting carrying around and using such powerful yet light and easy notebooks. The Air 11 at 2.3 lbs is about 1/2 the weight of the new retina MacBook Pro 15.

Disappointment #2. Although I haven’t ever owned a Mac Pro, many at WWDC were disappointed to see that the Mac Pro got a very minimal upgrade that did not include Thunderbolt or USB 3 or much of a power boost after a two year wait. No mention was made of new iMacs. Not now, but they will certainly come.

OS X Mountain Lion

While we are talking about Macs, I will highlight the best new features in Mountain Lion. A license for as many personal computers as you own will be only $20 and you’ll be able to upgrade from Snow Leopard if you aren’t running Lion yet.

Integration with iPhone and iPad is the big benefit of Mountain Lion. If you own one or two of these little devices (and that’s likely at this stage), you’ll want to be able to move your data seamlessly between all three.

Mountain Lion delivers four big features via iCloud that will make things much easier. These functions become much more valuable when they are everywhere! You are going to love your Mac again. You get:

  1. Docs in the Cloud. With Mountain Lion, the Mac can take its place alongside iPhone and iPad in creating a seamless experience with your iCloud-supported documents in Pages, Numbers, Keynote and many third party apps I use like IA Writer, Byword and many more.
  2. iMessage. Your Mac gets to play well with messaging on iPad and iPhone including sending text messages. You can start a conversation on one device and continue on the other.
  3. Notification Center. All your disparate Mac notifications get the iOS notifications treatment so are well-organized and contained in a readable list that can be viewed at any time.
  4. Reminders. This popular list maker already on your iPhone and iPad is now seamlessly kept by iCloud and just as available on your Mac. Each device can keep local items but also can keep lists in iCloud where they can be shared between your devices and Macs.
  5. Notes which will be a boon to those who use Notes on iPhone and/or iPad.

Three other new features made my day:

  1. Dictation is available in every app including Microsoft Word! When you and your Mac are all alone, you’ll find this new dictation feature can save a lot of time and allow you to capture your thoughts in a new, spontaneous way.
  2. Airplay mirroring from your Mac may come in very handy for making presentations or enlarging what you are working on to share with friends, family or colleagues. TV and video might be fun too!
  3. Safari is (finally) getting it a single box for both search and URLs. Safari is faster with the fastest Javascript on any browser.

Not to be outdone, iOS 6 came through with flying colors. My favorites are:

  1. A much more powerful Siri. And it will run in full on the new iPad. Best new power is the ability to launch apps.
  2. The ability to designate VIPs in Mail so you can see what is important quickly.
  3. iCloud Safari tabs that share between Mac and iOS devices. You’ll be able to pick up where you left off switching between devices.
  4. New iPhone calling features like the much appreciated new Do Not Disturb option with silent, non-vibrating notifications and lots of ways to quickly reply or remind yourself later.
  5. Robust and beautiful 3D Maps with turn by turn directions.
  6. Seamless integration with your Mac as mentioned above with Documents, Notifications, iMessages, Reminders and Notes.

IOS6 Disappointments:

  1. The first generation iPad and third generation iPod touch won’t run iOS6.
  2. Any feature you wanted that’s not here.

There are a million and one other features in iOS 6 that I’m not going to mention here. You can see lots more about the new hardware, Mountain Lion and iOS6 at Apple’s website. I recommend the video by Jony Ive and Bob Mansfield on the new retina MacBook Pros especially. The full Keynote is available on the Apple site.

Update Best of the Web on this so far [June 12 9 am PDT]:

Writing on Mac, iPad, iPhone – Best Apps

iPad, Macbook Air, iPhone 4 side by sideThese days people have two, three even four computers when you count smartphones and tablets. It helps a lot if the writing tools you have can roam freely between Mac, iPad and iPhone. Some apps I recommend work on all three which can be ideal. I’ll look at four different writing situations and the top app for each.

