Use some Force Touch features in El Capitan without Force Touch hardware

Recent Macbooks and the new Magic Trackpad 2 have brought Force Touch to the Mac, but many of the things that a Force Touch press does simply map to the existing three-finger tap gesture that's been around for quite a while in OS X.

El Capitan gives this gesture more actions throughout the system with the idea that Force Touch will be used to invoke them, but many of them can be invoked with the old three-finger tap on a non Force Touch trackpad:

  • Dictionary

    This was one of the original three-finger tap actions. In many text areas, this will bring up the Dictionary entry for the word under the pointer. In El Capitan, this now includes tabs in the popup window for Wikipedia, Maps, the iTunes Store and some others.

    Dictionary lookup example

    A neat trick it also does now is to also include any words to the right that are capitalized if the word under the pointer is capitalized. So, tapping on the first word of "Force Touch" will lookup both words together as a term. You can also select the text you want to look up if it's not a single word.

  • Quicklook

    Three-finger tap in a file in the Finder to Quicklook it. Do it again to cancel the Quicklook. This works in other apps like in Calendar, Reminder to see the detail of an item. It''s generally, like "get info", so in Maps, it is different than clicking on a place -- it's like clicking the "i" button after clicking on a place.

  • Web link preview

    You can use this gesture to preview Web links in Safari and Mail (and possibly other apps).

  • Data Detectors

    Three-finger tap also triggers the preview of text highlighted with a dotted outline by the system Data Detectors, like tracking numbers, contact info, phone numbers, etc. rather than clicking on the tiny little downward triangle next to the info.

    Data Detector highlight around an address Three-finger tapping on a Data Detector item

  • View an app's open windows

    This is an exception in that it doesn't use three-finger tap but the gesture has been around even longer: move the pointer over an open app's icon in the Dock then use the App Exposé gesture or three fingers swipe down (or four depending on how you've configured it). Repeat the gesture to cancel. This is different than when the pointer is not over a Dock icon, in that case, the App Exposé shows the windows for the current app.

There are likely more place than I've listed here that work, some will be just extrapolation of these, since the Dictionary lookup and Data Detectors work in many text areas in many apps. If you find more, please share them in the comments.

Use iCloud to sync a Mac app with an iOS app

[Update: with iOS 8 and iCloud Drive, this is no longer needed as you can access iCloud files across apps now.] 

A valid complaint of iCloud is that Mac apps like TextEdit and Preview don’t have iOS versions, so any documents you store in their iCould spaces are not accessible on iOS devices —- only on other Macs. However, I’ve found you can get around this.

  1. For the iOS app you want to sync with, make sure it is set to be syncing documents with iCloud. For some apps, this is by default, for others, it is an optional setting.
  2. In the Finder, go to your home folder’s Library folder. Since recent versions of OS X hide this, the easiest way is to go to the Finder and select “Go > Go to Folder …" (or shift+command+G), then type "~/Library" into the box and press Go (or press Enter).
  3. Scroll down and go into the “Mobile Documents" folder within. In there you will see folders with names ending in apps you have that are syncing documents with iCloud.
  4. Find the folder for the Mac app you want to sync to the iOS app, and select it. For example, TextEdit is in com~apple~TextEdit. Inside you will see a Documents folder. If you have documents in there, you will need to move them out temporarily. Now, delete this Documents folder.
  5. Go to the folder for the iOS app you want to connect to the Mac app. For example, Byword on my system is in N39PJFAFEV~com~metaclassy~byword. In there, you will see its Documents folder. Drag this into the Mac app’s folder (com~apple~TextEdit in the example) while holding the Command and Option keys to make an alias (you should get a curved arrow pointer).
  6. If you had files you moved out of the Mac app’s Documents folder temporarily, you can move them back into the folder, which is now an alias.

 

Transient
Transient

Disruption

Disruption comes from the low end. Sometimes that low end is the little details.

So, what people don’t understand is that Apple takes the time to get things right and that is the disruption.
— Dan Pallotta via MacDailyNews

LG HBS700 Bluetooth Stereo Headset

I hemmed and hawed for some time over what to get for a wireless headset to more comfortably listen to mostly podcasts without a cord in the way. I have gone through several regular Bluetooth headsets over the years not being greatly impressed with their durability, comfort or call quality.

The LG HBS700 headset

I came across the HBS700 set by LG (also called the LG Tone). This was a unique style as far as I can tell. It is a behind-the-neck band style, but with a thin band. It hangs down around your neck and has in-ear earbuds that come up with short wires from the unit. This more closely resembles those that use a relatively short headphone that plugs into a unit that clips onto your clothing. However, those have too much cord length with some being nearly full length.

