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Caffeine Tracking on iOS

Steps, weight, calories, water consumption… if there’s an easy way of recording fitness or nutrition data to visualize patterns and trends that could affect my health and well being, I am probably interested. With the iOS Health app, many of these things have never been so accessible to record and view. By simply opening the app, you can immediately be taken to a dashboard containing the data most important to you, and with the various time periods from which to choose, you can easily monitor and notice the impact of your habits on your health, thereby helping you to identify where you may want to make improvements to your lifestyle.

One aspect of nutrition that I have been monitoring for a while now is caffeine consumption. I had a habit of drinking a cup of coffee several times a day, and I eventually realized that this was something I should probably tone down. Once I settled into a new routine, I eventually became accustomed to having a lesser amount throughout the day. One thing that helped me to achieve this goal was to actively track how much caffeine I was having. However, I had to do some experimenting before I finally arrived at my perfect method of collecting this data. What I settled on was a “script” that I made in the Workflow app. I had issues with everything else that I tried.

UP Coffee

The first app that I tried was UP Coffee by Jawbone. I admit that I did like this app at the beginning. All you have to do is remember to open the app and select how much coffee you consumed, and the app will generate a graph of the caffeine in your body. The great thing about this graph is that it factors in the half-life of caffeine in your bloodstream, and displays an approximation of the amount still in your body for hours after you consumed it. The graph also indicates a corresponding wakefulness on the graph, so that you can see that if you have a cup of coffee at 8 PM, your caffeine level and alertness will spike and probably not be down to a reasonable level for sleep for a few hours. While this way of visualizing my caffeine consumption was useful, I eventually felt that the app was not fully fleshed out and it annoyed me. All I wanted was to track my caffeine, but it insisted on also giving me trivia facts and insights about coffee and caffeine that I could not disable. I could view my caffeine intake a day at a time, but I don’t believe there was a way to zoom out and show consumption on longer time scales, which is a great benefit to tracking your progress when trying to change a habit. It also said that it needed to collect data about my habits for several days to generate a “caffeine persona,” but when the meter had filled up to something like 116 out of 10 days (I don’t remember the numbers) and extended right off the side of the page without it actually doing anything different, I figured it was past time to move on to something that was better designed. I also got the impression that this app was meant as a gateway into Jawbone’s ecosystem, noticeable by the tab pointing you towards UP sleep integration (presumably requiring one of Jawbone’s physical UP bands).

Coffee Tracker and Caffeine Zone 2

Having become frustrated by Jawbone’s offering, I went back to the AppStore to look for something else. I considered trying Coffee Tracker, though it’s interface looks almost exactly like the UP one. I’m not sure who copied who, but that is not coincidence. I also considered purchasing Caffeine Zone 2, though I felt the app seemed rather sparse and doesn’t appear to be updated regularly. Based on the iTunes preview, it seems that there are some good ideas in here, though I’d like to see the design updated to be more fresh and welcoming, and not just the basic iOS tables, forms, and buttons.

Manual Addition to iOS Health

The final method of caffeine tracking that I tried, before finding my eventual solution, was to manually make an entry in the iOS Health app. This is easy enough to do, and provides a very nice graph of my data over time. You can view your data over the course of a day (neat if you actually include the accurate time of consumption in your record), by week, month (my preferred view) or year. As well, each time scale shows a dotted line to represent the average over that time. To actually add the data, you have to go into the Health app, tap on the Caffeine graph (assuming that you have added it to your dashboard already. Otherwise, it’s under the Health Data tab), and then select “Add Data Point.” Then you can tap in the time, date, and amount of caffeine in milligrams that you consumed. Like I said, this is pretty easy to do. The only catch is figuring out how much caffeine you had! If you had a can of pop, odds are that you can figure out how much you had from the nutrition label on the side of the can. But what about for a cup of coffee? I had to look this up. From what I can tell, a single scoop of coffee beans (I grind my own) corresponds to about 100 mg of caffeine. So from that, you should be able to figure out how much you consumed! Furthermore, I found that a single espresso shot is about 75 mg and a double is 150 mg, so it’s good to know those numbers as well. If you can remember these numbers, then this method of manual entry into the Health app works just fine. However, after doing this a few times, you will quickly wish that there was a faster way of inputting this data into your Health app. Fortunately, there is. And this is my ultimate caffeine tracking “workflow.”

