Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dear Amazon and Apple, We Need Family Accounts

We live in a land that has food, clothing, water and electricity.   We have gadgets that make a mockery out of those shown in the 60's.  We have bought into the commercialization of "must have it" gadgets, not just as individuals, but as a group and more aptly, as a family.   So why is it that after falling for all of the commercials, rantings and sales pitches, we the people cannot get two of the best companies in retail to get their acts together and create a family account?

Both companies have succeeded in getting consumers to purchase multiple devices that bare their name.  With integration via Whispersync for Amazon and now iCloud for Apple, both companies have made it possible to download files to all devices - ie Kindles or iPod Touches, iPhones etc from one account, without having to pay additional funds for the privilege.

But where both companies fall short is in the implementation of a real family account.  Apple has iTunes linked to one owner.  All who own an Apple device who want to share from the same iTunes account, must have links to the same Apple ID.  Hence, your son's iPod Touch must use the Master ID to access iTunes and download media.   It's not a bad system, particularly if you download apps, but recently, with the advent of iCloud, the system has gotten a little more disturbing.  Apple assumes that all devices - your kids, your wife's, etc - linked to the iTunes Apple ID account all belong to one person - the person with the Apple ID.  So, it will automatically download an app to your wife's iPod, kid's iPod Touch etc., without your permission.  This includes songs and other things as well.  It may not be in your best interest to do this all of the time and it can become downright annoying.

Amazon's system is a lot worse because it revolves around books.  For the Apple iBook store the same problem applies, but since Amazon's main dish is books, this is more of a problem.  I recently purchased Kindles for my kids.  I have a lot of books in my archive space - this is Amazon's cloud storage for your books (a nice system since you can archive 100's of books and only keep a few on your Kindle, thus saving space).  Due to the fact that both kids will be reading the same books a few years apart from each other for required reading at school, it behooves them to have the same account.  I have found out that the master account, which is mine, is not the best place to do that.   My son, in no time flat, began downloading free books without a password and is now only steps away from ordering from Amazon with One-Click to my credit card !  As of Christmas day, one required a credit card to open an account at Amazon and an email address.  So I will have to create a whole separate account with a prepaid credit card to "Stop The Madness."

Both of these solutions are obviously riddled with problems.  Both were created with one end user in mind and both systems have not modified their programming to include multiple users in the same household.  Both have successfully placed commercials showing the benefits of kids having a device with happy, smiling family faces and cute little children pressing touch screens.  But the reality is this. If you're on Amazon and you've got yourself a Kindle and a host of cheap Kindles for your family, your 8 year old could be downloading from your archive Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians or the unabridged works of James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence!   Apple is not immune to this.  The same holds true for their iBook store as well.

What we need is the following:

1.  A Master Account (MA).

       This account would tie all of the other accounts together and would have an Archive that may or may not be visible to those who have a secondary account tied to the main account.       This would be similar to Windows/Linux/OSX Main account in the OS. 

2.  Secondary Accounts (SA).

        Secondary Accounts link to the Master Account with separate permissions in place, ie.  Each secondary account may have its own password and download books to the Master Account, but  release the book to anyone tied to the Master Account (MA). 

        The holder of the Master Account (MA) would have full access to all Secondary Accounts including the ability to terminate Secondary Accounts and to not download from the MA archives.  Additionally, it would have the ability to shield secondary accounts from actually seeing the entire catalog of the Master Account and allow visibility access to only those who get permission to view it.        

I am sure that more restrictions could be placed, such as limiting the secondary accounts to no more than six people living in the same household or something like that.  But this would eliminate the multiple separate accounts that need to be created for both Amazon and Apple in order to separate media from kids.  The way that this exists now means that if you own Amazon Account A, you cannot download books belonging to the same family member with Amazon Account B.  In the Master and Secondary account structure detailed above, the parent will still have control over the subsidiary accounts and not have to purchase an item twice.



Liz Peeking Picture taken from Scholastic (

Side by Side  taken from Step up to the Call blog (

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Best Video Player for the iPhone & iPad Revisited.

If you scour the app store for video players you will find a plethora of newcomers to the iPhone/iPad party. With Quicktime as the basis for all comparisons on the iPhone, we will examine the good and the bad of a few that I believe are important.  All products were tested on iOS 4.


