All About the New Apple File System


“Once APFS becomes available, Apple plans to make the process of switching to the new file system incredibly simple. You won’t need to back up your data and start again with a fresh OS install, thank God. Instead, there will be an option to seamlessly transition all your devices without losing any of your files.”

Cult of Mac (who I still haven’t completely forgiven for this).

appleclassicApple (and those of us who rely on its products) needs a new, modern, uniform file system.  No, it’s not some sexy new feature.  But it is integral to the efficiency and future of the devices we use.  All we can ask is that the transition is as painless as possible.  So far, it looks like it will be.

Notes on Notes and a Farewell to Evernote

Evernote cites ‘building the Evernote of tomorrow’ as one of the reasons for the price increase. The problem is, we as users really haven’t seen much of a change in their service.  For example, using Evernote as a basic notetaker is still a fairly painful experience. Exporting and sharing documents from Evernote is not as easy as it should be. I’m all for innovation, but asking the users to pay for it before you deliver is going to be a tough sell.

Katie Floyd, long-time Evernote user.

That’s a really good take.  I’ve been a Premium Evernote user for many, many years.  But even before this latest price increase, I’d cancelled my auto-renew, and moved my Notes to Apple’s Notes app.  The Notes app needs a lot of work, but Apple is chipping away at it.  And the fact is, I don’t really need a lot of bells and whistles on my note taking app.  I need two things.

One, the ability to file, manage and find as needed pdfs and other files, as a digital file cabinet for my paperless archival system.  For a long time I used Evernote for this.  Over time I realized I don’t need a separate, dedicated app for archiving and accessing documents.  Finder on my Mac, combined with Dropbox on all my devices, does this as well or better than Evernote.  Sure, I have to pay for Dropbox, but I’m going to do that anyway, so Evernote feels like an unnecessary spend.

Two, a simple but reasonably featured note taking app to take and keep notes for quick reference and some projects-in-progress.  Apple’s Notes app does this well enough.  It doesn’t handle pdfs perfectly, but it handles them well enough for quick reference purposes, again with the heavy archival lifting done via Finder and Dropbox.  And as bad as Notes is with pdfs, it handles them way, way better than OneNote.  I tried for 2 weeks to take notes and manage project materials in OneNote.  It just didn’t work for me.  At all.

So my current workflow is based on my ScanSnap scanner, scanning to designated folders, viewed and managed via Finder and backed up and synced via Dropbox.  With quick notes and oft-used reference cards residing in the Notes app.  Oh, and Google Keep serving as a free and handy cross-platform clipboard as needed.

Before today, I figured I’d continue to use my free Evernote account for something.  But the 2-device limit makes that infeasible.  I’m not mad at Evernote for trying to make more money.  I understand.  It’s just that the price hike on the heels of so little feature advancement leads me to pass.

Good luck Evernote, we had a good ride.

macOS Sierra’s Best Feature


That no one is talking about.

I’m pretty excited about Sierra the forthcoming new and renamed macOS.  I installed the developer preview on my MacBook Pro.  It’s my primary machine, so that was a stupid thing to do, and I don’t recommend it.

Citrix, a company guaranteed to be behind the curve on protocol deprecations, has not released a public beta of its Citrix Receiver, so I had to install El Capitan on a USB stick to boot into when connecting to my office.  My ScanSnap scanner software doesn’t work.  But otherwise, things are remarkably stable for the first (of many) beta versions.

9 to 5 Mac has a good hands-on video with many of the new features.

But the best feature, however, is that at long last

Zoom levels in Safari are sticky!!!  This will, at long last, allow me to switch from Chrome to Safari.  I’m very happy about that, because there are many advantages to working within the Apple environment.

Running without iPhones, Thin Pipes and Keyboard Hell


“When I take my iPhone with me on a run, my Apple Watch’s pace and distance estimates are highly accurate. Without my iPhone, it became so inaccurate it was useless.”