Automatic Addition to iOS Health via Workflow

The key to my perfect caffeine tracking solution lies in the app called Workflow. It is a paid app in the AppStore, selling for a few dollars (check your local AppStore for the correct price in your currency!). Because caffeine tracking is important to me, a few dollars is a completely justifiable cost, especially considering how well designed it is, its enormous utility, and its on-going support and development. However, when you really dig into it and understand just what this app is capable of doing, you will quickly find that they could sell this app for much more money, and it would still be a worthwhile investment. (I was first introduced to this wonderful app by Federico Viticci of Macstories, and if you are interested in one of the most in-depth reviews out there, I highly recommend reading his original review of Workflow, and his subsequent updates.) Anyways, in the Workflow app, you can create little “programs” that run when you tell them to, and I have created my perfect workflow that automatically adds one of several preset amounts of caffeine to my iOS Health app, depending on the coffee drink that I have chosen.

With my coffee workflow, now all I have to do after I’ve had a cup is go into the Workflow app and run my created workflow. I get prompted at various steps in the program to provide some quick answers to my pre-made questions, and then it automatically creates the entry in my Health app. Then I can just open the Health app and be presented with a beautiful caffeine graph without having to dig around into the details of adding new data points. Workflow does it all automatically.

Here is a link to my coffee workflow. I call it “Anytime Coffee” for reasons that I will get to later. Basically, here is what it does:

  1. Sets an amount of caffeine per scoop of coffee beans. As I said, I grind my own. See below for how I arrived at this number.
  2. Offers me a choice from three of my most common coffee drinks, along with an option for some of my less frequently consumed drinks. Each of these options has a predefined amount of caffeine that I have set. I also have a “custom” setting, for those days where I vary the amount of beans that I use, and I can tell it how many scoops I used (decimals or multiples!).
  3. It takes my selection, and prompts me for the time and date that I had it, with the default set to the current time (though this can be changed to whatever time and date you prefer).
  4. It gives me a brief summary of the info that I’ve provided, and prompts for me to cancel or have it go ahead and log it to my Health app.

You probably will want to customize the coffee drinks more to your regular routine. For example, Tim Horton’s is a favourite place of mine to get a coffee, so I have a couple of their drinks easily accessible for me, right in the first set of options it gives me. If you don’t go to Tim Horton’s, but rather visit McDonald’s or Starbucks for your coffee, just make the change to your workflow. My Tim Horton’s info I found on their website, so if you want to change the options to something more relevant to you, be sure to check their sources to find the right caffeine data to include!

Tips for an Even More Awesome Caffeine Tracker!

I also have a slightly modified workflow that I call “Morning Coffee.” Since I typically have the same coffee every morning at the same time (thank you, 9–5 job!), this workflow removes the extraneous options. It simply logs my usual coffee at the predefined time of 9 AM. It then also removes the final prompt to go ahead or cancel. With this workflow, I can log my caffeine even quicker, as I have removed all of the choices that are built in to my original “Anytime Coffee” workflow. I just run the workflow, and it logs the caffeine, with no further interaction from me required! If you have a typical routine that you do, this slight modification makes the original workflow even more convenient!

Now that you know about how perfect these caffeine workflows can be, here are some awesome tips to make them even more convenient.

