Tuesday, September 24, 2013

So you want to downgrade to iOS 6?

UPDATE: This appears to no longer be available per the post at imore. 

I am writing this post because several people have expressed reluctance to upgrade to iOS 7, or have indicated they are sorry they did so.  First of all, let me caution you on a few points:
  • Myself, it took a couple days to grow on me (I really disliked 7 when I first saw it).  But once it did, as my paradigm shifted, I "hate" iOS 6.  Maybe too strong of a word, but there's no way I'd go back.
  • If you do go back, new apps that no longer support 6 will not be downloaded on your device.  So you will quickly stop getting updates, and it will grow older even faster.  This is just the truth, I predict iOS7-capable devices (especially iPhones) will experience phenomenal sales in the next quarter, and older devices will start shrinking in market share.  I don't think iPhone 4S purchases will hold up much longer.
  • Always make backups of your device, in fact you will have to in order to perform this procedure.

So here's an overview of the steps, with detailed instructions below.
  1. Back up your device.
  2. Download iOS 6.1.4 for it.
  3. Install your device fresh with 6.1.4 (this will completely wipe it).
  4. Restore your backup to it.
This will require that:
  • You have a computer with the latest iTunes on it
  • A USB cord to plug into it
  • You must disable "Find My iPhone" (or my iPod/iPad) in the iCloud settings of the device, which will require you to enter your iCloud password

1. Back up your device

  • Connect it to a computer running the latest version of iTunes.  If you haven't already, launch iTunes.  In the pull-down menus, pick "Check for Updates" (in the iTunes menu on the Mac) to make sure you have the latest version.
  • If you have automatic synch set up, you will see the backup proceed in the grey status on the top of iTunes.  Otherwise:
    • You will see your device appear as a button on the top right - for example a button that says "iPhone" with an eject symbol.  Click the button to show your device.
    • Click the "Back Up Now" button

2. Download iOS 6.1.4 for your device

  • You have to determine what kind of device you have - for example, there are many different types of iPhone 5's produced, for different carriers.  Apple has a page to identify your model, however this post from OS X Daily gives you a direct better way to identify.  Also, one of my favorite sites, Everymac.com, has a lookup page where you can enter identifying information about your iDevice, and it will tell you all you need to know about it.
  • Download the correct iOS for your device here.  Remember where you place the downloaded file.

3. Install your device fresh with 6.1.4

  • On your device, go to Settings, iCloud, and turn off Find Your Phone.  You cannot proceed unless you do, and you will need to enter your iCloud password.  This is a security precaution to prevent thieves from wiping a stolen device.
  • In iTunes, with your device selected and the Backup completed, you will see a top portion that shows your device (e.g. "iPhone 4S"), and the iOS 7.0, plus to the right 2 buttons:  Check for Update, and Restore iPhone...
  • On a Mac computer, hold down the OPTION key, and click "Restore iPhone" (or whatever device you have).  On a Windows computer, hold down SHIFT key and click "Restore iPhone." You will be prompted to select your IPSW file.
  • Allow the device to restore and reboot.

4. Restore your backup

  • If you are prompted, select to restore from backup, and select the backup you just made.  Otherwise you can click the "Restore Backup..." button and select the restore point.
  • Let it reboot the device as needed.

5. Turn on features

  • Don't forget to turn Find Your Phone back on
  • You may also want to check other settings, like iCloud account, iMessages, etc.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New SkyView Satellite app for iPhone Rocks the Rocks

I had the opportunity to test out Skyview Satellite Guide, a new app from Terminal Eleven, the makers of Skyview.  If you are familiar with the first app, it provides a first-person overlay on what you see, through your iDevice, on what planets, stars, constellations, and some satellites are out there in the sky.  I call that one, one of the best apps for an iDevice ever.

So when they offered me the chance to preview the Beta of Skyview Satellite Guide, I didn't hesitate.  And it doesn't disappoint.  This truly is one of the most beautiful apps ever.  It starts out upon loading with a zoom-in to Earth from space.  You can select what type of satellites to show, and it color-codes by orbit for low, mid, and high orbits.

Like its predecessor, you can search with the magnifying glass for a particular satellite, or tap to see what is orbiting.  This includes manmade satellites classified by use, as well as space junk.

Tapping on a satellite gives you a 3D representation of it, and more info about it, including orbital data.

However, the cooliest part of it is when you tap the arrow icon, it takes you to a first-person POV from the satellite, and you can rotate around and "look" from its standpoint in space right now.
If you are a space hobbyist, enthusiast, or just generally curious, I strongly encourage you to grab this app!  For only $1.99, it will provide endless hours of joy exploring all the stuff floating around the Earth.

