Apple 9/9/2015

Did I get what I want from the Apple Event today?   Yeah, pretty much. Although we still don’t know if any podcast improvements are happening.   🙁

But in the main I’m pretty happy with what I saw today. Apple is pretty clearly positioning the iPad Pro  for business users and as serious competition for gaming laptops.   The mini 4  gets a much-needed hardware update.  And there certainly is enough  improvement in the iPhone 6S category to warrant an upgrade from a 5S.

What I’m hoping for from Apple

Well it looks like September 9th is the date when we find out what’s coming out this fall from Apple. As usual, there’s all sorts of speculation, although things are kind of quiet on the iPhone end. I think because of last year’s physical changes to the phone people can’t quite imagine what they’ll do to the phone next.

The iPad however is a different question. Some of the changes coming with iOS 9 that were previewed in June have pundits predicting a “business sized” iPad to be called the iPad Pro. In particular, the ability to tile multiple apps on screen.

One of the wonderful things about the iPad is its’ portability. However, it really wouldn’t take much of a size increase to bump up the display to the rumoured 12.9″ dimension.  Increasing the physical form to roughly the size of a standard 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper would do it. The other aspect of the Pro size is that it would have more space available for accessibility options, much like the iPhone 6 Plus offers larger icons and viewing options. For a certain demographic this will have real appeal.

Of course, this kind of leaves the iPad mini in the dust. And people have been predicting the death of the mini since the new larger phones came out. I regretfully put my mini aside for a newer Air 2 a few months ago, and while I love the power of the Air 2, I miss the portability of the mini. It was great for travel and reading. But my version the mini 2, simply couldn’t cope with iOS 8.

I’d love to see a better processor in the mini. An improved camera would be great too. While taking pictures with an iPad remains kind of dorky looking; people do it all the time. Why not give them a better camera?

Design-wise, I hope that the move to ever smaller touch points comes to an end.  I’m not sure if the entire iOS design team has run their fingers through pencil sharpeners in order to use their devices. But regular humans aren’t about to do that.  I assume that the improved text selection in iOS 9 is an attempt to make life easier for people with normally sized fingers.  I’d also really, really like to see the Podcast app get some love. Since iOS 8, the podcast app has become a real battery hog, and running it noticeably heats up my phone.

What are you hoping for from Apple on Wednesday?


Smart Playlists

I have an intense dislike of iTunes. I used to think that  it was deliberately lousy on Windows machines. Then we got a Mac and I found it was just as terrible on it as well.

But there is one thing that I like about iTunes,  and that is the ability to create a Smart Playlist.   A smart playlist is one that adapts; automatically adding songs based on the criteria that you set. Right now, smart playlists can only be created through iTunes but I have hope that soon I’ll be able to create them through the music app on my iPhone.

iTunes Smart Playlist
iTunes Smart Playlist

To make a smart playlist  select the  File, New,  Smart Playlist menu choice

from within iTunes.

My favorite smart playlist is one that finds songs that I haven’t listened to in the last  month  and plays them for me.   It’s a great way to keep from listening to the same music over and over again.  As songs are played, they are removed from the playlist and new unplayed songs are added to the playlist.

Smart playlist settings
Smart playlist settings

Here are the settings that I use to make my  Not Recently Played  playlist. The  most important setting is to ensure that song has not been played in the last month. The rest of the filters remove holiday theme music, videos, audiobooks, podcasts  and any music I’ve given a 1 star rating to.  Right now I’m limiting the  length of this playlist to  30  songs.  The random selection option, is acting more like an alphabetical selection right now. Previously it was truly random *shrug* (the oddball behaviors of iTunes are nothing new).   I’m hoping that this will repair itself with the next version of iTunes.

When you sync your iPhone with iTunes be sure to  select  your Not Recently Played playlist,  so the playlist is pulled over to the phone.

List of smart playlists
Smart playlists have a different icon than regular playlists

In the new music app, this is what your playlist will look like.  These playlists have a different icon, and of course you can’t add songs to them manually. You can see from my list  that I also have a smart playlist looking for the word  “happy” in the song title  and playlists looking for recently added music on the basis of  musical genre .

