Apple AirPods Firmware Update

Apple recently released a firmware update for their AirPods wireless headphones. It was a silent update, meaning that in all likelihood, your AirPods have already updated and you didn’t even know or have to do anything. If you want to check to make sure that you’re running the latest version, here is what you have to do.

You can find your AirPods firmware version number buried in your iPhone’s General settings. First of all, make sure your AirPods are connected. Tap on Settings, and then tap on About at the top of the next page. If you scroll down this page and your AirPods are connected, you will see an entry labelled as “AirPods” with an arrowhead in the right side indicating a deeper page with more info. Tapping on this will present you with some info about your AirPods: Manufacturer (Apple Inc… duh!), Model Number, Serial Number, Firmware Version, and Hardware Version. As of this writing, they are up to version 3.5.1, which I believe was the first update to them. The other entries on this page are somewhat interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing. All Apple devices have a model number, and you can see here that AirPods are A1523. (Comparatively, here’s a list of all the iPhone, iPad, and iPod model numbers.) This screen also suggests that there will be minor hardware revisions produced before major new upgrades are introduced, based on how the Hardware Version number includes more than a single, whole number. In all likelihood, for something like a fix for a minor speaker issue, not bringing any new hardware or features, people with those models will probably have version 1.1.0 or something like that. For now, this early in the AirPods life cycle, we have version 1.0.0.

If, by any chance, your AirPods info indicates you are still on version 3.5.0 and it hasn’t updated yet, you can try to coax them… but not really. They automatically will update when both ear buds are in the charging case, and presumably, the case has sufficient charge to power the update. When I first checked, mine had not updated yet. But I just left them in their case and checked back in a while, and they were on 3.5.1. There’s nothing to do to force them to update.

As for what the update actually provides, there isn’t a lot of information about that. Some people have suggested that before the update, the charging case was draining too quickly while charging the AirPods, or it was reporting incorrect charge remaining. After the update, some feel this has been corrected. Some people have also suggested that it improves the quality of some calls, specifically FaceTime audio. Most likely, it only contains minor connectivity bug fixes. I assume that if there were any great new feature made available, Apple would let us know!

If you’ve updated and discovered that it has fixed a previous annoyance or problem, let me know in the comments!

My AirPods One Month Review

When Apple announced their AirPods wireless headphones, their eventual purchase was not an immediately obvious conclusion. After a lot of consideration, as I presented in my AirPods Decision blog post, I became much more confident that they were the headphone solution that I wanted. Having had my AirPods for more than a month now, I can happily say that I made the right decision. Here is my one month review of one of my favourite pieces of Apple tech.

I love everything about my AirPods. Well, almost everything… but I’ll get to that later. But first, let’s talk about the things that are great about them, which justify spending the money for these costly devices.

I’ll start with the obvious advantage that these headphones have over almost all others: they are truly wireless. They are virtually incomparable to anything else I’ve ever used. When I put them in my ears, I have complete freedom of motion. With traditional wired headphones, like the EarPods included with your iPhone, you have to plug into your phone, and it has to move with you. I’ve inadvertently pulled my iPhone off a table several times using those headphones, and a more serious repair at the Apple Store seemed to be an inevitability. Even if you keep your iPhone safely in your pocket, the wire snaking up to your ears is like a magnet to get caught on door knobs or any other thing that happens to intrude in your path, which causes either your EarPods to come flying out of your ears, or much more seriously, yanks your iPhone from its confines and drops it on the floor. With my AirPods, none of this is a concern. I can move around the house or office completely carefree and without worry of looping my cord on a drawer handle, or standing up abruptly and catapulting the phone. And I can do everything without ever missing a beat of the music.

Even if I compare my AirPods to other wireless Bluetooth headphones that have a wire connecting the two sides, they are still awesome. While those headphones also let me move around unrestricted, the connecting wire still has potential to stick to my neck or tangle in my shirt collar, which can provide just enough of a yank to loosen or free the earbud from my ear. Not a problem with AirPods.