This is the default video player that comes with the iPhone.  It is fast and plays back many video types and codecs that are supported by Quicktime natively on the Mac (1)(2):

      File Types:

  1. QuickTime Movie (.mov)
  2. MPEG-4 (.mp4, .m4v)
  3. MPEG-2 (OS X Lion only)
  4. MPEG-1
  5. 3GPP
  6. 3GPP2
  7. AVI*
  8. DV*

*  Not available on the iPhone or iPad natively. 


    1. MPEG-2 (OS X Lion only)
    2. MPEG-4 (Part 2)
    3. H.264
    4. H.263
    5. H.261
    6. Apple ProRes
    7. Apple Pixlet
    8. Animation
    9. Cinepak
    10. Component Video
    11. DV
    12. DVC Pro 50
    13. Graphics
    14. Motion JPEG (Mac OS X v10.6.x only)
    15. Photo JPEG
    16. Sorenson Video 2
    17. Sorenson Video 3

    For the benefit and simplicity of this article, one should concentrate on the File types listed above as opposed to the codecs.  The codecs can exist in many different forms, but if the File type is not recognized, then no matter what program you use, it will not work.   For example, many will use the term H.264 and assume that it only relates to Apple's MPEG-4 file type.  It does not!

    Additionally, Quicktime does not support AVI file types on the iPhone or the iPad.  This is a major faux pas that is second only to the worst aspect of Quicktime:  The need to sync your computer to your iPhone in order for the files to work.  It is uncertain, as of the time of this report, whether this will change.  What is certain is the fact that Apple will probably not change its view on .AVI files.

    In terms of playback, Quicktime offers very good performance as would be expected from an Apple default program.  It is also the main depot for developers sending compatible movie files from their apps.  They generally open in Quicktime to avoid additional software configuration.


    Version tested:  2.14
    Size:  10.4 mb , 9.3mb (iPad)
    Cost:  $1.99 $2.99 (iPad)

    If you are a regular to this blog, you will know how excited I was to see CineXplayer.  However, not having an iPad at the time, the excitement was muted.  CineXplayer is probably one of the first Apps to natively play back .AVI file types while still supporting the other native Quicktime formats.   The performance of Cinexplayer to play the formats that it supports is flawless.  The larger screen of the iPad allows for a much better viewing experience.  However, ever since version 1 of this software (I am reviewing version 2.1.4), there has been little improvement in my opinion in regards to this app.

    First you must use a computer if you want to upload .AVI or other movies to the device.  There are no Over-the-air (OTA) options to choose from.   Second, the lack of codec and file support remains somewhat problematic.  Although it can play back Xvid files (AVI), it still cannot recognize .MKV files.  Additionally, there are reports that its support for AC3, the audio format of choice for the iPhone, Quicktime and other Apple sound files remains elusive.   It is "hit or miss."

    The new support for 3D movies is promising on the iPad, as is the integration with Facebook - if you're into sharing what you are watching with your friends.  But although Cinexplayer has arrived for the iPhone the continued lack of OTA downloads and streaming makes this one secondary at this point.  You are still tethered to iTunes and  your computer if you want to download a movie to your iphone or iPad.

    AVPlayer and AVPlayerHD

    Version Tested:  1.43
    Size:  8.1mb  8.3mb(HD)
    Cost:  $2.99 (both iPhone and iPad(hd)).

    We now move on to what I call "the big boys."   AVPlayerHD is available only for the iPad and as its name implies, it is able to display full 1080p videos on the iPad and export them to a big screen TV.

    The beautiful thing about AVPlayer for the iPhone and AVPlayerHD for the iPad is not only does it deliver where others have failed, but it sports one of the most elegant user interfaces that I have ever seen on either a Palm or Apple product.  When you use it, you feel as though Apple and its programmers wrote the app.  It is elegant, yet simple and the use of the color RED is nothing short of wonderful.

    But don't let the aesthetic UI fool you, the programmers of this little puppy have done their homework and they have produced not only an elegant app, but one that is extremely useful.

    First, the file type, codec issue.  Essentially a non issue here.  It plays the following file types and codecs (listed together here) natively:

    1. xvid
    2. avi
    3. wmv
    4. rmvb
    5. asf
    6. h.264
    7. mkv
     The app has support for many different languages:

    1. English
    2. Chinese.
    3. French.
    4. German.
    5. Japanes.
    6. Polish. 
    7. Russian. 
    8. Spanish.
    9. Turkish. 
    10. Korean.
    In addition, the software supports TV out via a compatible cord.   The cord is usually one of the composite cords with a large power supply.  These are somewhat expensive, but if you are in a hotel, they are a real requirement if you plan to watch movies.  I have a picture of a composite cord shown here.