  1. If you have an iPhone 6S with 3D Touch as I do, then a great idea is to set your coffee workflow as one of the 3D Touch shortcuts in the Workflow app. That way, all you have to do is Force Press the app icon to get the 3D Touch menu, then tap on your workflow, and it will begin to run directly from your home screen.
  2. In the Workflow app settings, you can also choose to have selected workflows available to you from the Notification Center as Today widgets. (You also have to customize your Notification Center to show Workflow, of course. Just pull down from the top of the screen to open it, then scroll to the bottom and tap the Edit button. Then tap the plus to add Workflow.) Especially useful for my Morning Coffee workflow, which requires no interaction, if you set that one to be a Today widget, it will show up in Notification Center and you can run it without it even needing to open the Workflow app! Just press the workflow icon, and it will zoom through the steps. (Because the Anytime Coffee requires interaction, it takes you into the app.)
  3. If you find that when you use these workflows to log your caffeine, you always leave the app immediately afterwards to do something else, a final customization step that you can apply to the workflow is to add the “Exit Workflow” step at the very end. Without this step, the workflow will execute and will leave you at the end when it completes. You can then run it again or do something else in the app. But automating the exit from the app if you rarely do anything at this point is yet another way that Workflow will make you appreciate it even more. (Note: I am having mixed results with this option since I wrote this. This seems to exit the app altogether if you run the workflow from the Notification Center or the 3D Touch menu, though if you run the workflow from within the app itself, it will only take you back to the app’s home screen. However, this result hasn’t been consistent and I’m not sure why. I suspect it has something to do with the workflow requiring user interaction. “Morning Coffee” doesn’t require this, and exits immediately. “Anytime Coffee” does require input, and goes back to the main screen at the end. Not sure if this is by design or a bug.)

Note About my Caffeine Amounts

Since I grind my own coffee beans, I need to know two things to figure out how much caffeine I’m getting: the amount of beans that I use, and the amount of caffeine per amount of coffee beans. My typical cup of coffee uses one scoop of Arabica beans, equivalent to about 8 grams. The caffeine per gram of coffee bean varies depending on the brand, roast type, etc, but i assume a caffeine content of 1.4% for the stuff I use. Therefore, this works out to 112 mg, so I say 100 mg from a single scoop of coffee beans for simplicity. Similar thinking led me to the caffeine amounts in my other options. Disclaimer: don’t take any of my preset values as medically or scientifically accurate!

Google apparently also has a handy caffeine calculator. Just search for “caffeine content of coffee” and you will get a calculator right there in the search results.

Wrap-up

I may be completely wrong in how I’ve determined the caffeine content of my coffee, but that’s not the point of this article. The beauty of my workflow to track caffeine content is that I can make a simple change to the numbers, and the workflow will use those new values to do exactly what I want it to do. It won’t necessarily go back and change previously entered data either, but I don’t think that my numbers are so incorrect that I’d want to go and change my historical records anyways. The iOS health app gives me a beautiful graph that, if nothing else, shows the trends in my caffeine consumption, even if the numbers themselves aren’t scientifically precise, and that is enough to monitor, change, and maintain habits. Plus, the simplicity and convenience afforded by using the Workflow app to enter this data make this my ultimate caffeine tracking method for iOS.

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!

Some Cool Things You Didn’t Know About the Apple TV Remote

The Apple TV is a fantastic set-top box. You can effortlessly stream your iTunes library straight to your TV, can view your Photostream, access Netflix, rent or purchase iTunes content, and more right from the comfort of your living room sofa! Even more amazing is that you can control all of these features with the bare bones remote control that comes with the Apple TV. However, for as simple and elegant as the remote is, the number one complaint about it is that it is too small for its own good and it gets lost way too easily! Here are a few things that you can do about it, if you actually do lose your remote.

