Speed Up Your Mac

Apparently, I’ve been using the MacBook with crippled fan for over a year. I have noticed a kernel_task using up all processing time. I found out that it was the operating system throttling performance to stop overheating. It does this by running a non-processor intensive task. This task has higher priority than user tasks including the processor-intensive tasks that are heating up the processor. The effect is that the processor temperature is lowered. But also poor system responsiveness and overall performance.

When I found out about this, I concluded that the fan was faulty and opening  up the Mac confirmed it. I ordered a replacement fan and today it finallly arrived. I immediately installed it and the Mac promptly sped up. It felt like the same huge speed improvement when I upgraded to 8GB RAM and SSD. A fan is officially the third best upgrade for speeding up your Mac.

iOS 9 and Ionic Side Menus

I encountered an issue with Ionic side menus where a previous view would partially obscure the current view. I updated everything, checked all my JS and HTML templates, verified links and state transitions, all to no avail.

I was stuck for quite a while until I finally decided that it’s probably an iOS-specific issue. A search then led me to this Ionic blog entry from 2 months(!) ago: http://blog.ionic.io/ios-9-potential-breaking-change/. I downloaded and applied the patch and that was it.

The issue is caused by an iOS 9 bug that affects AngularJS and thus Ionic. It’s supposedly “isolated to intermittent UI/navigation issues on some apps”. And, of course, I was one of the lucky ones. I can’t believe it hasn’t been fixed yet!

First Impression: Apple Watch Sport

apple-watch-sport - 10I got my hands on Edong’s Apple Watch Sport and, with his permission, I unboxed it, took some photos, and played with it a bit.

The packaging is unusually big and bulky for Apple who have been steadily reducing the size of their product packaging for years. But it seems to be part of their premium and luxury message for the Apple Watch.

The 42mm case is rectangular and made of aluminium with a space grey anodized coating. Everything is smooth and rounded with no sharp edges or corners to be seen or felt. Knowing beforehand that it is 42mm, I wasn’t expecting that it would be quite small and light. But it is.

The Ion-X screen covers the whole face and is rounded at the edges. It is black and shiny when off and the display is very sharp when on. Nice to look at in either state. It has force-touch which means touching it with varying levels of force result in different actions. It is also very responsive though force-touching needs some getting used to.

The digital crown on the right side is big and quite effortless to turn and push. So with the other button.

The back has those scifi-looking sensors for reading your heart-rate.

The strap is black silicone rubber with a clever clasp. You button it on and slip the excess strap under the clasp. Very neat. And you can change straps or bracelets without any tools.

The whole watch is well-built. It looks and feels the high-end device you expect from Apple. Even more, it looks and feels like a futuristic device from science fiction. But aside from small nods to traditional watches it doesn’t pretend to be a watch but instead steps ahead and defines itself as a new class of wrist wear, the so-called smartwatch.

It looks like Apple has another winner on its hand (or wrist).

Two iPhones and a Watch

As widely expected, Apple announce the iPhone 6 at their September 9 event. Actually two iPhones. Specifications-wise, they’re actually average. So they’re quite disappointing to some (and always disappointing to Android fans). The features are pretty much normal for other (read: Android) phones. It doesn’t even have QHD (1440Ă—2560) which some Android flagship phones like the LG G3 already have.

But Apple doesn’t usually go for bleeding edge technology for the sake of it. Why go beyond overboard with the pixels per inch (ppi) when you can make just the same (or actually much much more) revenue for less cost (of high-resolution displays). You probably can’t even tell the difference (I know I can’t) when holding the phone at normal usage distance.

Why use new technologies when they’re still unstable and potentially ruin the all-important user experience? Why offer 802.11ac when most installed routers and access points don’t support it? Why offer NFC when there’s no business case and corresponding strategy for it? But now they have Apple Pay, which was announced on the event.

But people are asking for bigger phones because of more media consumption (to quote a friend) and so they delivered a big phone and a bigger phone.

I do hope they will offer a smaller version for us who still like our things small and beautiful. Unfortunately, other than the display size and the NFC, the iPhone 6 and 6 plus are more incremental  improvements. So for now the iPhone 5s neatly fills in the slot for a small phone in the product range. That may show up on next year’s iPhone 6 upgrade or in two years on the iPhone 7 range.

But the big thing during the event was the now classic “one more thing”: the Apple Watch. It’s actually more of a fitness/health monitor with extra functionality which just happens to include telling time. Or you can also say it’s a watch because it watches your fitness/health :P In terms of the target market, it’s quite clear from the photos and videos they used: it is for the fashionable millennial fitness buff. And boy did they nail it!

The Apple Watch offers two case sizes (women’s and men’s), three case materials (stainless steel, aluminum, and gold) and a whole bunch of straps. Strap it on for the gym (or the route) along with the rest of your trendy gym wear, look fab doing your sets, and then go off to work and/or the coffee shop. If you’re still wearing your Apple Watch by then, even better. For Apple. Of course that would depend on the battery life on which Apple was silent. But if it’s better than the generally dismal battery life of most other, if not all, smartwatches, then Apple has a winner.

Most have known, or at least suspected that Apple is not just a hardware company, is not just a software company, but a lifestyle company. If you’re not convinced look at the iPod, the iPhone, U2, the iTunes festival, Beats, and now the Apple Watch which further reinforces that identity.

So a word of advice to Samsung and company: you’re not competing against a phone, you’re competing against a lifestyle. Good luck!

iOS 8 Beta

As expected iOS 8 was announced at WWDC and I grabbed the beta as soon as I could. The newer iOS 8 doesn’t stray too far from last year’s iOS 7’s look-and-feel but there are many new features and enhancements. Notable changes are the following:
  1. Integration with Apple Devices â€“ With Continuity you can go from any of your Apple devices and continue whatever your doing across devices. On supported applications of course. This includes Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. You can also answer calls and write messages. And finally there’s automatic WiFi hotspot.
  2. Integration with 3rd Party Apps â€“ This means two things. First, Apple is seamlessly integrating features into iOS that used to be provided by 3rd party apps (either on iOS, Android, or elsewhere) :P And second allowing 3rd party apps access to the OS and hardware. For example, keyboard apps to replace the default keyboard and payment apps to access TouchID.
  3. HealthKit â€“ the long-rumored foray of Apple into health and fitness. It’s basically an API for collecting health and fitness data as well as an app providing access to this data. Various health and fitness devices and 3rd party apps can register as data sources for the Health app which then consolidates all the health data including history, graphs, etc. Vitals is included. In addition, it provides About Me, health and medical details. There is even an emergency feature that will reveal About Me details that may be useful for emergency personnel that’s access from the lock screen.
  4. HomeKit – like HealthKit, this is basically an API for controlling and communicating with smart home devices. Since Apple doesn’t have Nest, it instead has a certification program. Which I think is actually good. Sticking to your core and not having to make everything yourself.
  5. Notification Center – you now take more action straight from the notification center including answering messages.
  6. Task Switcher – along (actually above) with running apps you now see the recent people you communicated with and call or write messages from there. I guess it’s for switching communication tasks.
  7. Camera and Photo Editor – Camera has new features such as timer, time-lapse. Photo editor has new features such as rotation and brightness and color adjustments
  8. Photos – new interface, new filing system (years, collections, moments)
  9. Siri – trying to get closer to Google Now. You can activate it by saying “Hey, Siri!”. It can now recognize songs (and buy them from the iTunes store).

Overall, I like where iOS 8 is heading and the beta itself is quite stable.