The new iPhones: What you need to know

Sep10

Macworld’s article, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: What you need to know, is a good write up about the new features and differences of the new iPhones.

It’s that time again: iPhone interregnum. The week-plus period between the day Apple announces new iPhones and the day those phones are actually available. (In this case, the new phones will go on sale September 19.) In the meantime, you probably have a lot of questions. Fortunately, Apple has provided a good amount of information about the upcoming iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and we’ve had some hands-on time with both versions. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

The basics
When can I get the new iPhone models?
If you’re in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, or the U.K., you’ll be able to pre-order both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus starting Friday, September 12. Both models will actually be available in these countries beginning Friday, September 19. Apple said it hopes to have both new iPhones available in 115 countries around the world by the end of the year.

 

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, How do they feel in your hand?

Sep09

Apple announced the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus today. You can read and see the announcement at apple.com and the many other news sites. The iPhone 6 has a 4.7 inch screen and the iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5 inch screen. My question is “how do they feel in my hand?” and “Will it fit in my pocket?” I thought of drawing out the full dimensions of both new phones, but fortunately ArsTechnica beat me to it. They made a template with both of the new iPhones and the iPhone 5 which you can print out (be sure ‘fit to page’ is not selected). So until the 19th when both iPhones are released, you can at least have a better idea of how each of them feel in your hand and how they fit in your pocket.

Quicken 2015

Aug23

I started using Quicken 6 to manage our home budget on the Macintosh back in 1995 and was fairly happy with it through version 2007 when they quit supporting it on the Intel Macs. The first version of Quicken actually was released in 1986 on MS-DOS. I used Managing Your Money on the Mac starting around 1990.

I used Quicken 2007 for several more years until Quicken Essentials for Mac was released in 2010. See this MacWorld article for some history of that release plus a promise for a Mac Quicken Deluxe in 2011.
http://www.macworld.com/article/1146714/quicken_essentials.html

I agreed with a lot of the comments in this article and was disappointed with this new Mac version. Since I was also using Parallels Desktop, I switched to the Windows version which I have been using since 2010.

A few days ago, I read this new MacWorld article announcing a new Mac version, Quicken 2015 which is the full version promised four years ago. http://www.macworld.com/article/2597380/intuits-quicken-2015-for-mac-revamps-interface-expands-investment-features.html

I was a little leery about putting down $80 just to try this new version, but figured I could always get a refund. So I downloaded it and imported my data from the Windows Quicken 2014. All seemed to transfer ok, even split transactions, account transfers, all accounts and all categories.

Since it had been a couple of weeks since I had downloaded transactions from US Bank, the Endura Credit Union and PayPal, I gave that a try as well with the new version. These transfers required reconnecting to the services as if for the first time but worked out ok in the end. At first, my US Bank Visa account did not show up when I connected. It displayed all my US Bank accounts and all the Quicken accounts except for Visa. I downloaded a couple accounts that matched and then retried again from the Quicken Visa account. That then worked fine. The PayPal transactions downloaded without a hitch as well.

The credit union required two steps, an export online and then an import from within Quicken. The downloaded transaction also show “Debit purchase” in the Payee field and the payees in the Memo field. This didn’t match any memorized payees from Windows.

One big improvement over the Windows version is that transactions are automatically reconciled. Windows Quicken required accepting each transaction even if a matching manually entered transaction existed. It seemed to also match Payees with the memorized categories carried over from the Windows version. Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow editing of the categories matched with the payees like the Windows version did,

This new Mac version allows multiple transactions to be edited at the same time, at least the Payee, Category, Tags and Memo fields. Just check which field to enter and all transaction will be changed without affecting other fields. That way, you can select a number of restaurant transactions and change the Category to “Eating Out” in one pass. The edit function also displays all splits and transfers in line with other transactions without the extra steps to open the transaction in another window.

One thing that threw me for a loop was the transfer display. The Windows version used brackets [ …] in the Category field to indicate a transfer to another account. The account name was put between the brackets. The new Mac version uses the word Transfer in the Category field and the account name in a Transfer field that is initially hidden. Luckily, when I tried using the brackets, it popped up a message that I had to show the Transfer field (column) first and then enter the account.