The first thing that you can do is to substitute your iPhone or iPad in as your remote control, by downloading the free Apple app from the App Store called Remote. This essentially turns your iOS device into a fully functioning Apple TV remote control, with a bit of extra convenience thrown in for good measure that could make it arguably an even better remote control than the stock one. The Remote app is composed mostly of a large gesture-control area that mimics the Apple TV remote’s directional pad: swipe up = click up, swipe down = click down, etc. Where you would normally click the select button on the remote, you do this on the app by simply tapping on the gesture-control area, as it indicates. Furthermore, there are three buttons along the bottom of the app, representing the Menu and Play/Pause buttons from the remote, and a new options button. If you tap on the Done button, you also gain the functionality of directly accessing your playlists, albums, etc, so you don’t need to necessarily navigate through the Apple TV menus onscreen to find what you want. The best part about the app, however, is text input: on any screen of the Apple TV interface where you would have to manually click on each letter to spell out a word, such as entering your password or in a search box, the Remote app presents you with the familiar iOS keyboard, which is infinitely quicker to use to enter text.

Overall, the iOS Remote app makes a great substitute for the Apple TV remote, and in many cases is actually better. But you inevitably will want to control your Apple TV while doing something else with your iPhone. Are you out of luck? Of course not.

Apple has built into their Apple TV an amazing yet lesser-known feature that allows you to use any third-party programmable remote control that you may have on hand! This may include your TV remote, or the one with your BluRay player, or maybe your home theatre controller. Any remote capable of controlling multiple devices can be programmed very simply to be able to control your Apple TV as well.

To take advantage of this handy feature, you will first have to use either the stock Apple TV remote or the iOS Remote app to navigate through the Apple TV menus to Settings -> General -> Remotes. Once there, select the option to Learn Remote.

This will take you to a brief explanation screen, where you will be instructed to set your remote to an unused device setting before selecting Start. In other words, if your remote has an Auxiliary setting, but you don’t actually have that setting tied to any other device, you could set it in this mode and thereafter use that mode to control the Apple TV. Similarly, if you have a DVD mode setting on your remote control but you don’t actually have a DVD player, then feel free to set it to this mode instead. Once you have set your remote appropriately, select Start.

The following setup screen will allow you to customize precisely what buttons on your third-party remote control that you want to map to the indicated buttons of an Apple TV remote. Simply follow the instructions shown on screen to set your remote exactly how you want it. For example, it will highlight a button on screen and ask you to press whichever button on your remote that you would like to “be” that button, and to continue pressing this button until the blue indicator progress bar has filled. It will then advance to the next button, where you can choose a different button to map to it, and so on. Continue in this manner until you have programmed all six of the onscreen buttons. You will also be given the option to program buttons on your remote to be responsible for specific playback functions, such as fast-forward, rewind, etc.

After completing these simple steps, you will finally be able to control your Apple TV with the remote control of your choosing! It takes next to no time at all, and you can be sure that it will be programmed exactly how you like it. Give it a try and let me know how it goes; you never know when your Apple TV remote might finally slip down between the couch cushions forever!

How to Fix a Laggy iPhone After Updating to iOS 9

Earlier this week, Apple released their much anticipated operating system update in iOS 9. It is compatible with all devices that were already capable of running iOS 8, and promises to bring a much more refined and secure experience to the Apple mobile system. However, many people are complaining that it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do – namely, instead of making the phone snappier and easier to do things, it is running more slowly and showing lag in many places. If you are one of the people who are suffering from this, here are a couple of things that you can try to remedy this.

The first thing you can try is a hidden shortcut that flushes the memory of your device (if I understand correctly). It DOESN’T delete any files or make any visible changes to any of your stuff, so you can try this risk-free. Here’s how you do it. Open one of the default Apple apps (I usually use the Stocks or Weather app), then hold down the power button until you see the “slide to power off” prompt. At this point, release the power button, but now hold the home button. Continue doing this until the screen flashes black, and the phone exits the shutdown screen and returns to the home screen. I used this method when my iPhone 5S was experiencing a lot of lag after the update, and remarkably, this seemed to speed it right up again. Note, I am not sure if you NEED to be in an app to do this successfully. When I learned of this technique a few versions ago, I was told to be in the Weather, Stocks, or iTunes app. However, it does seem like you can do this from anywhere. Maybe it’s just easer to do it from within an app, because then you can see for sure than you return to the home screen.