Also, by tapping the "AR" button in the upper left corner, you can flip to a live camera overlay view, so you can look in a particular direction from where you are standing, and see what is floating above (or below) you. 
So, here are answers to a few questions that popped into my head:

1. Does it work offline?  Yes.  You do not need a cell signal or WiFi to use it.
2. Does it show everything, including all the military satellites?  Well, I don't know!  But it sure seems to, the database is vast.
3. Is it eye-opening?  YES.  I never knew there was SO MUCH stuff out there, that mankind has put up.

For the Terminal Eleven folks: first of all, FANTASTIC apps, they are a great contribution to Mankind.  Second, I think what I would really like to see, is some kind of integration that would help amateur astronomers out.  For example, what if we tap on a body, then tap a button that moves our telescope to point to that object in the sky?  What if we tap another button, and we can see on our phone, the view through the telescope (no more squinting at some uncomfortable angle), and control the focus and movements of the telescope from the iDevice?  Just dreaming.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Apparently I am an iSheep

The other day I posted on Facebook an innocuous question on the impending Apple announcement yesterday: what do you expect to see?  My only friends who responded were the ones who dislike Apple, apparently.  Fine, but one of them herded me in as an iSheep.  He's an Android lover.

Probably, I would venture to say, he doesn't keep up with this blog, and all of its well-reasoned posts that illustrate an eyes-open, don't-love-everything explanation of why every product Apple comes out with is simply well done, and that's why I enjoy the products, the customer service, and the overall synergy of the product ecosphere.  (Of course my thoughts are well-reasoned!)

So thanks for calling me iSheep, it made me reflect again, and question am I blindly following a company merely because that's what I did in the past?  Again, the answer I came up with after yesterday's announcement:  No.

So, in case you weren't following, Apple announced a replacement for the iPhone 5, called 5C (presumably for Color).  You have to compete, so it's a good move I think to dress up the single most popular smart phone in the history of telephony (just the facts based on unit sales, compared to any other single model of smart phone including other iPhones).

In some ways, the new high-end iPhone 5S left me disappointed.  However, in different ways from the responses of my friends!  They reiterated probably all the reasons you would go with a non-Apple phone in the first place: catch-up on features, no memory expansion, no removable battery, locked into an ecosphere.  Here's my take on it, not as an iSheep, but as an iThinker, constantly questioning "do I still want to stick with Apple, regardless of my existing media library?"

Feature Catch-Up

Am I the only one who sees the irony here?  First of all, Apple has almost never been first-to-market on a new kind of device.  Oh yeah, when they were, it flopped (remember Newton?)  Media players, smart phones, and tablets all existed before Apple introduced iPod, iPhone, and iPad.  Electronic computers for the home existed before the Apple and Apple II.  Heck, Microsoft Sync has been around for years - and I predict iOS in the car will KILL it DEAD (coming 2014).  GUI computers existed before the Mac.  So how are they innovative?  Because when they do a product, they do it 100% all the way.  It is done well as a complete product, not just hardware, but hardware and software and support synergy.  From concept, to design, to build, production, and use a well designed work of art.  As Jony Ive always says (and it makes me grit my teeth), it's the experience.

So, when the iPhone was introduced in 2007, it took Smart Phones a leap ahead, not in hardware technology, but in capabilities, in how it fit within our daily lives.  Multi-touch gestures, synergistic operation between phone, web, maps, text messages, and more.  Did they use standard connectors?  Well, they are standard now, but only on Apple products...which by the way they will ship the 700,000,000th iOS device this month.  I'd call that a de-facto standard.

I don't think Apple has ever caved in to the pressure of trying to match what their competition is doing - if they did, they would end up like Dell, HP, HTC, Blackberry, SanDisk, or any of their myriad competitors, and would never have been where they are today.  Instead, I see a thoughtful pause, a questioning of the fundamental underpinnings of the question posed to them "Why don't you put X in your product?"  They seem to have a piercing vision beyond the question to what's next.  Yes, after a groundbreaking product comes out, and the honeymoon period wears off, you wish it had more features.  But some of those wishes are coming from old habits, old ways of doing things, old ways of thinking.  Yes, computers make it easier to print - but do you still really need paper?

No Memory Expansion

Here my friends complained you can't put an SD card in the phone!  They do have a point, but again Apple is looking beyond today, and I can see it.  In 2012, Apple eliminated optical drives in their computers because the world needs to move on from CD and DVD and BluRay discs, to the reality of today - you don't need to spend money and toxic materials shipping around limited-use media, when you can just download everything from the Internet, virtually, wirelessly, and securely (oh, and with reduced production & distribution costs).  Same thing with memory on a mobile device - the future, my friends, is the cloud.  Cell Carrier policies need to catch up with this - they need to offer unlimited data, and upgrade their networks and coverage to support this.  Local municipalities and big cities need to "get with the 21st century" and have free, public WiFi everywhere.

The future of mobile storage is the cloud - and the iPhone is staunchly entrenched in that paradigm.  With iTunes Radio, the Music and Video apps now are able to play purchases directly from the cloud, and document and more storage in cloud space - what do you need on your phone?  Only the basics you might need for a trip where you are out of cell/WiFi coverage.  Increasingly planes have WiFi in flight.  Now it's up to the cell companies to up their infrastructure, and offer better unlimited data plans.