What about the fit, you ask? Do the AirPods ever fall out of my ears? I can honestly say that they have never fallen out. Not once. I constantly move around with them, I exercise with them, I lie down with them. They have never once fallen out of my ears. They don’t hurt after prolonged usage either. I know that not everyone’s ears are the same shape, so I guess I could just be lucky. But I suspect that for most people, there isn’t going to be an issue of them falling out. I seriously believe that all the complaints of EarPods falling out of ears is because of the weight of the cord, constantly dangling and fighting the pull of gravity. With AirPods, they are so light and fit so right that it would take some pretty strong force to dislodge them from my ears inadvertently.

Next, let me talk about their battery and charging system. It’s fantastic too! Apple advises that you can expect about 5 hours of playing time from a fully charged AirPod. Then, you can pop it back in the charging case for a 15 minute quick charge to get another 3 hours of listening time. First of all, I rarely listen to anything for 5 hours at a time, so I can easily say that I have never run out of battery in these things. On top of that, whenever I am not listening to something, I immediately store the AirPods back in their charging case, which starts to charge them up again. The charging case is supposed to provide up to 24 hours of additional playing time. My feeling is that I don’t quite get this much charge out of them, but I’ve never listened so constantly or tried to count out just how much charge the case provides. On top of that, I feel that the case charges the AirPods more efficiently after recent firmware updates, and doesn’t lose as much charge itself to do it. I haven’t actually measured this either. For my uses, I am completely satisfied with the amount of charge that the AirPods themselves hold, and it takes virtually no effort to plug in and recharge the charging case at my desk once every few days, just to quickly boost it back up.

How about their use? Do they actually work as well as Apple says they do? Absolutely! They pair almost instantaneously when you open the charging case lid next to your iPhone. Then, once it has paired to your iCloud account, it is recognized by all your other iOS devices as well. It’s truly magical, when you consider the alternatives offered by nearly every other headphone out there. They also sound amazing; I think they sound even better than regular EarPods. The sounds just seem a bit richer, or the bass a bit deeper – not by a whole lot, and they certainly don’t compare to higher end listening headphones, but definitely good enough for me. The double tapping feature to activate Siri works very well, and Siri is arguable more responsive and better at understanding my voice than when I activate it on the iPhone itself. Probably because of the beam-forming microphones, and their proximity to my voice. But I can get Siri to work and understand me even when I’m speaking just louder than a whisper. After years of using Siri on my iPhone and iPad, and the frustration of it not triggering or understanding me correctly, AirPods make an amazing difference for this!

Controlling the AirPods is also super simple. Since Siri is so good at understanding me now, it is effortless to just ask for the volume to go up or down, or skipping or replaying songs, etc. I honestly don’t think that having physical buttons on the sides of the devices, as some people clamour for, is a good solution. It would add bulk, would be a physical point of wear, plus wouldn’t it be uncomfortable to push a button on something that is in your ear? Tapping for Siri is so easy! Any change in volume can also be controlled by your iPhone in the typical way, with the side volume buttons. And if you want to truly embrace wireless freedom, the AirPods also sync with your Apple Watch. So, I regularly play music on my iPhone, listen through my AirPods, and control playback and volume with the app on my Watch. It’s a fantastic system, and I don’t know if I’d ever want to go back!

I don’t think they look are dorky as some people make them out to be. I think the white colour of them is classic Apple, and they seriously just look like headphones without the wires. I’ve had jokes from friends saying that I look like I have Q-tips sticking out of my ears, but I pay no attention to them. Knowing the freedom that my AirPods give me, and then to walk by these same friends huddled over their phones with wraps of cord dragging papers around their desk and threatening to spill it all over, I’m the one that laughs in the end.

So, is there anything I don’t like about my AirPods? Well, there are two things…

For the first point, I don’t honestly know how much of a concern it actually is. AirPods are not marketed as being sweatproof, and I am scared to run or workout vigorously with them, for fear of sweat getting into them and short circuiting something inside, like I have done with countless EarPods over the years. However, they are incredibly well built, with seams barely visible. I suspect that sweat is not likely to get to the inside of these devices, but for the amount of money I paid for them (in Canadian dollars!), I am very hesitant to do something to them that has a chance of wrecking them. Maybe if I read enough stories about how they perform for other people using them like this, then perhaps I will start to run with them as well.