The second method you can try is to reset your settings. This will erase things like wifi passwords, bluetooth profiles, notification settings, wallpaper, and privacy controls, but will not erase your apps, messages, or data. You do this from within the Settings app. then General, and then at the bottom, Reset. On the next screen, simply tap “Reset All Settings” to revert all of your settings back to defaults. Some people have noted that this method works, especially if your iPhone has evolved through multiple upgrade versions and has had time to accumulate a lot of “junk”. Resetting all settings is a quick and easy way to clear out the cruft without actually going through the hassle of doing a full erase.

In any case, if your iPhone is running slowly after updating to iOS 9, then hopefully one of these two quick tricks will work for you to get your device back up and running quickly again. The first method worked for me, and is risk-free, and the second method only requires some basic resetting of your customized settings, which may be a fair trade for a speedy, responsive iPhone again!

The Best Safari Content Blockers in iOS 9

With the recent release of iOS 9, one of the most anticipated features for the iPhone operating system is finally available to the public – Safari Content Blockers! Much to the despair of content providers who rely on advertising to fund their sites, these blockers promise to benefit the user by trimming out all of the excess material served up by websites (including ads, trackers, social buttons, etc). While many of these things had their origins with honest intentions, the abundant overuse of them across the web has led us to where we are today: consumers just want the content from these sites, and are now empowered to use content blockers to hide all of the rest. This promises to speed up webpage downloads, thereby giving a much more enjoyable experience, and by selectively avoiding the download of these elements, you actually consume less data and conserve battery life. So, from the point of view of the consumer, there are a great thing to use! On the other hand, developers stand to lose a lot of income if these blockers catch on! So, it is everyone’s individual choice whether or not to use these blockers, to either simplify and enhance their web experience, or continue without them and help fund the content providers, thereby allowing these providers to keep publishing what was ultimately wanted in the first place.

So, with that intro out of the way, you probably have arrived here trying to find what the best Safari content blockers are, and which ones you should use. Here is a list of some of the top, currently available blockers, with a brief explanation accompanying their current rating in the App Store to help guide you to your decision. It’s important to note that you can actually download more than one at a time, and you can selectively enable and disable them as you see fit. So if you try one and don’t like it, feel free to add another one to see if it’s better for you.

Crystal

  • blocks ads, trackers
  • does not block social widgets
  • no configuration or whitelist, though you can report sites to be included on their server-maintained blacklist
  • currently rated 5 stars, with 365 ratings
  • $0.99 (US)

Peace

  • blocks ads, trackers, comments/comment forms, external web fonts, social widgets
  • powered by Ghostery blocklist database
  • custom whitelists
  • system extensions to view URL in Peace, view URL without restrictions, or change Peace settings and add site to whitelist
  • currently rated 4.5 stars, with 423 ratings
  • $2.99 (US)

1Blocker

  • 7000 preinstalled blockers for ads, trackers, social widgets, share buttons, custom fonts, adult sites
  • blockers automatically updated from their servers
  • can add custom blocker packages
  • many customization options
  • currently rated 4 stars, with 33 ratings
  • Free, with in-app purchase ($2.99 US) for unlimited blockers

Blockr

  • blocks ads, trackers, media, social buttons, cookies
  • customizable whitelists for each site you want to block, to selectively block only certain components
  • automatic blocker rule updates
  • currently rated 4.5 stars, with 30 ratings
  • $0.99 (US)

Purify

  • blocks ads, trackers, scripts, custom fonts, images
  • regularly updated “hand-crafted” blocker rules
  • custom whitelists, add sites with one tap from share sheet
  • high quality support
  • currently rated 5 stars, with 71 ratings
  • $3.99 (US)

There are many more content blockers in the App Store now, and undoubtedly many, many more to come, since it reportedly is not difficult to create these types of apps. It remains to be seen what will be the biggest differentiator, as these will all likely evolve to have many overlapping features. For now, try some of these apps, and leave a comment to let others know what you think is the best Safari content blockers in iOS 9.