    I would suggest that you shop around before plonking down $40 for one of these things and making certain that you have a television that accepts composite video.  In addition, ensure that the device is compatible with the iPhone 4.  Some are not.  A good place to look for compatibility is the Apple Store of course ($$$) and also  I have seen the cords there for $17.99. (3) (4)(5)(6)

     Apart from playing long form videos, this little program also supports subtititles!   Personally, this means that I can now watch several episodes of the Korean medical soap opera Behind The White Tower (7)and read the subtitles (Great show by the way :) ).   It is obvious that the writers of this app had an international audience in mind when they wrote the app.

    I spoke earlier about the UI, but make no mistake, the language issue is incorporated in this app by the wonderful use of gestures for making things work.  There are no long explanations of instructions, just swiping your fingers in certain positions will produce the desired effect.   In addition to this, the artsy partisans can enjoy changing the color scheme of shows watched.  This is really a nice touch for the old sepia movie crowd.

    As I posted in one of my earlier reviews of this and the other app to follow, the simplicity of the UI was not the only thing that I enjoyed about this app.  There is also the file transfer mechanism chosen by the authors that makes this one a winner.  You do not need to have your computer attached to the device to transfer files to it.  You can if you want to however and this will produce the "side loading" effect found in Cinexplayer.  It will download the files in iTunes and serve them via USB and Itunes to your iPhone or iPad.  But be forewarned, this method of transfer will eat up valuable hard drive space on your computer.  Remember that backing up your data to your computer means that all of those video files get backed up again, so you will have duplicates of your movie files on your hard drive.

    Much more interesting is the new FTP transfer system recently implemented.  It does work and  you have the ability to set up your device as an FTP server or client.  It's really not my favorite way to access my Network Attached Storage (NAS) which I have to do via my computer, but it works for any FTP client, so you are not necessarily locked into just downloading files from your local Machine.

    For the computer, using your local address will allow you to upload and download files from your computer wirelessly.  It works with either the usual port 8080 HTTP route or via an FTP program.

    Although it is nice, I still prefer the ability to use SAMBA or AFP directly.  But this method is not bad.  I cannot get the FTP client to work using the Apple Airport presently, but I think that is just me.

    There are other wonderful things about this program, but you may not need any of them.  Just know that you can throw a lot of file types at it and it will respond nicely.

    OPlayer and OPlayerHD

    Version Tested:  1.31 iPhone,  1.1.01
    Size:  33.1mb, 17mb (iPad)
    Cost:  $2.99, $4.99 (iPad=hd)

    The first thing that you may notice about this app is the sheer size of its iPhone version.  It is almost 4x the size of its competitors.  It is also the most expensive of the ones that I have reviewed.

    OPlayer has a few things going for it that other programs still lack.  But this one almost went down in flames due to some social faux pas.  I sometimes feel sorry for Jonathon Young, the young programmer who created this wonderful app.  It is obvious that Jonathon created this program in response to a need that existed for playing codecs that were outside the realm of Quicktime.  But with success came trouble.  Having had Oplayer hailed as the best AV player for the iPhone bar none, Jonathon administered an update that just about crashed every time the app was opened.  Jonathon's slow response to the issues almost relegated this app to obscurity.  It received a plethora of negative comments in the app store.  I refrained, mainly because I did not do the update.  I am apt to waiting for feedback about updates before taking the plunge - something I learned from my Palm Lifedrive days.  And of course in the tech world - unfortunately for Jonathon, if you make a slip, there is always someone waiting to take over ie. AVPLAYER.

    But some time in August a new update to this program was released and I have to tell you, it was well worth the wait.

    What is obvious about Oplayer is the fact that it is not as snazzy as AVPLAYER.  It is obvious that this is either a one-man or two person software endeavor.  It is not elegant nor is it appeasing to the eye.  But what it has going for it is something that cannot be denied.  It will brute force almost any codec that  you throw at it.  You may have to do a little work to get it going, but once you do, the App shines.

    First, let's talk about filetypes and codecs covered:

    1. wmv
    2. avi
    3. mkv
    4. rm
    5. rmvb
    6. xvid
    7. mp4
    8. mov
    9. 3gp
    10. mpg
    11. .iso (really?).  Who would download an .iso file to their iphone?  Almost nobody.  But the secret sauce is .......... Streaming from a NAS.