Those playlists are a little less successful because genre tags are not always applied consistently. Or at least music is not always classified the way I would classify it.  Again,  it would be great to be able to add metadata to songs from within the  music app on the phone. But that type of editing has to be done from within  iTunes on the computer. So I usually don’t bother.  Nevertheless, I really like my Not Recently Played  playlist since it does  find gems that I would otherwise forget are in my music library.


iOS 8.4 Music App Impressions

iOS Add to a Playlist
iOS 8.4 Music App menu

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled discussing the Music app in iOS 8.4.  Since I don’t live in the U.S. or have unlimited streaming data, most of this has left me cold. However, one little feature does make me very happy, and that is the ability to add songs to a Playlist on the fly.

Now when you are listening to music and pull up a menu you’ll find the “Add to a Playlist” option. Select this and you get a list of all your playlists. You can add the current song to one or many playlists.

At last! I’ve been waiting for this feature for a long time. Now I can hope that the native podcast app will get some improvements in iOS 9.

On the downside, I hate the tiny tiny buttons in this app. They seem to get smaller in each version.

New Postcards have arrived!

Picture of new postcards
Picture of new postcards, one for each tip.

Woohoo! The postcards based on the series of posts I did on sharing calendar information in various forms have arrived!

 Postcard back:  sheared Editor calendars
Shared Editor access
 Postcard back: subscription calendars
Subscription calendars
 Postcard back: one time schedule
One time schedule sharing
 Postcard back: owner sharing
Owner sharing

The fronts are pretty and the backs with the tips themselves are looking good too.

One-Time Schedules

In my last post I discussed Subscription Calendars. These are a useful way to keep up to date without requiring you to re-enter important dates in your calendar. Today, I’m talking about One-Time Schedules. These are useful when you have a schedule of events, usually of relatively short duration, that you don’t anticipate a lot of changes to. For example;  perhaps you are organizing a soccer league and want to give the schedule to coaches and players in a convenient format. Creating a One-Time Schedule lets you create a file you can quickly email to users, that they can import into their preferred calendar. This is also a technique you can use to bring a work calendar into your personal calendar.

One-Time Schedule

Exporting a One-Time Calendar from iOS Importing a One-Time Calendar into iOS
The iOS app Week Calendar, can easily export a calendar in a number of formats. This is a paid app, but it has a number of useful features.I recommend creating a new calendar to contain the one-time calendar, to avoid accidentally exporting personal appointments. Start by filtering your view to only the calendar you wish to export. Depending on the version of the app (iPad or iPhone) use the Share or Settings button. Look for the Share or Export option. Enter the Start and End dates for the appointments you wish to export.From the Type option select the ICS calendar format (most modern calendars use the ICS format, if you are exporting for someone using an older calendar format, then select CSV).Press the Export option.

Choose Send by e-mail and the ICS file will be automatically attached to an email.

From the email, touch the ICS attachment. Press the Add All button. Select the calendar you wish to import the events into. Press the Done button.


Exporting a One-Time Calendar from Google Importing a One-Time Calendar into Google
The Android app iCal Import/Export CalDav (Free and Pro), can export a calendar in ICS format. This is a paid app, but it has a number of useful features. I recommend creating a new calendar to contain the one-time calendar, to avoid accidentally exporting personal appointments. Open the iCal Import/Export app. Start by selecting the calendar you wish to export. Use the Active Calendar link to open the Choose/edit Calendar window.Touch the Choose other calendar button to open a list of your Google calendars. Touch the calendar you wish to export.Use the back button to return to the main screen.

Touch the Export button.

The Export calendar window will open.

If it is not already selected, choose Email as the delivery method.

Enter the filename you want for the calendar in the Filename text box.

Enter the email of the person you will send the calendar to.

Add a subject line to the email.

Press the Start Export button.

The file will be created and the Export finished window will appear.

Click on the OK option.

The Gmail app will open and the email with the attached file will appear.

Send the email.

From the email, touch the ICS attachment. The iCal Import/Export app will launch and open to the Import Calendar screen. Use the Active Calendar link to open the Choose/edit Calendar window. Touch the Choose other calendar button to open a list of your Google calendars. Touch the calendar you wish to import into.Press the Continue button.Press the Import button.


I hope this series of posts on Sharing Calendar information has been useful.