Restore OS X from Time Machine to Fix a Bad Update

So, I made a really stupid mistake when updating iTunes on my MacBook Pro. Luckily, I have regular backups to Time Machine to quickly get me back on track! Here’s what happened, and what I did to fix it.

Apple updated iTunes, which included fixes for their Apple Music service. I was notified of this by the Mac App Store app, and so I proceeded to update as I would usually do. It went through the installation/update procedure, but then appeared to hang. I didn’t see anything going on, and all my running apps seemed stuck and unresponsive. I don’t recall of the mouse or keyboard were messed up too, but they may have been. Now, usually I would be the one preaching patience and letting the machine do its thing. No idea why today was different. Either I was in a rush or just merely inpatient. In any case, this stalled computer needed to be dealt with NOW.

So what did I do? I held down the power button, triggering a hard reset.

I know that you generally aren’t supposed to do this, as there is a huge risk of data loss and corruption. That probably holds doubly true when you do it while the computer is accessing core files, such as iTunes.

What I didn’t realize until precisely the moment the screen went black was that there actually was the white overlay timer on the desktop to indicate something important was going on. Poor placement of the indicate against my lightly coloured desktop wallpaper. Unfortunately, I killed the power in the middle of an upgrade operation, not a hung and unresponsive program.

I rebooted, and was immediately told that I had done something inadvisable. I also was prompted several times for my iCloud password for various apps (Messages, FaceTime, more?), along with Yosemite asking to grant permissio. For something important-sounding to access something else equally as important-sounding. I agreed and provided all the credentials I was asked for until everything settled down. Then I tried to open iTunes.

At first, iTunes gave me a dialog box saying that it was checking my library. I’d seen this before and thought it connected to Apple Music. However, it did this for a very long time. Minutes. When it finally went away, I could see that iTunes was running from the menu bar, but it wasn’t visible on screen. I quit the app and restarted. It checked the library again, but then it went into my music. Though this time, I got the rainbow beach ball spinning as it tried to load the album art. This took several minutes before it loaded everything. I should note that I don’t have a huge library. Maybe 30 albums? I don’t know exactly, but nothing that should be this unmanageable. Once it all seemed to work, I quit again and tried again. Again, checking forever and then loading forever. This time I went durther and tried to access my movies or tv show tabs. These each took forever to load.

Whatever was going on, it was clear that I had messed up something, and this new iTunes was not usable.

I tried to reinstall iTunes by downloading the DMG file from Apple, but that did t change anything. The same long load times remained.

So, my next trick to try was a restore from Time Machine. However, there was a catch to this. I have two Time Machine backups, one done wirelessly to my NAS, and one done periodically to my USB 3.0 portable drive. The NAS version backs up pretty much hourly, or however often Yosemite schedules it. I back up to the portable drive every two weeks or so. The catch now is that my most recent backup is only accessible wirelessly, meaning it would take quite a long time to do. The portable drive would be much faster to restore from, at the cost of the last two weeks of data.

I went with the portable drive over the NAS, with the thinking that most of my documents get saved to Dropbox or iCloud, and these could simply sync back after the restore.

It looks like my decision paid off. The restore was completed in about an hour, my documents and pictures synced back, and I am now pretty much where I left off. Happily, iTunes is up to date and opens as quickly as before, pre-stupidity.

So, the lessons? Don’t be impatient! Give your computer time to do what it’s doing. When you see things that say not to disconnect the power during the operation, believe that this is important! Also, backup your computer! Luckily, I had a semi-recent backup to get my system back, and was able to sync my documents back easily. I might even start to more regularly backup to my portable drive so that I always have a very recent backup available to restore from quickly, should something like this happen again.

Fingers crossed it won’t happen again though! I have learned my lesson. :)