The second frustration I’ve had with them is with temporarily dropped connections. I usually am using them with my iPhone 6S, though also have them working with my iPad. These devices also have other Bluetooth accessories associated with them, so I don’t know if there is some kind of device confusion going on. Whatever it is, once in a while, the music will stop playing, and them I will get the “connection chime” to indicate that they are paired again. It doesn’t happen frequently, but when it does, it takes away a bit of the magic about them. That being said, I have never been unable to connect, and I am only ever a moment away from listening again.

So, that is my review of my AirPods after having them for more than a month now. I love these things! If I’m not actively using them, I usually have them in my pocket, charged and ready to use. They may be pricey, but with all the miniscule tech buried away inside, plus the incredible functionality of them, I think they are completely worth their price. You can buy $30 wireless Bluetooth headphones on Amazon, but you won’t get the tight integration with the rest of your devices, or the surprisingly good sound that come from these. I haven’t tried the new BeatsX wireless (connected) headphones, or any of the other W1 chip-containing headphones like the Powerbeats, and I’m sure that those headphones have their target audience, but for me and my listening requirements, I am completely satisfied with my AirPods!

multiple Siri's

My Biggest Hope for Siri at WWDC 2016

I recently published a blog post containing my predictions for Apple’s WWDC 2016. I touched on some of my wishes for all of their current hardware devices and operating systems that run on them. What I mention here isn’t necessarily a prediction, but rather a hope – or a plea – for something that I think is drastically needed.

Whereas one of my long shot predictions centered around a new hardware device that acts as a speaker or hub for the home, and is completely governed by Siri, this request – I think – can be much simpler than that. I don’t think it requires a new device, though I admittedly have no idea about how complex it could be to make it work.

What I want is for when I say “Hey, Siri!” that only the nearest or current device that I’m using responds!

Right now in my house, I have an iPhone 6S, an iPad Pro, my wife’s iPad Air 2, and her iPhone 5S. Two of those devices (the 6S and iPad Pro) have “always-on Hey Siri,” while the other two have it active only when the device is charging. The iPhone 6S only responds to my voice, though all of the other devices will respond to whatever voice speaks the “Hey Siri” command. It is not uncommon for the 5S and Air 2 (the older two devices) to require more frequent charges, and so will be plugged in. All of these devices will frequently be in the same room. So, a worst case example of what can happen right now is that, using my own voice, I will trigger all four devices to respond to my “Hey Siri!”

This is not helpful. And it gives the illusion of there being multiple Siri assistants, when I don’t think that should be how we view Siri.

(And I imagine it only getting more confusing if, as rumoured, Siri comes to the Mac next. If the function works the same way as on iOS devices, then we might assume that “Hey Siri” will also come over, and will work on the Mac while it is being powered.)

First of all, the devices don’t all reply with a perfectly synchronized voice. There is always a delay on some of the devices. So, even if all of them are saying the same thing, the reverberation or echo effect I get means that the response is next to useless to me. Secondly, and to complicate matters further, “Hey Siri” does not have an amazing track record for accuracy, so more often than not, at least one of the devices will hear me wrong. What happens is that I suddenly feel like I’m in the middle of a room hearing multiple conversations, unable to parse what any one in particular is saying.

I am not a programmer and don’t claim to have any idea of what goes into making these extraordinary devices work as well as I do. But in my mind, here is an idea: have all of the devices that get triggered initiate some kind of rapid communication between them that designates one device as the “responder.” How this responder device gets chosen could happen in a few ways. If I’m using one of the devices at the time, then clearly that device could take command and override any of the others. Alternately, if I just walk into a room and shout my command without actually using any device, then proximity could be assigned by how loudly my voice is detected. Nearer devices will detect my voice louder than devices on the other side of the room. All the devices can hear me, have a brief conversation amongst themselves about which unit heard me the loudest, and then only that device would respond to me.