One-Time Calendar Postcard Front and Back
One-Time Calendar Postcard Front and Back

Related Posts:

Subscription Calendars

In my last post I discussed creating calendars with Shared Editor access.  Granting Shared Editor access calendars allows multiple accounts to view and edit appointments on the same calendar. Subscription Calendars are a solution to a different problem. Many public organizations create Subscription Calendars to allow the public to view (but not edit) the organizations’ schedule. I know it is useful  to know your local school district’s schedule of professional days when you are planning holidays.  Perhaps your favourite sports team publishes their schedule this way, or a community group has a public events calendar. Or possibly you’d like to do this yourself, by creating a Subscription Calendar that others can use regardless of whether they use an iOS or Android phone.

Subscription Calendars

If you are planning to create a Subscription Calendar, I recommend subscribing to a calendar or two. Get a feel for the steps required, because you will be asked how to subscribe! While in theory subscription calendars can be created using iOS accounts; my tests have shown that receiving updates outside of the Apple environment is very slow. I recommend creating subscription calendars using a Google Account.

Subscribing to a Calendar in iOS Subscribing to a Calendar using Android
Locate the URL of the calendar you are subscribing to. It will look something like (note the ics extension):

(this is a calendar that I have created based on the Prairie Rose School Division Calendar) Go to Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars> Add Account and select Other from the list of account types. Select Add Subscribed Calendar. Type or paste the URL of the calendar into the Server text box. Press the Next button. Choose whether to Remove Alarms from this calendar.  Press the Save button. In the Calendar app, choose to display the subscribed calendar.
From a web browser, go to the page with the subscription calendar. If there is a Google Calendar button for the subscription calendar, click on it. The Calendar will open and a dialog box will ask “Do you want to add this calendar?” Click on the Yes, add this calendar button. If there is no Google Calendar button, you can copy the calendar URL. Then open the Google Calendar. Click on the drop-down beside Other Calendars. Select Add by URL.The Add by URL dialog box will open.Paste or type the calendar URL into the URL text box.Click on the “Add Calendar” button.

Here is a sample of what a Subscription Calendar looks like, when embedded into a website. Note the Google Calendar button at the bottom right of the calendar. Google’s sample code for embedding includes the button automatically.

In my next post I’ll look at creating and distributing One-Time Calendars.

Subscription Calendar Postcard Front and Back
Subscription Calendar Postcard Front and Back

related posts:

Calendars with Shared Editor Access

In my last post, I discussed Calendar Sharing; which allows you to share your calendar seamlessly between Apple and Android devices.  With Shared Editor access, you can set up a shared  calendar useful for family members regardless of what kind of phone or tablet they use. Or perhaps you want to create a cooperative calendar for a team of volunteers. In any event, Shared Editor access allows the owner to grant access to other people so they can read and edit entries on the same calendar.

Shared Editor Calendars

Unsurprisingly, both Google and Apple restrict users from outside their ecosystems from accessing their user accounts. The simplest setup for a Shared Editor calendar is to use Google to create and maintain a shared calendar.

Create the Shared Calendar in Google Access the Shared Calendar from an iOS Device
From a web browser create a Google Account. While your new Gmail email address will be your Google Account user name, you can provide your regular Apple email as a backup recovery email.Open the Calendar.Use the default calendar or create a new calendar for Sharing.Click on the drop-down arrow beside the calendar you wish to share.Select the Share this Calendar option.In the Share with specific people area, enter the Gmail email address of the person you want to share this calendar with in the Person text box. Select the degree of access you want to grant from the Permission Settings drop-down box.Click on the Save button to save the settings. Apple’s Mail, Contacts, Calendars Settings allow you to add your Google account information.Go to Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars> Add Account and select Google from the list of account types.Enter your account information.Press the Sign In button.Use the Accept button to grant your device access to your Google account.In the Gmail screen select the portions of your Google account you will use on your Apple device.In the Apple calendar app select the Calendars button and a list of all the Google calendars will appear under the heading “Gmail

In my next post, I’ll look at using Subscription Calendars.

related posts:

Shared Editor Postcard Front and Back
Shared Editor Postcard Front and Back

Calendar Sharing 


Calendar Sharing

Its a crazy mixed up world, and people are using lots of different devices; smartphones, tablets, iOS and Android. So what’s a person to do when you really want to share your calendar across the iOS/Android* divide? What if this is your situation:

You have an Android smartphone and an iPad, and you want to share your calendar seamlessly across the two devices. This is Owner Sharing, where you as the owner of the calendar enable full editing of the calendar on another device.