    And the playback is near flawless.  As I stated in my earlier review about this app, if you find the audio synching to be out of time, you can alter this without difficulty by decreasing the hardware decoding and skipping frames.  Skipping frames does not really show up appreciably if you are watching a movie on the iPhone4.   The quality is again exemplary as it is for the other apps, with the exception that the iPhone4 can only display a max of 720 p XVIDs.   A minor inconvenience.

    As with AVPlayer, Oplayer can play back subtitled video.  This appears to work relatively well and I had no problem playing back my default file used for this review (7).

    One feature that I have always liked about Oplayer is the security touch that was built into its first iteration.  The changing of the port numbers with each use of the software is pure genius.  For most players, including AVPlayer, port 8080 appears to be the ubiquitous route.  I do not need to tell you what the dangers are of having just one port available for transfers.  The variation of ports is a good thing and it is continued in this version of the program.

    Where AVPlayer excels with its swashbuckling UI, Oplayer excels in its ability to play back almost anything.   Yes, you have the ubiquitous USB connection that uses iTunes.  See my previous report about that.  It is the fastest way to get a movie onto the device, but it is problematic when doing backups.   Oplayer has the FTP transfers just as its nearest competitor does.  But here is the kicker.  With the latest version of OPlayer, those of us using NAS drives finally have a streaming and downloading video player that does not need an additional program to use it.   Normally, on the iPhone or on the iPad one would use a separate program to download a file from a NAS drive and then transfer it to the video player of choice.  OPlayer now allows you to use the SAMBA protocol to download directly from your NAS drive or STREAM to your device and not download it at all.   THIS IS A DREAM COME TRUE.  Although there is no AFP streaming (Apple's native protocol), most devices can do both so you can use OPlayer to do a lot.  HTTP streaming is also supported, although I have never tried to use it. 

    So what are the weaknesses? Well we've beaten the elegance thing into the wall.  It is not elegant at all.  In fact it is downright ugly!   The instructions on what to do are.... well.... nonexistent.    You really have to figure it all out as you go along.   The web site has gotten a lot better and there are now some YouTube videos that offer support.   But you have to do a lot of work sometimes to get what you want.  Downloading files remains simple if you use the HTTP route, but you do have to worry about Time Outs once in a while with larger files.

    The HD version of the app for the iPad  is only slightly better than the iPhone version, but offers no additional features.

    Languages supported:
    1. English
    2. Arabic
    3. Catalan (really? )
    4. Chinese
    5. Czech
    6. Danish
    7. Dutch
    8. French
    9. German
    10. Hebrew
    11. Hungarian
    12. Italian
    13. Japanese
    14. Korean
    15. Polish
    16. Portuguese
    17. Russian
    18. Slovak
    19. Spanish
    20. Swedish
    21. Turkish
    22. Ukranian
    Far more than AVPlayer. 

    The feedback that Jonathon Young received from a lot of users seems to have driven him to make some well thought out changes.  Apart from the broken English postings on his blog, Jonathon appears to be earnestly trying to right the silence that he provided in April.  There is now a snazzy website called "edavs" which is short for Embedded Devices AV Solution,which offers information on present, new and upcoming products. 

    I still find this piece of software to be very useful in the long run, particularly when I am having trouble with certain codecs.  And I can still say that I highly recommend it on the iPhone.

    Real World Testing:

    Reading from a NAS Drive: 

      Only the Oplayer on both the iPhone and iPad was able to read from the NAS drive using SAMBA.  The SAMBA setup was easy enough.  Although I was not fond of the fact that it accessed the first layer of the directory, I was impressed by the fact that it still worked.  I would like to see it open in a folder so that all of the network drive is not shown when connecting.

    As for streaming, the quality is excellent.  There were some issues with rotating the device to landscape mode once a movie commenced, but when playing the file natively this did not occur. 
    Additionally, once the device was turned to the portrait mode, it was fine.  Interestingly, if you begin watching the streamed movie in landscape mode it does not stutter.

    On the iPad, the results were passable.  One thing I could not tell was whether the HD version was streaming 1080p or 720p like its iPhone neighbor.  The quality was still quite good. A recent check on the iTunes site now states 1280x720 for XVID and 800x600 for everything else.  Apparently there are some audio synching issues if you go outside of this.