Besides app power, one must consider return on learning curve and whether or not an app has staying power. Evernote, for example,  recently acquired additional millions in  funding so can tick the staying power checkbox with an exclamation mark. Money isn’t everything, though. Nimble and innovative independent developers, like Marco Arment of Instapaper fame, have often beaten out much better endowed competitors.

As an independent knowledge professional, two things are critical:

  • You can’t do your work without Tools and Technology.
  • Time is short – Learning curves need to be kept in check.

Going Apple. By consolidating around Apple products right now, you save time on those infernal learning curves and position yourself for the future. With iPhone and iPad hitting the top customer satisfaction ratings year after year, it behooves you to choose them if you already have a Mac.  The trifecta of Mac-iPad-iPhone is the most streamlined, powerful, future-proof toolkit available.

iPad is Where the Action Is. I’ve been focusing on the iPad in this blog since the first iPad came out March 2010. Most posts are about iPad apps for knowledge professionals. The reason I focus here is that the iPad is changing the way we work. Knowledge professionals need to learn about this new kind of computer and what it can do for you.

These are early days. There are lots of apps and some are still getting better at a rapid rate. There are clear winners but victory is fleeting. Some apps have benefitted by being early but have lagged and can’t compete a year or two later. Newer entrants that took more time to make better apps or have leveraged the latest iOS, hardware and emerging ideas, have taken the lead in many cases. Writing Kit and Drafts are perfect examples.

Since I write software myself, albeit using FileMaker Pro (which does have an iPad and iPhone counterpart by the way), I focus on the software for iPad and iPhone.

Mac Still Matters. The Mac is part of the picture and Mac apps can be synergetic partners with iPad and iPhone apps. That’s Apple’s plan. Apple isn’t pushing the Mac so much as it is reinventing computing on all three of its platforms: Mac, iPad and iPhone.

The Cloud is the Glue. The fourth partner in the mix is the Cloud and iCloud. Dropbox has developed quite a following among iPhone and iPad users, especially for those who want to do a bit of real work on their mobile device(s). Since iOS has this quirk of not having a shared storage place on board (like the Finder on Mac), you can substitute the Dropbox cloud for that shared storage spot.

The couple of gigs Dropbox provides is enough for most document sharing schemes and you can get more by inviting friends or paying a few bucks. I have light concerns about security from hackers, lost laptops and government prying eyes but Dropbox is so handy that I use it anyway as needed – without overdoing it. By the way, I have least concerns about Apple than any other cloud provider which leads me to iCloud.

iCloud. The new Cloud on the block. The “it just works” thing about iCloud is completely addictive. I turned iCloud on in February and it has been working flawlessly for me. These are still early days, though, since most apps don’t support iCloud yet. Brooks Review just wrote a good piece on iCloud today.

Dropbox Does Have Advantages. The one issue with iCloud is it doesn’t allow for sharing data between apps. But Dropbox does. It takes a decent app to be programmed to allow you to use the same dropbox folder or all dropbox folders, but when it is, you can then avoid using many folders for similar kinds of things if you happen to be using three or so writing apps which is what I am going to recommend in a minute.

My Top Picks for Writing Apps

Four Kinds of Writing Apps. Writing is a big deal for a knowledge professionals and all writing is not alike. I recommend you have at least two writing apps and I use three. That doesn’t count some other Mac apps that come into play from time to time.

Drafts App iConCapturing Quick Notes. Right now the coolest capture app on iPhone is Drafts from Agile Tortoise. What makes it great for capture is that when you open the app, it instantly creates a new document, handles naming for you, and brings up the keyboard. If you have the iPhone 4S, you also get a microphone key that lets you dictate the note. Also, Drafts excels at getting your notes from Drafts to where you need them for a project. You can send your note on to email, the clipboard, Dropbox, Pages, Writing Kit, Elements, iA Writer, Byword, PlainText, WriteRoom, TaskPaper and more. Drafts is a great example of do one thing well and play well with others. This is a great new trend for apps on the iPad and iPhone. Drafts is not yet available on iPad, there you may want to go with your favorite distraction free text editor to get a speedy open for those important fleeting thoughts and notes. (Drafts 99¢ in the App store).