Source: Running without iPhone makes Apple Watch inaccurate | Cult of Mac

This is a giant problem.  Apple makes great devices, but more and more, Apple seems to be counting on our love of Apple to blind us to the things that these great devices inexplicably cannot do.

Bling is great, but you need to be at least as good at the basic stuff as the other devices you are trying to replace.  Sure, fitness is just one component of the Apple Watch, but if you agree with me that apps are not fun to use on the watch, then fitness and notifications are the primary things differentiating the Apple Watch from the watch John Cameron Swayze was hawking to the ladies the year I was born (I wonder how my Apple watch would like that dishwasher?).

When people ask how I like my Apple Watch, my answer is I like it, but don’t love it.  I (still) have to carry my iPhone with me when I work out, and I almost never open an app on it.  At least in my neighborhood, the Apple Watch is making slow progress in its efforts to claim the wrists of regular folks.  I’ve seen less than 5 in the wild.  I offered to buy my wife one.  She said no, because there are a ton of other options that do a better job of accurately tracking her runs.

Similarly, the new Apple TV has a lot of bling.  But under the hood, it lacks basic functionality (including, but not limited to, all those content deals Apple couldn’t get, and Amazon Prime Video), and requires far too much credentials keyboarding on the pretty but frustrating new remote.  Some of this (Amazon and other content) may not be Apple’s fault, but some of it is.  For example, on a slower internet connection,  my year old Amazon Fire TV still loads much faster than my brand-new Apple TV. That beautiful screen saver is awesome, but it’s not  why I bought the device.

If Apple wants us to continue to pay the Apple premium for new devices, those devices need to be mind-blowing, like the original iPhone and iPad, and not meh-inducing, like the Apple Watch and much of the new Apple TV.

All My Clouds are Raining on My Parade


“You’ll notice that, unlike the 1TB cap for Office 365 subscribers, not all of these conditions are aimed at abusers. No one could reasonably conclude that using the 15GB of storage offered to free customers would count as abusive. Heck, most phones have more storage than that. For whatever reason, Microsoft is trying to conserve as much space as possible on their servers.”

Source: Microsoft Downgrading OneDrive Storage Plans For All Users

I’ve been pretty impressed with Microsoft’s Mac and iOS offerings lately.  In fact, I’ve started using OneNote a lot (more on this later).  I was just about the extend my Office 365 trial (even though I won’t install the apps on my Mac because I DON’T WANT OUTLOOK ON MY MAC, and they don’t let you selectively install just the apps you want).

And then this.  It’s not the end of the world.  But the explanation clearly wasn’t thought out well.  You were doing great Microsoft.  Why do this now?  If it’s really about excess use, then “hidden cap” the unlimited storage at an amount that almost no one will reach.  Using the outliers as a reason to hose everyone is either a bad idea or horrible PR.  Or both.

Sigh.  Now I’ve got to rethink my cloud.

I use iCloud a lot.  I use Dropbox and Google Drive a lot.  I use Amazon Cloud Drive for some things.  And I was about to start using OneDrive for some other stuff.  OneDrive is the easy out, except I really like OneNote.

I’ve got to come up with a new plan that doesn’t require a sky full of different clouds.  Way not to help, Microsoft.

One Giant Step for Apple, One Small Step for Cord Cutters


I’ve been looking forward to the new Apple TV for a long time.  Partly because I love new Apple devices and partly because I am an acceptable device away from dumping DirecTV, and cutting the cord forever.  To date, the problem has been that there is not one comprehensive set-top box to rule them all.  There are numerous alternatives, with various strengths and common weaknesses.  I am a long time AppleTV user, all the way back to the first generation.  They have always been pretty good devices, much better at integrating with and serving up content within the Apple ecosystem than wrangling content from the multitude of other content providers.

And there’s always been that question about what, exactly, Apple wanted the AppleTV to be.