No Removable Battery

OK, yeah, this is really a big problem, because it has stopped millions from buying Apple products.  Vast wastelands of full warehouses have boxes of iPhones, iPods, and iPads collecting dust because people won't buy devices without replaceable batteries.  In fact, although the battery life on my 4S ain't great, I am always near a plug, and if I wanted I could have chosen a case with extra battery built in.  Hey, it works in my busy life, even when traveling.  And today's batteries have a long life.  They are good for many years, not like the old NiCad or NiMH laptop batteries that wouldn't hold a charge after a couple of years.

Locked Into An Ecosphere

I am locked into the Apple ecosphere in the same way the folks in New Orleans were trapped in the city during Hurricane Katrina.  Dude!  They had days of warning!  At worst, you buy a bus ticket, you walk and hitchhike, you get up off your butt and leave.  At any time I can convert my M4V and M4A and M4R files to non-Apple-supported formats.  Before I had an iPhone, I used iTunes to manage and buy music, and did a lot of that to put it on my SanDisk media player.  No biggie.

I am staying in this ecosphere, because it rocks.  I have my issues with Apple TV, but compared to other set-top-devices it rocks (in what it does).  My issues?  I wish it were open to developers, had localized content channels / apps available for download, and frankly it should be up to us customers what channels we want to put on it.  As a hardware and software platform, though, if it does the same to other devices (like Hulu and Netflix), I'd much rather watch the content on Apple TV, it's much faster and better UI.  And it works seamlessly with Mac, iPhone/iPod/iPad, etc.  (Can't wait for new OS X Mavericks - you can use Apple TV wirelessly as an external monitor.)

Innovation In Action

So, yes, Apple is not first-to-market always with new ideas (evidence: last week's introduction of Samsung's smart watch, solely on the rumor that Apple might be developing one).  But when they do come out with a product, I trust them implicitly to do it better than anyone else, more fully, and more deeply.  In many ways they have innovated before the rest of the industry, and the iPhone 5S is a perfect example: 64-bit processor in a mobile device?  I can't wait till 64-bit iPad!  Touch ID security device, and the sick hardware/software innovations in the camera - the only thing they are lacking is a snap-on zoom lens, it can compete with and probably destroy point-and-shoot cameras.  Another innovation they haven't really touted as strongly, is the ability to lock down a lost device and render it unusable (new in iOS 7).  This is true for a phone, but I frankly don't trust the technical ability of this to work on an iPod or iPad.

With the iPhone 5S, I can imagine from the hardware development standpoint what a difficult task it must have been to come out with a 64-bit mobile device (and rearchitect the OS to be 64-bit and 32-bit compatible), and further improve the camera, let alone the M7 chip.  True, we all would have liked to see a larger screen option - according to the rumor mills, that should be scheduled for next year (I find the arguments for why these are reliable rumors to be credible).  First priority? No negative impact on battery life, not willing to give up a millimeter. of ground there.  They did it.

The camera is truly groundbreaking.  Digital cameras have progressed from 512Kpixels, to a whopping 42 Megapixel.  I stopped at 6Mp, a home photographer does not need any more than that.  Apparently Apple mostly agrees - they stopped at 8, but they worked on the lenses, optical/CCD sensors, and software to produce a best-in-class camera that takes burst photos, 120fps 720 HD slow-motion video or 30fps 1080 HD standard speed video, and the crazy technology they introduced for improving your photo sharpness, lighting, and clarity.  That was their focus this time around, while I may not 100% agree with other areas they let lie, I am a big fan of the improvements.

Security, I have wanted a better way of unlocking my phone while in the car.  Motorola came out with a great idea, put a disc in your car that signals the phone it's OK to not ask for a password.  Of course Apple looked further ahead - why need a password, really?  In this day and age?  A single touch of your finger identifies who you are with built-in fingerprint scanner.  And why limit this convenience only to certain spots (home, car, etc.)?  Some may complain they don't make fingerprint ID API available to developers, but I say one thing at a time.  Get the product out, securely, then give it time to develop properly so that security is maintained as use matures.

So Apple is still ahead of the rest of the industry in the most important factors.  In fact, one area of security in which Windows, Ubuntu, and Android have still never even attempted to catch up, is what I call the single most important choice you can make if you value your privacy.  Viruses.  Come on, people!  Computers have had anti-virus software for decades, and yet mobile devices don't do anything to control malicious software proliferation?  Well, except Apple, they have a tightly regulated ecosystem that, while not 100% foolproof, at least both A) provides a single point of distribution for apps and revenue collection, and B) provides a gateway check for vulnerabilities, both of which are totally lacking in Android.

Am I an iSheep blindly following Apple?  No, I don't think so.  At least my leader tells me I'm not.