I have no idea if this particular idea would work, but I know that there is a solution out there somewhere!

How to Convert a Live Photo to a Still Photo in iOS 9.3

With Apple’s recent update of iOS to version 9.3, they fixed one of my earlier complaints of the Photos app, which had to do with the complication of getting a still photo out of a Live Photo. Up to and including iOS 9.2, the task of converting a Live Photo into a still photo was doable but with a few points worth considering. However, now it’s as simple as can be. Here’s how you do it!

How to Convert a Live Photo to a Still Photo in iOS 9.3

With iOS 9.3, it’s easy to turn Live Photos into still photos. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Take your photo with the Live Photo function enabled. You can tell this is turned on when the icon for Live Photos (the circular one with concentric rings in the camera app) is yellow. If it’s white, it’s disabled.
  2. Check out your Live Photo in the Photos app. If you like the still frame of it that is displayed without activating the motion, then keep going because this is the still pic you’ll end up with.
  3. Tap on the Share button.
  4. Swipe over through the gray icons until you find the new Duplicate action. Tap it.
  5. You will be prompted to Duplicate, which gets you another Live Photo, or Duplicate as a Still Photo. Tap the second one.
  6. That’s all there is to it. Check out your duplicated photo to make sure it’s everything you’d hoped it would be!

From what I can tell, the process of converting a Live Photo to a still photo copies the time and date metadata, though it seems that location data is not available on the still copy.

Potentially of significant interest, if you are happy with the still photo that you obtained and you no longer wish to keep the Live Photo original, now you are free to delete it. Since the animated versions are larger files than the standard pics, this is a great way to reclaim some of your limited iCloud storage space.

Hopefully you can see that extracting the still frame from your Live Photos is now a super simple process. Comparatively, here’s how you’d do it before iOS 9.3, in iOS 9.2 or earlier.

How to Convert a Live Photo to a Still Photo in iOS 9.2 or Earlier

  1. Take your Live Photo.
  2. Check it out in the Photos app.
  3. You have a few options from here:
    • Tap to make the photo full screen, then press the Home button and power button at the same time to capture a screenshot. (Note that this will time stamp the still as the time of the screenshot, not as the original time of the Live Photo. Same story for location data.)
    • Tap the Edit button for the Live Photo to enter editing mode. From here, you can tap on the Live Photo indicator in the top left corner to disable the animation. Then tap to save the photo. Importantly, while this will give you the still image that you desire, the animation part of the original is still attached and stored in iCloud. If you later decide that you actually want your picture to move, you can undo these steps and reenable the animation. Point being, you are not reclaiming iCloud storage space simply by disabling the live component.
    • I’m sure there are third party apps that could extract the still frame from your original photo, but since I’ve never attempted this, I can’t really comment about it.

As you can see, the update to Photos in iOS 9.3 makes it easy to convert a Live Photo to a still photo!

iCloud Photo Library problem

How to Fix iCloud Photo Library Problems

I’ve been having problems with my iCloud Photo Library this week, so I am deciding to write a blog post about it. I haven’t been able to find anything written anywhere online about this particular issue, but surely there are other people out there having the same problem as me since updating to iOS 9.3. The good news is that I think I figured out how to resolve it. Hopefully, this post will find others having the same problems and will help them too.

Here are a few of the things that alerted me to something being wrong:

  1. I could not save any edits to my photos in the Photos app. Whenever I would try, it would tell me “There was an error saving this photo. Please try again later.” Later never arrived.

  2. I could not add photos to a shared photo stream. I should possibly state that I could not do this “reliably.” My usual method of sharing is to view the photo in the Photos app, tap the share sheet, then tap the iCloud Photo Sharing button. After specifying which photo stream to post to, it would always go without any issues. However, now I could perform all those steps without alerts, but the photo would not show up in the photo stream. I did manage to add one or two photos to a photo stream by going into the shared photo stream itself, and tapping on the big + button at the bottom, and selecting a photo to add. However, after I did it once and thought this might help me, I wasn’t able to repeat it again.