Distraction Free Pure Writing. Most of the best plain text editor writing apps these days offer a really good distraction free writing experience. The best experience is iA Writer, but there is competition here. Just know that iA Writer is super simple, clean and pristine with a truly great monospaced font. Also, iA Writer is available across the board on Mac ($8.99 in the Mac App Store), iPad and iPhone (iOS Universal app 99¢). That’s where you get the most mileage if all 3 apps are really good which is the case with iA Writer (iA stands for Information Architects and that’s what these people are). If you are willing to go down a notch in clean and simple but still want distraction reduction, try Byword. Byword is also available on Mac ($10), iPad and iPhone ($3) and it is more powerful and gives you some customization options in return for a wee bit of distraction.

Longer Document Online Writing. I just wrote about this option in my last piece on why you should be using Writing Kit for iPad and iPhone when you write. Writing Kit is a pleasure to use with some great typefaces, a wonderful extra keyboard row, built-in Duck Duck Go search and a browser plus deep integration with Instapaper and much more. Here’s where you can write your blog post, eBook or anything that will require a bit of onine research along the way. The only weaknesses here are that this is a full-on rig! Writing Kit gets out of your way, but its powerful tools at your fingertips aren’t going to provide quite the pristine zen-like experience of an iA Writer. However, what you get in return is sheer efficiency with a lot less time lost to interminable app-switching. ($5 for both iPad/iPhone).

Word Processing. I seem to avoid this category more often than not, but you may either have a long-term love affair with Microsoft Office, have to live with it due to company policy, or just want a real word processor for your writing needs. If so and you have a choice, you should start with Pages which is available for $20 on Mac and $10 for the universal app for iPad and iPhone. Pages has great iCloud document handling which will get even better in Mountain Lion (right now the Mac is lagging iOS relative to iCloud and you have to actually download things yourself from iCloud when on a Mac. I also highly recommend Keynote at the same prices as an amazing all-purpose creation app that will do graphics, outlining, presentation-creation and animation. It’s not strictly a writing app but you sure will find it handy and it does work with all 3 of the holy trinity.

One Last Thing to Look Forward to. I’m a sucker for index cards as an organizing tool and really think Scrivener on Mac rocks. It’s available on Windows too. Scrivener on Mac is so hot that I am willing to hold out a lot of hope for what we will see when they release their iPad and iPhone versions of Scrivener. Beware of vaporware, folks but this could be really good. Meanwhile, these various writing apps are so good that I would never wait before meeting my needs now with what is real and available on iPad and iPhone. Happy writing!

What I Did to Migrate from MobileMe to iCloud

I migrated from MobileMe to iCloud last weekend and have lived to tell the tale. I’ve waited three days before posting just to see if something would go terribly wrong. But so far, so good. Just wanted to let you know what I did to get here in iCloud.

What is iCloud Again? iCloud is a whole new architecture for providing services to Apple devices from the cloud. In its first iteration, it supports email, photos, contacts, calendar, Find my iPhone and syncing iWork documents and other documents from iOS apps that adhere to its protocols in their construction. As a longtime computer professional, I was cautious about migrating to iCloud. [Wikipedia, Apple]

I have 3 Macs (2 MacBook Airs and an iMac running OS X Lion) and 3 iOS devices (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4S and iPad 2). I also have used MobileMe for years and have used that data and done some syncing from my Macs and iOS devices to MobileMe.

I was concerned that the migration to MobileMe might get mixed up somewhere and cause me to either lose data or end up with a lot of duplicate contacts or calendar entries or even a little of both. So far as I can tell that hasn’t happened.

I have 2 Apple IDs. I have the Apple ID I got with MobileMe which is an email address I use and I have a different email address as an Apple ID I use to make iTunes and App store purchases. I was concerned what would happen with that. Would that be a problem?