Ergonomics

As long as you are comfortable with the in-ear silicone earbuds, these are a great solution to the comfort problem since it’s just some small earbuds in your ears and not a rigid, heavy band around your head and over your ears like the Motorola S9-HD. Jabra has a set with a soft behind the neck cord, but those have bulky behind-the-ear earpieces that hang on your ear. There are Bluetooth sets with corded earbuds, but the cords seem too long to me to avoid getting in the way like normal corded headphones, and you have to be able to clip the unit’s body to your clothing.

One thing the corded earbud styles can do that the others can’t is to be able to use only one ear with the other open for listening to what’s around you. I often do this since I’m listening to mostly talk podcasts to be able to hear surroundings well while biking or walking around the house. I liked this about my regular iPhone headphones. With corded earphones, the problem is where to put the unused bud. Usually, you have to tuck it under a collar. The HBS700, with its very short cords are not much problem to just let the unused bud hang down, but it has handy magnetic storage cups at the end of each side of the neck band for the ear buds.

The neck band is quite flexible and small. With the earbuds on their little cords, bumping the headset body doesn’t bother them or your ears. It is easy to lie back and fall asleep with these on. It’s also easy to forget they are there if just stored around your neck (especially if you tucked them under your collar), so you have to be careful taking your shirt off to to remember they are there and not send them flying. So far, they have survived a few drops onto the wood floor.

I do like being able to tuck the unit under the collar of a shirt or under the neck of a collarless shirt to make it less obvious, but depending on the shirt, this can make it tricky to feel for the buttons. However, I can go all day with it stored there rather than have to worry about packing it in a bag. You might could with the S9-HDs, but with their over-ear hooks, they don’t lie very flat.

Controls

The controls are pretty easy to get used to even though the button shapes are the same on the left and right, which would seem to be a bit confusing to remember. Each side has an up/down rocker button and a round button. The left side is volume up/down with the call button. The right side is volume up/down with the pause/play button. They aren’t three closely-spaced identical buttons on each side, so they are easy to operate by feel. The down side is that they can be accidentally pressed when turning your head extremely to the side and down, like when riding a bike and looking behind you.

Another nice departure from most Bluetooth headsets is that it has a separate on/off switch so you don’t have to hold the multifunction button and wait to hear the audible confirmation. It also has a simple battery level check of holding down the volume down button and seeing a low/medium/full color of the light next to it. Yes, there is the requisite flashing blue light, but I haven’t found it distracting, especially if I’ve tucked it under my collar.

Multi-point connection

I’ve managed to get the multi-point feature to work, but that seems only because my original iPad does not support both A2DP and headset protocols —- only A2DP, so the headset part is available for my iPhone to grab, but you have to do a settings dance to make it happen. With it paired to both the iPad and iPhone and both with their Bluetooth on, turning on the headset always seems to connect to the iPhone for both headset and A2DP. To get A2DP from the iPad and headset to the iPhone, you need to turn off the Bluetooth on the iPhone, turn on the headset, its A2DP will connect to the iPad. Then, turn the iPhone Bluetooth back on, and it should connect to the remaining headset profile. Like I said, I think this is only possible with the iPad 1. I’ve noticed that you get one beep in the headset for each profile connecting, which isn’t in the documentation

Use

For phone calls, which I don’t do very much, it is nice to just keep it around your neck with no earbud in your ear all the time and just reach for one earbud to take a call when you need to.

Also, the call quality is very good. Importantly, the caller can hear me very well —- better than any other headset I’ve tried. I’m sure it may not be the best, but it is certainly better than most.

In the car, I like using it with one bud in to easily take calls and listen to podcasts rather than using the car stereo. I can keep listening while getting out of the car and walking to my destination, which is especially nice if I’ve just left the phone in my pocket the whole time.

I’ve also used it while riding my bicycle several times and have really enjoyed it despite having to be careful to not pinch it under my neck when doing a head check to avoid accidentally pressing one of the controls. I don’t know if it would do very well if you were to sweat a lot. I don’t usually, and haven’t done with it on yet. It looks like it might be okay against sweat on your body, but it could be susceptible to sweat dripping onto the buttons.