  3. It seemed that I was always having to wait for every photo to download from iCloud. I have seen this on my iPad and am accustomed to it there. However, this was happening on my iPhone 6S. I shoot 99% of my photos with that device, and despite having the photo storage set to Optimize, I rarely have to download shots, and especially recent ones. You know that the photo is not stored on your device when it initially loads a rather blurry version of the pic, and then a few seconds later it just snaps into high resolution focus. I was experiencing this for pictures that I shot only days ago. For something from a few years back, that’s understandable. But I’ve never experienced this for something so recent. Furthermore, once I had downloaded the high resolution version, I noticed that I now had to do this almost every time I wanted to view the photo. This was definitely something new.

Importantly, I had confidence that my photos were safely stored in iCloud, because even though I was having these issues, new photos taken with my iPhone were uploading and syncing to my Mac running the latest version of El Capitan, 10.11.4. In addition to that, my Mac is backing up through Time Machine to multiple drives. So, this is another example of BACK UP YOUR DATA! I’d never want to troubleshoot and experiment with something as important as photos without having a backup to fall back on if needed.

I tried to figure out if I had done anything to my devices lately to prompt such strange behaviour. I don’t typically download a lot of apps, and I hadn’t for a while, so it wasn’t that. I don’t usually change up my workflows and routines, so there likely wasn’t something I changed to have triggered this. But oh wait… coincidentally enough, I did download iOS 9.3 earlier this week. I can’t confirm that was the cause of my problem, but it sure seems like it must be connected.

I tried the obvious things first. I killed the app and then reopened it. That didn’t help. I restarted my phone. That didn’t help. I shut down my phone completely before powering it back on. That didn’t help.

I thought to try connecting with @AppleSupport on Twitter, since I’ve heard remarkably positive reviews of their service. They responded within a few hours, and we had a pretty good conversation through direct messages. I explained the problem and they offered me a few things to try. Their suggestions didn’t work directly, but they did lead me to my own solution. (They possibly may have given me the solution eventually, but with a few hours in between direct messages, I got impatient and started experimenting!)

The first thing they suggested for me to do was to disable and then reenable iCloud Photo Library. I was hesitant to do this, because it’s a bit daunting to consider completely removing your photo library, and then hoping it comes back again later. These are precious memories, not just documents or something far less personal and important. But as I said, I had confidence because I knew it was all safe and sound on iCloud, and then synced to my Mac, and then backed up multiple times from there.

So, disable and reenable iCloud Photo Library. No problem. And… that didn’t help. When I looked in the Photos app, in the Years view, I could see a bunch of gray thumbnails and sporadic image thumbnails. But the thumbnails were not all coming back. I watched a few fill in, but soon after, the network activity spinner in the top bar disappeared and the downloads stopped coming in altogether. And, I still couldn’t save edits or share photos.

Very frustrating…

I tried to disable iCloud Photo Library in combination with a phone restart. I think this was now getting somewhere. As soon as I disabled it, I went to the Photos app, and from the Years view, I watched the lines of photo thumbnails disappear until the app told me I had no photos saved. Then I restarted the phone, and once back on, I reenabled the library. This time, I watched as gray thumbnails appeared line by line to make up the years of photos stored in iCloud. So, I definitely knew that the app knew about my photos, because seconds earlier, I was completely cut off from them. Now, though, they were still just gray boxes, and the actual photo thumbnail wasn’t downloading as I’d expect.

However, I noticed that when I zoomed in a few levels to the Moments view, all of the gray boxed had a small cloud icon on them, and seconds later, the boxes on the screen were populated with the actual image thumbs. Tapping on the image launched me into the full size photo, and after a second of downloading, I had the full resolution image again. Back to the Moments view, I noticed that if I would scroll through my list, the gray thumbnails would populate with image thumbnails almost as fast as I could scroll. So that’s what I did.

I scrolled through my list in the Moments view, starting with today, and flinging backwards through several years worth of photos. Periodically I would stop and go back to make sure it was keeping up with filling in the blanks, and sometime I noticed that I was scrolling too quickly for it to do so. But as long as I was continuously scrolling at a “not too fast but still pretty fast” rate, I was good. After a few minutes of this, I had repopulated all of the gray boxes with the actual photo thumbnails.