I purchased the eBook Take Control of iCloud from tidbits.com and read everything in the introductory chapters plus the setup chapters and anything that pertained to MobileMe. This book goes out of its way to make sure you are aware of every gotcha that might occur and coaches you to take precautions necessary to avoid them. This emphasis on gotchas doesn’t make the book the most fun read, but it seems to have served its purpose.

I did 4 main things to get my Macs ready for Migration to iCloud:

  1. On every Mac, I made sure my software was up to date (your Macs need to be running OS X Lion 10.7.2 or later for them to be fully iCloud compatible — you can still use iCloud without Lion but it is probably better to wait). This was easy because I was already on Lion on these Macs.
  2. I backed up these iCloud related data sets: my Mail folder, my Safari bookmarks, my Calendars and Contacts. There is an Export command in Safari, iCal and Address Book. This takes very little time for each Mac except your Mail folder which is in the Library folder of your Home folder might be large and take a while to backup.
  3. I backed up all my Macs with SuperDuper. I use SuperDuper and its Smart backup option so that tends to take a couple hours per Mac.

Then I got my iOS devices ready in two steps:

  1. On every iOS device, I made sure I was on iOS 5.1 the latest versionI checked and I was already on 5.1 on all of my devices.
  2. I connected each iOS device to the Mac I have synced to and unchecked all syncing options under Information. The reason you want to do this is that you can run into a problem if syncing is set to be done both to your computer and to iCloud and it can generate a lot of duplicates. I had to apply the changes which triggered a full backup and upload of purchases and all the rest. Each of these took an hour or so. It might have taken less time but I hadn’t done this syncing in quite some time.

I was instructed in Take Control of iCloud to do all the migrations of all Macs first and then the iOS devices after. It advised to try to do them all sequentially rather than space this process out over days because you wind up with something weird if some Macs are wanting to use MobileMe and others iCloud.

Sunday night during the Grammies, I started doing migrations to iCloud. That all went pretty fast. I turned on most services but held back calendar and contacts wanting to avoid any chance of problems. I can’t say I got the full entertainment value out of the Grammies though.

I did have one problem in the process which I think is avoidable. After my Macs were migrated to iCloud, I turned on iCloud in my 3 iOS devices. That was OK. I turned on backup to iCloud (knowing I had complete backups on my Mac should they be needed). That was still OK, but then I said Backup Now on all 3 devices at once. I’m not sure that was a good idea. None of the backups finished before I went to bed. The iPad 2 said it would take 48 hours to backup. I let them all run over night with some trepidation.

In the morning, the iPad still had 24 hours to go it said, the iPhone 4S backup had failed and the iPhone 3GS had completed. One out of 3 aint bad maybe with my damn the torpedoes approach. I left the iPad plugged in and idle the rest of the day and it finished by evening. I kept using my iPhone 4S and figured I would try a backup once the iPad had finished. And that’s what I did. All done. From now on, the various devices can be told to backup now at any time but they should be plugged in and idle so overnight is the best time. I don’t plan to run multiple backups at once.

So far I have not seen duplicates in my calendars or contacts. Three days of normal use isn’t a very lengthy testing process. You may want to check back in a couple weeks if you aren’t in a big hurry to see if I’m still just as happy with the migration.

Also, I will either post again or do an update to this post to tell you how iCloud life is going. So far it is kind of invisible in an it just works kind of a way. Hoping that will continue and syncing will become a non-issue from here on out.

There were two big reasons to migrate. First, I wanted to take advantage of some the apps I have that can store their data in iCloud and make that data available seamlessly across my iOS devices and in some cases my Macs. Second, the clock is ticking on that June 2012 deadline when MobileMe will cease to exist.

I hope this will help some of you decide what to do about iCloud and help those of you who take the plunge. I do recommend that Take Control of iCloud book since my descriptions here are pretty cursory.