    So what about that iso file thing?  Well, streaming it (I wasn't crazy enough to sit and wait for an ISO download) took a while.  It was stuck on 95% load for almost 3 minutes before it began streaming.  I would say "Not quite ready for prime time" on that one.   Additionally, I could not get the DVD menus to work well, so I would say don't rely on this to remotely control your DVD's.


    I do not use FTP that much for anything anymore so my testing was limited to my other computers using an FTP server.  AVPlayer and OPlayer worked well, but AVPlayer's server capabilities were quite remarkable.  Although there are some issues with getting FTP to work immediately.


    Both work well for HTTP downloading.  However as I have stated on several occasions, the use of unique ports with Oplayer is something that I find refreshing.  It is interesting to note that not many programmers have adopted this scheme.  AVPlayer, as usual was the most elegant, with a beautiful meter showing how far the download progressed. 


    Both AVPlayer and OPlayer have security settings.  OPlayer allows you to add a password to use the app. AVPlayer uses the numerical keypass to do the same essentially.

    Ease of use: 

    AVPlayer wins that round hands down when it comes to simplicity.  One can get more complex with the hand gestures that are used, but overall the UI for AVPlayer is the most "Apple-like."

    MKV Playback:

    Oplayer -  Period!

    Final thoughts:


    For the iPhone, I reiterate my view that OPLAYER is the best video player out there.  Although there is stiff competition coming from AVPlayer, OPlayer still outshines AVPlayer with its incredible array of features for downloading and streaming, not to mention its ubiquitous language support.  If your movie is already downloaded into the iPhone memory then AVPlayer has a commanding lead with its hand gestures, color changes and again, dare I say it --- UI.

    Even though OPlayer has its faults - (while using HTTP, despite having the wandering Ports that I love, OPlayer still does not show a progress bar for downloads.  Unless you are using something on your desktop computer showing data flowing in and out of your computer, you have no idea if the file that you are uploading to OPlayer is actually getting there or not.  This flaw needs to be fixed!) -  the wandering Port feature for downloads, the subtitles, language support and near flawless playback makes this one a winner for the iPhone, but for how long?  


    Where as I may forgive OPlayer for its shortcomings on the iPhone, I cannot do the same on the iPad.  It's $4.99 price tag makes it one of the more expensive players on the iPad.  AVPlayer on the other hand excels in the iPad environs.  Its tremendous UI advantage is only amplified on the iPad.  Although it still pales when it comes to connectivity (SAMBA, Subtitles), once you get your file on the device, the playback using AVPlayer is spot on.  I had some issues with OPlayer on the iPad.  It seems that the little nuances that can be forgiven on the iPhone - tracking, pixels etc., are amplified on the iPad.  Folder management seems to be more concerning to me on the iPad than it was on the iPhone.  AVPlayer seems to excel in almost every department from ease of use to custom playback.  AVPlayer is well suited for the iPad.

    One feature lacking in both was AirPlay.  I am hoping that iOS 5's screen cloning will resolve this issue, but for now, tethered playback to HDMI seems to work well for both using the iPad device.   On the iPhone, the Composite playback wires appear to work well.

    My Recommendations for Video Playback:

    For the iPhone:     OPlayer.     (Olimsoft)

    For the iPad:        AVPlayer    (EPLAYWORKS)(8)



    (1)  Quicktime Native Codecs.
    (2)  AVI not supported on iPhone Quicktime. 
    (3)  For composite cords (subject to change):
    (4)  More on composite cords (iPad):
    (5)  Buying a composite cord.  Pricey, but guaranteed to work:
    (6) site for iphone 4 composite cords (again may be subject to change):
    (7)  Crunchyroll also shows this streaming video.  I really recommend it.   Link is here to Crunchyroll
    (8)Olimsoft's new website:
    (9)EPLAYWORKS website:
    (10)  Video still from Pirates of the Caribbean.

    Disclaimer:  The above mentioned review represents the opinions of myself and no other entities.  All software was purchased at full cost via the iTunes App store.  No Demo or Review copies were entertained.  This review is based upon real world use using standard equipment.  No input was sought from the companies mentioned in this report. All software was used on iOS4.  A recent trial with iOS5 has shown no appreciable issues so my review stands for both iOS4 and iOS5.


    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Why Siri Matters.....

    The iPhone4S has been derided as a minor upgrade by many in the press, but its presenters were somber for reasons that became apparent 24 hours later to the public.  But the highlight of the presentation was SIRI - a software Artificial Intelligence program built into the 4S. 