I don’t know enough about how iOS or iCloud Photo Library or the Photos app work to elaborate on this at all, but somehow, once I had fixed the thumbnail problem, I was able to save any edits I made on the photos, and I was also able to share on my photo stream again.

I have to note that this resolution clearly only applied to the device that I was working with, or my iPhone 6S in this case. When I checked to see if it had done anything to the online photo library itself to cause this to be resolved, I found that my iPad still gave me the same problems. So, I have to now repeat the process with my iPad later. Hopefully I will have the same resolution, and I’ll update this post with the results of that.

As I mentioned, I am writing this because I struggled to find a solution online to these precise symptoms. However, if this is truly connected to my iOS 9.3 update, then I have to believe that there are others out there going through the same frustrations. Hopefully they will find this post, and hopefully it will help them to fix one of their most loved and important apps.

iPad Air 3 featuring 3D Multitouch and Apple Pencil Compatibility – My Prediction!

Coming up on the end of 2015, it’s a good time to look back at all of the latest Apple gadgets released this year. Some of the technologies released across several products were groundbreaking and enabling, but what wasn’t released also tells a story and likely predicts what is to come.

The Apple Watch was released in the Spring of 2015, and by most measures, has been a tremendous success. Whether it is used as a watch, a notification system, or a fitness tracker, it has found widespread appeal. One of the most interesting and key technologies that it introduced was Force Touch. This enables the device to sense the amount of pressure with which you touch its screen, thereby opening up a whole new branch of interactions for shortcuts and settings.

Similarly, the iPhone 6S was released this Fall with an updated version of Force Touch, rebranded as 3D Touch. This allows shortcuts into app functions directly from the home screen by touching the app icon with pressure to open up a brand new menu. Other implementations of 3D Touch include pressing with force on the left side of the screen and dragging right, which opens the multitasking screen, or force touching on a link or photo to open a preview that just hovers over what you are doing. It’s a remarkable technology right now, and can only get better in the generations to come.

Following the release of the iPhone 6S, Apple came out with this year’s iPad. However, it was not an iPad Air 3, as many had expected (though given how powerful the iPad Air 2 is, it’s not surprising that they didn’t advance this quite yet), but rather it was the long-rumoured iPad Pro. While the obvious attraction of this iPad is its sheer size, under the hood is a remarkable feature that gives the Apple Pencil its power. The iPad Pro has a scanning system that tracks the position of the Pencil 240 times per second, twice the rate at which it senses your fingertip, allowing you to draw with virtually no lag between the touch of the Pencil and displaying the line. It is like you are drawing on paper with ink. And it is because of this scanning system, or lack of it, that the Pencil is not compatible with any other previous version of the iPad.

On the software side, iOS 9 was released, and one of its key features is Split Screen on the iPad Air 2. This allows compatible apps to run in a reduced-size mode on only part of the screen, but share the screen with a second app, so that you end up with Safari on the left and Notes on the right, or some other combination to enhance your productivity. This is a fantastic feature, and is only available on the iPad Air 2 because of the sheer power that it is capable of producing. What is obviously missing from this implementation of Split Screen is the ability to drag and drop from one app to the other.

And this is where I wrap all of this together into my prediction for next year.

The iPad Air 3 was not introduced because it is going to include bits and pieces from all of the releases this year. The high scanning rate that enables Apple Pencil is built into the iPad Pro, but not any other devices. Since I think that the iPad Air has always been a wonderful device for drawing, I have a hard time seeing Apple limit the use of Pencil to only the iPad Pro, so I think this enhanced scanning rate is destined for a future iPad Air as well. Similarly, the Apple Watch and iPhone 6S introduced us to Force / 3D Touch, but the force sensitive display was not included in the iPads (Pro or Mini) released this year, but given the enriched workflows that this enables, I think that is likely to appear in a future iPad as well. Furthermore, I believe that by this time next year, the next iPhone or Watch will have been introduced with an upgraded version of 3D Touch that support multi-finger force touch, or “3D Multitouch.” I think it will be this version of Force Touch that make the leap to the iPad, and I think it will be this ability that enables the drag and drop between apps in Split Screen. As it is now, touching on something selects it, 3D Touching is a shortcut to a Preview window, but I predict a 3D Multitouch will be the key to actually “pick up” something and move it as in drag and drop functionality.