Owner Sharing

If you own an Android and iOS device, then you will have both a Google Account and an Apple ID. Both account types support calendars; it will be up to you to decide which account will contain your calendar. Typically this will also be the account that also contains your contacts and tasks.

Apple Calendar Shared with Google Google Calendar Shared with Apple
Use the SmoothSync for Cloud app. It’s available on the Google Play store for approximately $3.00.  After downloading the app, enter your Apple ID and password and the app will synchronize changes made on either device with your calendars. You will want to customize the Sync Interval; time intervals range from 1 minute to 1 week. To do this, select the SmoothSync app and choose Edit account settings>Sync Interval Apple’s Mail, Contacts, Calendars Settings allow you to add your Google account information.Go to Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars> Add Account and select Google from the list of account types.Enter your account information.Press the Sign In button.Use the Accept button to grant your device access to your Google account.In the Gmail screen select the portions of your Google account you will use on your Apple device.In the Apple calendar app select the Calendars button and a list of all the Google calendars will appear under the heading “Gmail

In my next post, I’ll take a look at the best method for setting up Shared Editor Access to the same calendar. This will let multiple people with different accounts, view and edit the same calendar.


* iOS is the operating system used by Apple devices such as the iPhone/iPad. Android is the operating system used by a wide variety of phones and tablets that are supported by Google.

Here is the postcard on this topic

Postcard Front and Back
Postcard Front and Back


Faced with designing a PowerPoint presentation and you don’t know where to begin? Try using LATCH to organize your material. First proposed by Richard S. Wurman (who also founded TED); LATCH offers a method of organizing your information. LATCH is an acronym that stands for; Location, Alphabetically, Time, Category, Hierarchy. Mr. Wurman’s brilliantly simple idea is that all information can be organized using one of these frameworks.

Some examples of LATCH are useful:
Organizing by LOCATION:

  •  Maps
  •  Diagrams; for example an anatomy diagram labeling parts of the body.


  • Telephone books
  • Filing systems
  • Indexes

Organizing by TIME:

  • Schedules (for example, a bus schedule)
  • A manufacturing process
  • Historical information

Organize by CATEGORY:

  • Retail stores organize their goods by category
  • Libraries separate their books into Fiction, Non-Fiction and other categories

Organize by HIERARCHY:

  • Best to Worst
  • Lightest to Heaviest
  • Military Command structures

You might enjoy watching the following:

Some kinds of information can be organized using more than one of these methods. For example a bus schedule is better understood if a map accompanies it. As the author of a presentation it is your job to figure out which method is best for your presentation or if multiple methods would bring greater clarity.

Using LATCH can help the presentation flow better and it can also help users recall more information, more effectively. Psychological studies have determined that when presented with a list of information, people can remember roughly 7 items (plus or minus 2 ). And that the longer the list is, the better chance people have of forgetting everything. So if you have 12 things to tell people, how can you help them remember?

When people have longer pieces of information to remember, they divide that information into “chunks“ that are easier to remember. Think about the telephone number 867-5309 . If you are trying to memorize that number, is it easier to remember?


By “chunking” the number you reduce a longer list into 2 items.

When my husband was in university he enrolled in a course that he wasn’t really looking forward to – “The Biology of Invertebrate Animals”, because he knew that there would be a lot of memorization. But his professor did something interesting; at the end of discussing each animal, he would talk jokingly about how they would cook that animal in China (he was Chinese). The humour helped of course, but he was also categorizing the animals in an interesting way “Animals We Eat” vs. “Animal We Don’t Eat”.

In some ways, this categorization was completely artificial – students weren’t tested on Chinese recipes after all. But usefully, it provided an interesting category system that helped students to “chunk” the information and retain it. Even now, many years later, my husband can recall invertebrate information because of this categorization system.
By organizing your information using LATCH, you help your audience group it into meaningful chunks, so they will retain more information.

[†] On a bad day, a very short list.

[‡] Now you have the Tommy Tutone song stuck in your head.