It took Apple a long time to decide whether the Apple TV is a hobby, a product, or something in between.  I’m still not sure we know.  My hunch is that Apple would like to make the Apple TV the one-stop device to rule all cord cutters, but the inability to work out deals with content providers who know the bundling gig is almost up has led Apple to settle for half-measures.  Accordingly, we end up with hardware sufficient for the task, likely unreleased software that would vastly improve the current experience, and insufficient content licenses to allow Apple to bring it all together.  In other words, when Eddy Cue says the Apple TV will be an add-on device for most users, he’s right.  Not because that was the design and intent, but because that’s the best they can do, for now.

So where does that leave us?

My third-generation Apple TV is a fine product, for limited purposes.  It’s great for Netflix, renting and buying movies from Apple, and watching Wake Forest get its ass kicked on ESPN3 (again, as long as I’m willing to dutifully subscribe to DirecTV and enter my credentials every so often).  It’s not sufficient for managing and watching network and cable television shows, because of the haphazard mishmash of separate apps that create a disjointed experience that would make even the most ardent Android user blush.  In fact, I’ve paid for iTunes subscriptions to TV shows I could theoretically access for free via a third-party app, simply because the third-party app process is so painful.  Sure, with enough effort and password entries, you can probably find fairly recent episodes of at least some of your favorite network television shows.  What you cannot do is create a unified playlist where your “subscribed” shows automatically appear for easy access and enjoyment.  Another big problem with prior Apple TVs (those of you in big cities with fat broadband pipes probably never experienced this) is underpowered components.  When I’m in town, with my 100 plus Mbps connection, everything plays almost instantly.  When I’m at the farm, where I’m lucky to get 5 Mbps speeds, it can take hours for a rented movie to start.  I always assumed this was solely due to internet download speeds, until I bought an Amazon Fire TV, and immediately noticed a significant reduction in waiting times.  Neither Apple nor Amazon has managed to produce a unified, elegant user experience on their set-top devices, but Amazon fire TVs are a lot faster than the prior generation Apple TVs.

I’m in town this weekend, so I haven’t had a chance to test my new Apple TV on a slow internet connection.  I’m assuming it will match or exceed the capabilities of my year old Amazon Fire TV.  If not, my shiny new Apple TV will be returned immediately.

I hoped the new Apple TV would solve most of these nagging problems, or at least give us hope that Apple is making progress in the cord cutting war.  The fact is, however, that the new Apple TV, both in appearance and experience, is a whole lot more like the last generation Apple TV than it is a new, improved and unified experience.  For example, while the initial setup of the new Apple TV seems easy and high techy, because you use a Bluetooth connection with your iPhone to do something,  you still have to initially enter your iTunes name and password over and over again, even for different Apple-provided features. It’s maddening, and surely unnecessary.

There is also no universal playlist or the equivalent.  Sure, we can search a few services (with hopefully more to come) with Siri (I’m a Siri liker, but not a Siri lover), but we don’t want to have to ask Siri to find us shows to watch every time we sit down.  We want to subscribe to shows at the lowest available cost and have them show up in a unified playlist.  How hard can that be?  DirecTV and TiVo have been doing it since the last century.

All the new colors are fine.  I’m glad there’s now an App Store.  Maybe one day there’ll be some decent apps.  Others may like the new ability to play games (though I wonder just how robust the Apple TV gaming platform will be; I have concerns).  But all of this seems like a paint job, when we need a complete remodel.

Now, back to passwords.  Not only is reentering your iTunes credentials over and over during setup a drag (it’s hard to explain how painful it is entering text with the new remote; you have to experience it to truly hate it), there is apparently no universal authentication for your cable or satellite subscriptions.  Which means when you download the various content provider apps, which so far are mostly identical to the old ones, you have to authenticate, every time.

In sum, when the QVC app is the best example of the improvements in your groundbreaking new device, there’s a lot of work to be done.  Much like the Apple Watch, the beauty of the new Apple TV is in what it may become more than what it is now.  Seems like a trend.

So Eddy Cue’s right that the Apple TV is still an add-on for most people.  But that’s almost certainly not what Apple was shooting for, and it’s not what prospective cord cutters were hoping for.