    I have been using Siri on my iphone 4 for the past year, but it was only useful for restaurants.  I did not really need it for anything else.  What Apple has done is to transform Siri into an Artificial Intelligence application that not only obeys commands - something that the Android users have been ranting about for over a year - but appreciates context.   I am not going to go into specifics because you can view that on You tube

    Where Siri comes into play is in the arena of disabilities.  At the end of the video above is a young blind lady using the device. She is able to dictate a message replying to a message that was received.  In regards to this, someone jokingly responded on Youtube that she would have to find the phone to use it.  But jokes aside, this is a really useful tool if you are disabled.  Not just for the blind.

    I have a patient who was once a computer programmer and who worked as a nuclear scientist, but is now confined to working in a hardware store due to his disability.  He became disgruntled 2 years ago because his Parkinsons disease was not responding to his medications.  He was unable to write things down, but was able to work and live on his own.  He relied on his telephone - then a Palm Treo because he was able to tap the keys for appointments.  He came up with his own syntax, shortening words as much as possible.  So he would use "mn" for morning "tk" for take etc.  It would take him 2 minutes to type a sentence.  He was weary of buying an iPhone because of the lack of tactile feedback, but he welcomed the ability to do one thing that he saw on a presentation a year ago.  Phil Schiller presented a special feature in the email app that made my patient smile.  Since he used his device to mainly to make appointments and to attempt to answer email, he was able to tap on a date in his email and an appoinment would be automatically set up.  I actually do this a lot with email invitations and conferences.  The following is from About.Com on how to do this with your iPhone, if you have not done it before (

    Yet, he took back the iPhone, because it was too difficult to type.  He needed the tactile feedback.  He settled for a regular Razr because of the predictive text, before eventually buying a Blackberry.  I couldn't understand the Razr purchase, but understood the tactile issues necessitating the need for the Blackberry.   But through it all, I remember him saying the following:  "If I could just tell the damn thing what to do, I'd be happy."  He had tried a Droid in the store, but found it lacking in some of the features that he needed.  It is possible that the iPhone 4S may be the phone that he needs.  Obviously real world use will dictate the reality of this device, but it looks promising for the many people with disabilities.

    If he has not done so already, I plan to show him the video above when he comes to his next appointment.  For those missing the importance of Siri, which appears to be hardware dependent and hence the importance of the iPhone 4S, you should know that for many disabled people, the sheer act of holding a phone in one hand can be as difficult as writing a note.   For the patient in question, his constant shaking, particularly when he becomes nervous, makes writing near impossible and texting a chore.  This is why Siri matters.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    Thank You Steve !

    I am penning a few words extemporaneously today.  At about 6pm my nurse called to let me know that Steve Jobs had resigned as the CEO of Apple.  In a way I was happy to hear about the resignation as opposed to something else.  Then my thoughts ran into the realm of gratitude. 

    When I was a young man, I loved computers.  I used to hang out at Radio Shack playing with TRS-80's and learned how to program in Basic.  I never thought that I could own a computer.  No one could afford a TRS-80.  When an Apple store opened a block away from my house all of the geeks transitioned there, hanging out in our corduroys and Jordache/Sassoon jeans typing away and programming.  It was only a matter of time before all of us mustered enough courage to work night and day to purchase an Apple II computer.  I still have it!  It was Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who fueled the passion in us high school geeks.  Although we also admired Bill Gates in the process, it was the Apple II that made us believe that we could do great things.  Yes, it was only Visicalc and a crashy wordprocessor, but we created magic with the Assembler.  Who can forget writing in numbers?  Who remembers Peek and Poke?  

    My first computer job came with an Apple II+, writing a script program for an all-purpose store, showing clothing, matching colors etc.  A collaborative project, it helped to pay down some of my school bills and tuition.  I then began working in a really ritzy store in Manhattan, doing their accounts receivables and database programming (all primitive stuff now) for about 6 hours per week.   The Apple community at that time was really close-knit.  We shared code and helped each other as much as possible.

    It all came to an end for me during college when everyone went to IBM PC's and I had to go with the flow or suffer!  I went with the flow and literally, made no money for school, because the programming languages were so terrible.  I couldn't "make magic" with a PC.  So for years I held out, buying and building PC's until I finally came back to Apple in 2007.  I have never looked back.  It started with the purchase of an iPod for my wife two years earlier.  And then the full conversion.  I got back into programming again, albeit, I find OSX a lot harder than Basic or Assembler.   But there is really one person to thank for that.