Another big problem with many Bluetooth headsets I’ve used is reception. This is mainly since your body absorbs the 2.4 GHz frequency that Bluetooth uses, and often you can have a lot of body in-between it and your phone. An interesting effect is that indoors, you get better reception because there are things nearby that the signal can bounce off of to go around you. This headset seems to have good reception outdoors, so that I rarely get dropouts. Indoors I get pretty much the full Bluetooth range, which means I generally don’t have to walk around with the phone. Unfortunately, with our microwave, it can’t be used in the kitchen when it’s on.

Overall, it’s been really enjoyable.

Pros:

  • Good call quality
  • Good reception
  • Good battery life
  • Very comfortable and convenient design

Cons:

  • Earbud cords, although short, can be fiddly sometimes.
  • Earbuds have small bodies, which is generally good, but they can be tricky to get seated.
  • You can forget they’re around your neck when taking off your shirt and fling them on the floor.

Update

There us a new version out now, the HBS730. It has improvements feature-wise, but many reviews are saying that the reception sensitivity is greatly reduced from the HBS700 which means reduced range and more susceptible to body blockage.

 

Duh

The Daily Mail reporting on NPD research with a story titled:

Are smart TV’s too clever for their own good? Researchers find we simply want to watch our favourite shows

Duh. We need research for this?

TUAW comments:

Apple has long been rumored to be interested in creating a TV that focuses on content …

Yeah, it’s called your HDTV with an Apple TV hooked to it.

 

The 8 inch iPad

The 7 inch iPad rumors that I wrote about before have now become ~8 inch iPad rumors. My point last time was that the price people were fantasizing about was too low. Guess what, this time it’s the same thing.

At least for the 8 inch iPad rumors, the hardware particulars have evolved to make more sense:

  • Same display tech as the iPhone 3GS: non-retina 163 pixels/inch.
  • Same pixel count as the iPads 1 and 2: 1024 by 768.

From these, several other specs follow:

  • Same aspect ratio as the other iPads of 4:3.
  • Diagonal screen size of 7.85 inches.
  • Apps could run as if they are on an iPad 1 or 2, using the same 1x resources without adjustment.
  • UI elements would be smaller than the full iPad, but they would be the same size as on the iPhone because they are made (nominally) with the same pixel count and thus appeared larger on a regular iPad.

With the same pixel count as a non-retina iPad, it would only require the A5 of the iPad 2, which was recently shrunk for the “new" iPad 2 being sold along side the iPad 3. With a non-retina screen, it wouldn’t need as much RAM as the iPad 3, so would have 512MB like the iPad 2.

Price

Where things still got unbelievable was the price. Once Google announced their Nexus 7 Android tablet at $199, everyone was talking about the 8 inch iPad as if it would sell for $199. Again, it was more wishing for a cheap iPad. As i said before, that cheap $199 iPad is the 8GB iPod touch that everyone keeps forgetting about. In other words: no way that there will be a $199 iPad.

Even the fact that Google said they are not making money on the hardware at $199 didn’t seem to make people realize that a $199 iPad would not be real. Some made the rationalization that Apple is able to make better manufacturing deals than everybody else (generally true), and so they could produce the same hardware as someone else for less and thus make a profit. I still find this a stretch at $199 unless a non-retina 8GB iPod touch appears for $149.

Also, how much storage would it have for $199? It seems a stretch to say anything beyond 8GB at that price, which would be pretty small for an iPad. However, the idea is that with iTunes Match, you wouldn’t need to keep your entire music library on it. I have my doubts since if I took all the music off my iPad now, the rest would still not fit in 32GB. Sure, I’m not average, but most of the space is apps. Remember, that on a non-retina device, the app still contains retina resources, so they are larger these days. Maybe Apple can update iTunes to strip retina resources when syncing to non-retina devices, but I think 8GB would be tight.

When I estimated a hypothetical 7 inch iPad price at about $349, it was assuming it would have a retina display. So, let’s see what one with a non-retinal display would be.

We’ll assume these specs:

  • 1024x768, non-retina, 163 ppi, 7.85 inch display.
  • A5 system chip (updated version)
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 16 GB flash storage

I think this would be $299. If it starts at 8GB, then maybe $249. Basically though, $100 less than the current re-issue of the 16 GB iPad 2.

 

The 7 inch iPad

All these ~7" iPad discussions seem to me to be really fantasies about a cheap iPad that try to justify it with a size argument that reckons if it were smaller it must cost less. Most forget that a 32 GB iPod touch costs $299 and there is not a 16 GB touch that costs $100 less – it’s an 8GB model, and a 16GB iPad 2 (non-retina display) is $399.