So, in my opinion, here are the key features that the iPad Air 3 is going to include next year: 240 Hz scanning system to enable Apple Pencil compatibility, and 3D Multitouch to enable drag and drop and other pressure sensitive applications. Since these are new technologies this year, they have been slowly released and are not in use across all the lines, as with the Retina Display. Without those, there wasn’t anything sufficiently interesting to include in a new iPad Air this year. So, next year, count on these techs to mature and come together in the iPad Air 3.

I’m saving my money for one already!

How to Use Apple’s Notes App on PC

Notes on iOS 9 is a huge jump forward for the Notes app. Extra formatting, lists, sketches (including pressure-sensitive drawing on the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus), web clips. You can easily create a new note from text you select in another app, or automatically included a link and picture preview of the webpage. This list goes on and on if what you can now do with Notes. It is not the bare bones basic note-taking app we’ve come to know over the years!

Like many people, I am finding this newly added functionality to the Notes app to be incredibly helpful for quickly getting my thoughts down in a note. It is wonderful on my iPhone 6S, especially where I want to include sketches! They’re easy and fun to make. I also have come to really appreciate the functionality of iCloud to sync my notes between my devices. Creating a note on my iPhone but then being able to access it on my iPad or MacBook is incredibly useful! However, at work, I have a Windows PC (unfortunately), and there are times where I wish I had the added convenience of my notes syncing to that device as well.

Then it occurred to me… I DO have that convenience!

Because I have iCloud set up on my devices to sync everything, I can actually access my notes from the iCloud website! If I log on to www.icloud.com with my Apple ID for the account that I am syncing across my devices, I can access all my stuff from any computer that is connected to the Internet, whether it is a PC or a Mac or otherwise! I can also not only just view my notes, but I can create new ones and manage my existing ones, and everything that I do will sync to all my devices.

iCloud is a great feature of the Apple software ecosystem, and it makes the new Notes app even better!

How to View Live Photos from older iPhones

With Apple’s latest iPhones, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, one of the key new features is 3D Touch. This enables a bunch of new shortcuts and things for your phone to do. They’ve also paired this technology with the new Live Photos for viewing. Only the new phones are capable of taking Live Photos, though what many don’t recognize is that you don’t need the new phones to view them.

With an iPhone 6S, you simply enable the Live Photos feature from the camera screen. It turns yellow when it’s on. Consider that whatever image your camera is looking st, it is temporarily recording it all and saving a rolling buffer of what it sees. When you snap a photo, it saves the previous 1.5 seconds from its buffer and also adds the 1.5 seconds after you took the picture, giving you a 3 second window surrounding the instant of your shot.

To view the Live Photos, on a 6S or 6S Plus, you can find it in your Photos because it has the same Live Photos icon that you tapped to turn in the feature in the camera window. With your photo selected, simply apply force to the 3D Touch-enabled screen, and it will briefly blur and then start playing for you.

On an older iPhone or iPad, you will not have the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display, so applying more pressure will not work! However, you can still play it back simply by touching and holding on the photo. The only catch is that your device just be updated to at least iOS 9.0 or greater.

Live Photos are one of the great new features of Apple’s new iPhones. What makes the feature even better is that you don’t need to have the latest hardware to participate in viewing then! Moms and dads and grandparents who are running older devices don’t have to miss out on the great Live Photos of the kids at all!

How to Filter Twitter Search Results by Language

If you use Twitter, this is a post for you that will teach you a power user super tip: how to filter Twitter search results by language.