    I found the convergence of Apple products to be more appealing than Windows.  Everything just started working well together.  The computers spoke to each other.  Devices recognized each other immediately.  Even now, when I was "forced" to use a Windows 7 machine, it could not find my printer.  When I plugged in my Mac, it found the printer, the wifi - configured itself for its use, and just worked right out of the box.  Yes, Windows does some of that well now, but Windows XP and Windows Vista did not.  I finally found myself using my own cloud storage system.  At home and away, everything just worked.  I would only have to put my NAS address in once and it would find the NAS drive every time.  I didn't need to sync machines etc or sign in repetitively.  I have still not had a virus in 5 years on my Mac.  Although I cowered and installed an antivirus system a year ago only because I couldn't convince someone in my family to stop running in Root.  I did not want to press my luck.

    And then I started watching the keynotes.  Actually, I started watching them in 2005 and was impressed and excited by the presentations that Steve Jobs gave.  They were exciting, invigorating and entertaining.  I wanted a Mac.  The commercials were priceless because they were so true.  I eventually purchased an Intel iMac and soon got back into writing again, because I could concentrate on writing and not the process of file management.  I again ran into the Apple community helping each other with problems.  Open source software that was to die for.   Software that actually fit a niche nicely.  And of course, the CRAZIES!   Ah yes, where would we be without mentioning the Crazies!  The ones who make Crazy movies about the Mac and about their allegiance to Apple.  The ones who stalked out the Comp-USA stores answering questions for customers that the store clerks had no idea about.  The ones who now stalk Best Buy stores doing the same thing.  The ones who look out for every Steve Jobs poll on Engadget and ensure that everyone votes at least twice - at home and at work.  The ones who push the envelope on Macrumors, MacDailyNews, Engadget,TUAW, Appleinsider and MacWorld,  asking for the impossible.  The thing about the Crazies is that one guy at the helm has been listening, reading and affecting the change that they have requested (some of the times).  That person has been Steve Jobs.   Steve has been represented in the media as being brilliant, assertive, rude, nice, bold and certainly ground breaking.  He has had a vision of personal computing that has been equaled only in Science Fiction.  He has made possible that which we believed was impossible.  The iPod brought paying customers to the post Napster world.  He convinced record companies to pay attention to this nascient entity and they did.   He brought dramatic changes to the PC by building All-In-Ones and then sped up the process by actually saying goodbye to a long time chip ally - Motorola.  The Intel chip propelled the iMac to greatness and catapaulted the Macbook Pro to being the number one most requested laptop in the world.  He had the vision to see what people wanted.  He implemented the ideas of the Crazies slowly instead of all at once.  He made it fun for anyone to play music, write books/screenplays, make movies by relying on that thing that humans do best -  concentrating on creating the project.  Gone was the process which made programs such as Windows Cakewalk (for music) and various video programs seem archaic.  iLife made it all so simple.  And above all else, it was all included in the Mac.   From the day that you purchased it, you were working on your projects.

    He helped to revolutionize the way in which we watch television.  Purchasing episodes and seasons digitally, although the encryption was quite silly, it was a start and a position of leadership that others would run to follow.   Even in music, iTunes still leads the way. 

    But if the revolution was in the PC, created and reaffirmed by Apple, it was the telephone that once and for all made Apple the King that it should have been 20 years ago.  I have never forgotten the day, the hour, the minute that I saw the presentation for the iPhone.  Steve Jobs reiteration of the three devices being simultaneously made by Apple and the revelation that all three devices were really ONE DEVICE.  I remain, to this day, stunned by that presentation.  It was by far the best presentation I have ever seen even 4 years later.  The build up, which was literally pent up demand for a major change in the way in which we use a telephone had been going on for months.  No one knew what the final product would look like. And I assure you that no one knew that it would have ONE BUTTON.  It was the perfect device.  Finally someone had listened.  To make matters worse, the ridiculous statement by Palm about computer companies not being able to take over the phone business, made the iPhone even more coveted.  Steve Jobs got it right!  He understood what customers wanted in a phone.  So much so that Google, Samsung and even Palm itself literally made buttonless phones and called them original.  Everyone who wasn't living under a rock knew what was going on.  Worse, the purchase of non-Apple look alikes were based more on cut rate pricing and giveaways rather than wants.  AT&T continues to sell the iPhone 3GS above other smartphones.  Verizon has finally admitted that many people bought Droids because they could not get iPhones and the sales of iPhones has proven that.