The 32GB wifi retina iPad is $599 and a 32GB wifi retina iPod touch is $299. I’m going to scale cost in between linearly with display area, which isn’t perfect, but it roughly captures display size and battery size. I get $434 for a 7" 4:3 display, so call it $399-$449. If we use iPad flash price deltas, then you could say a 16GB model could be $299-$349. A flaw in my reckoning is that new iPad has an A5X and 1GB RAM and the touch has an A4 with 256MB RAM. A hypothetical iPad mini might use just an A5 and 512MB RAM, so we’ll go with the higher end of the range and say $349.

 

Apple dropping "Mac" name from OS X

If you haven’t heard, Apple’s operating system for the Macintosh in it’s next version coming later this year will simply be called “OS X" rather than “Mac OS X".

So, is it Apple slowly getting rid of the “Mac" name because it can’t shake the stink of a loser in the desktop OS race? Is it because 10.8 “Mountain Lion" will almost complete the iOS-ification of Mac OS X, and it will no longer be truly “Mac OS" (sound of old Mac die-hards leaving)?

I think it’s probably more about simplifying and generalizing, but also transitioning. To me, it shifts the name “Mac" completely over to their computers. Sure, a “Macintosh" has always been this complete integrated system, but in the early days, the system software was not adorned with the Mac name, it was simply called “System" with the version number.

Such simplification could precede a product shift. Some believe it is just a step toward iOS across the board. I could see that. Remove “Mac" from OS X, then just before you have to decide to release 10.10 or call it 11, you dodge that by having just iOS. I think if they did this, it would not be as many who fear this think, where the mouse and filesystem are banished, causing old computer users to complain they can’t get any real work done. Mountain Lion will have both the traditional file system and the iCloud file sync, but it remains to been seen if the version after it leaves just the iCloud way or keeps both.

Some assume that if they went iOS on the desktop that it would be terrible because they are extrapolating iOS on the iPad in their mind. Clearly, Apple would think about what to change just as they did going from the iPhone to the iPad. It seems totally possible to me that by aligning UI elements where it makes sense, you can then just call it iOS for the desktop because underneath, it’s just OS X without the Mac desktop UI, which has been referred to as simple “OS X" all along. Like the iPad extended the iPhone OS rather than simply scale it up, I can easily imagine taking it to the desktop would similarly extended iOS to something that makes sense. Given where Lion has taken OS X and the coming changes in Mountain Lion, it seems we’re very nearly there.

I see Mountain Lion as being the thing that iOS device customers see and realize that their desktop computer could be as enjoyable as their iPad and be instantly familiar rather than something that they believe is similar enough to Windows as to not merit considering.

Computer geeks who talk about this stuff still don’t realize that most people don’t want infinite options or a lot of computer geek legacy baggage —- they just want simple. iOS on the desktop, assuming it were extended to do more things, would be fine for them. I think it would be possible for there to be such an iOS for Macs with an OS X for the geeks. Of course, there’s really no need for all that. I think Mountain Lion is going to try to see if you could put both together. Geeks have no problem with complex, so just fire up Terminal and have at it.

The fear is that Apple will finally lock out the geeks at some point. I’ve thought about it. Will I one day not be able to install some open source things or a LaTeX system? One thought is that open source projects could apply for code signing certificates, assuming that the terms aren’t incompatible with their own license terms. Certainly, there will still need to be some app development scheme, so at worst, it seems that I might have to become a paying developer to get under the tent to do all my geekery. This might not be that big a deal since I’m likely headed that way anyhow for iOS development.

Of course, I can see Apple going the other way, where they mix OS X and iOS for consistency, then one day, OS X becomes OS XI and there’s no unification. Apple would probably even have one of their corny ads for it saying “the new OS is here, and this one goes to 11".

RIM's Assumed Capability

Clayton Morris talked about the RIM Playbook tablet and said:

… no one doubts that BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion can build a killer business tablet — but for some reason the company hasn’t.

Why do people somehow think that RIM has this capability simply because of the success of the Blackberry. Why did the Blackberry succeed? email. They built a smartphone that did it well for the time, and lots of people who needed good mobile email snapped it up. That’s it. RIM needs to have a new trick now, and it seems that, the Playbook is not it.

Of course, many reviews focus on the absence of mail, contacts and calendar apps. The reasoning for their absence is that you get them when paired with a Blackberry phone, which keeps that data secure on the phone. Really? No caching? When the Blackberry is out of range, the data is wiped, and reloaded when it comes back into range? This excuse quickly falls apart when we learn that these apps are coming to the Playbook later on. I think the real reason is that RIM hasn’t fully debugged the syncing of that data when there could be more than just your Blackberry phone changing data between syncs.