There is also a free iOS app that syncs with the Mac or Windows versions. It appeared to sync all of the accounts for the past year. I added a transaction on my iPhone and it appeared on the Mac. It also supports photos of receipts, but locked up the iOS app when I tried it. I killed the app, restarted and it worked the second time. But now I am still waiting for the photo transaction to sync with the Mac.

I’m sure I will find somethings missing but think this new Mac version has convinced me to switch back from Wiindows. It certainly will save me time. With Windows, I had to launch Parallels, then Windows 7 and then Quicken, all of which took 3-5 minutes. The Mac version opens in about 6 seconds allowing me to use it more frequently.

I will post again after I have more experience.

Joel

Article on the origins of using “x” to close – “X to Close”

Aug14

This is an interesting article on the origins of using an [X] to close windows and items in the GUI of most operating systems today. X to Close. The origins of the use of [x] in UI design by Lauren Archer at Medium.com

X’s are everywhere in user interface (UI) design. A powerful symbol, [x] is capable of closing windows and popups, toolbars and tabs and anything else that might otherwise be cluttering up your screen.

Clicking on [x] to close a feature has become an instinctual part of using a computer and a standard in web and software design. Although it may seem like the ubiquitous [x] has always been a part of Graphical User Interfaces (GUI), a quick jaunt through the history of GUIs reveals that this actually isn’t the case.

So where and when did the [x] first enter into the UI lexicon?

Brighten your podcast day with Overcast

Aug14

Overcast is, at least for my purposes, the best podcast listening client for the iPhone. Created by Marco Arment, original author of Instapaper and The Magazine, Overcast is opinionated software. The application reflects Marco’s ideal as to what constitutes a perfect listening tool rather than trying to be all things to all people. Fortunately for me, Marco’s opinions (on this topic) largely coincide with my own.

The Overcast interface is clean and simple

Overcast allows you to create smart playlists—a feature common to many podcasting clients—and to reorder episodes within those lists at any time. Unique to Overcast is the ability to define priority podcasts within the playlist. So MacBreak Weekly and John Gruber’s The Talk Show rise to the top of my all unplayed list whenever new episodes are released.

Favorite shows get the VIP treatment and are sent to the head of the queue

Marco developed his own audio engine for Overcast, enabling two special features, Voice Boost and Smart Speed. Voice Boost normalizes the level of voices—makes them all the same volume—allowing you to more easily hear less-than-perfectly engineered podcasts under less-than-ideal listening conditions. Earlier this week I was listening to a show in which one of the hosts was talking from across the room, well away from the microphone. Driving down 494 with the windows down and the sunroof open, I had no problem following the conversational flow, and I didn’t have to crank the volume up on the car stereo.

Smart Speed intelligently reduces the natural pauses in speech, compressing the length of a podcast in a way that sounds very natural. This is Apple’s playback at 1.5x speed feature done right, and after only a week or two, I can’t imagine going back to listening to podcasts in real time.

You can set preferences for Smart Speed and Voice Boost on a show-by-show basis

One of the downsides of not using Apple’s audio engine is losing access to the built-in streaming tools. Overcast is currently download only. It also won’t work with video podcasts; this is a listening tool.

Overcast uses its own web-service sync engine, so you will need to register for a free account before using it. Although the app is currently iPhone only, it can be used on an iPad, or you can access your podcasts on the iPad or Mac using a web app.

The web app looks a lot like the iPhone App

Overcast is free to download, but there is a single-in app purchase to enable unlimited playlists and remove a time limit on Smart Speed and Voice Boost. Many will find the free version useful, but if you try to listen to a lot of podcasts regularly, Smart Speed alone is well worth the upgrade cost.

If you’re interested in the backstory, Marco has written extensively about his development vision and process on his blog at marco.org. He has also spoken at length about it on episodes of Debug, The Talk Show (Part two of that discussion is here), and in several episodes of The Accidental Tech Podcast that he co-hosts with John Siracusa and Casey Liss. Of course, the best way to listen to Marco’s musings is using Overcast.

 

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