Twitter is a fantastic service, offering tidbits of information in 140 characters or less. You can follow your friends or news channels or favourite brands, and stay up to date with what’s going on in the world, as it happens. However, if you want to see something specific, you can always launch a search to find what you’re looking for across the Twitter network. This is a great way to find some information, or more likely, links to sites to deliver even more in-depth information. But what many people don’t know is that they can supercharge their Twitter searches to get even more relevant information.

The part that isn’t commonly known is that Twitter supports regular expression (regex) searches. And this doesn’t just work on the Twitter website, but also on Tweetbot, my hands-down favourite Twitter client for OS X and iOS (and presumably other clients as well). [1]

My number one complaint when I search for something on Twitter is that sometimes it returns search results in different languages. Usually, this is because my search term is ambiguous enough and has multiple meanings across different languages. But, I don’t necessarily want tweets in languages that I don’t understand clouding my search results and making it harder to pick out useful tweets. So this power user tip will help you to only surface tweets with your search terms in the language of your choice.

To get search results in Twitter in only one specified language while ignoring and not displaying all others, here is how you do it. First off, you need to know the ISO 639–1 language code of the language that you want to see in your search results. Then, you simply add “lang:nn” to the end of your search term, where “nn” is your language code.

For example, if I want to search for polar bears and only get English results, I would type in the search field:

polar bears lang:en

Similarly, if I wanted to find tweets about espresso in Italian, I would search for:

espresso lang:it

If you are using Tweetbot or another Twitter client that supports it, you can even save these searches to come back to later. This is an amazingly convenient feature, and by including a regex modifier to limit the language, it makes the search results that much more relevant to you! Give it a try and let me know what you think. And come back soon, as I’m going to do another post with additional modifiers that you can include in your searches!


  1. By the way, Tweetbot has just released version 4 for iOS, which is a universal app for iPhone and iPad – highly recommended!  ↩

Siri Doesn’t Work In iOS 9.0

Like many people around the world, when Apple released their iOS 9.0 update last week, I jumped to update my iPhone. So many of the features are awesome, and I can’t wait to test out some of the new devices! However, one unexpected side effect of my early update to iOS 9.0 was that I have lost a functioning Siri! Here’s what I can figure out.

I first noticed that Siri wasn’t working when I was not getting turn-by-turn navigation directions in Maps. I found that odd, but since I was driving at the time, I was not able to investigate any further. However, I did also notice that my “Hey Siri, what are my upcoming appointments?” command flashed something on the screen briefly, though I did not get the usual audible response.

When I got home, I tried some more things. I tried to plot a new course in Maps, and once again, I had no Siri directions. When I tried asking for upcoming appointments, I could see that the Siri screen did come up and it had the text that she would usually read aloud (i.e. you have an appointment tomorrow at 10 AM).

Since I had gone through the voice training to enable the updated version of “Hey Siri,” I thought that maybe this had messed things up somehow. So, I disabled it. That did not solve my problem, nor did reenabling and retraining it.

I flipped through the options on the Siri settings page. I tried tapping on each of the different voices, but each time I selected a new one, I heard “Hi, I’m Siri, your personal assistant” with whichever accent or gender I had chosen. So this didn’t seem to solve things. However, I inadvertently left Siri on the British female voice, and continued my testing, and then realized that I had my responsive Siri back!

I tried a bunch of questions and commands, and each time, she responded as I would have expected her to all along, albeit with this new, different voice. I have always had the default American female Siri voice. When I switched it back and then tried all these commands again, I got the same quiet Siri again. I found that male or female of British or Australian Siri worked fine, though neither the American male and female voice work properly.

So, to make a long story short. I updated my iPhone 5S to iOS 9.0. In doing so, my female American Siri became non-responsive, with no obvious way to make her talk again. By changing the voice, I was able to get vocal responses again, though never in the same American female (or male) voice that I am accustomed to. So, it seems to me that there is a bug in this new, upgraded Siri, specifically in the American settings. Hopefully they fix it quickly in the next iOS update! Maybe it’s a device-specific bug, as it seems that she works the same as before on my wife’s iPhone 5 and our iPads…

Have you noticed this same bug? Does Siri still work for you, the same as always? Let me know in the comments!