    Steve Jobs is a visionary.  His ability to see what customers want and to drive his engineers to the point of near impossibility and excellence has been amazing.  Questions are now being asked as to whether Tim Cook, appointed CEO today will have that same vision as Steve has had for the past twenty years.  Apple over the years has created some phenomenal hardware which has been closely linked with its software.  That union has led it to being one of the greatest tech stories of all time.   As a kid, I looked at my computer as a device that would change the world.  It changed the world for me, allowing me to pay a lot of my tuition; completing projects and succeeding in this world that has become the future.  Three guys were followed closely by my classmates.  We watched everything that they did.  It didn't matter if we were going into Medicine, Finance or Law, we followed these three guys like hawks.  Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak were one of the Crazies, but only one did we look to for what was next.  We watched him get thrown under the bus by the company that he founded.  We watched him while he was at Nexus and wondered when he would return.  And when he did, we jumped for joy.  We became the Crazies.  We talked about it at Christmas reunions.  Some of us took longer than others to return to the Apple fold, whether we were detoured by work or school, we eventually came back.  It wasn't out of some crazy loyalty that we returned.  We returned because we realized that we were missing something.  We missed not having to deal with The Process.  We longed for the need to return back to the simplicity of doing that which we set out to do.  Neither the hardware nor the software should distract us from our primary goal.  We returned because of STEVE JOBS.

    For making us the kids of yesteryear love science.
    For making us, the kids of yesteryear, hang out in Apple Stores programming and have fun.
    For making us make possible that which was once considered impossible.
    For making me and my kids do our work without relying on the process.
    For making my kids love programming (MIT's Scratch)
    For making my wife love using a computer once again.
    For making me pay for some of my tuition due to making affordable hardware (Apple II+).
    For making music fun again.
    For making family movie making fun again.
    For making it easy to make a DVD (no mean feat in the early days) from personal film.
    For making homework fun to do.
    For making it easy to write custom software for kids.
    For making the software less prone to viruses and other nasties.
    For showing us that there is a different way to do things.
    For making us quietly convince our IT departments to THINK DIFFERENT!


    S T E V E    J O B S,

    T H A N K      Y O U.

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    FDA proposes Health App Guidelines...

    It was bound to happen.  The FDA has decided to get involved in the Medical App process giving guidelines for apps running on iOS, Android and WebOS.  Full details are listed here:

    FDA Guidelines for Apps

    This is a comprehensive guideline for those wishing to write apps pertaining to medical management.

    For an updated list of NIH approved apps, go to the following website:

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Some likes and concerns for iOS 5 at WWDC 2011.

    Stunning!  That's what I thought about the new updates to iPhone with iOS 5.  Along with elation, there was some concern.  Instead of presenting this in a paragraph by paragraph diatribe, I will list my thoughts on the updates individually, starting with the most obvious one that has only recently caught traction:

    1.  iMessenger. --  Let me just say that I almost fell out of my chair when I saw Steve Jobs talk about this.  To me, this appeared to be $240 per year saved from this point onward or $20 per month for two 1000 texts/month plans.  Since most of the texting was between the wife and myself and friends who already have iPhones, I think that I would probably save in reality $120 per year, dropping the 1000 text plan to 200 for those laggards who refuse to pick up an iPhone.  This would drop the bill to $10 per month for 2 iPhones.

    But hold on!  There are some issues here that will  need to be ironed out before I drop anything.  For starters, in my professional life I rely on text messages that have to be answered in a timely manner.  From what I have seen of the cloud services, for example with TODO, there have been some delays of up to 5 minutes getting the cloud to send an alarm down to my phone.  If this was an urgent text message from the family or work, those 5 minutes would seem crucial.  Is Apple willing to take the risk for something such as this?  But more importantly, will there be a bypass button to send a message via SMS instead of via Apple?  Secondly what of the stored messages?  Who keeps those?  Are they deleted permanently?

    Personally, I rarely use texting as a 911 solution so the above may be hyperbole in the real world.  But it would be nice to know if this solution could really shave my monthly phone bill considerably.

    2.  iTunes Music Match.  --  Well, this is not medical, but my goodness was this a whopper of an announcement.  I recall watching the keynote and having someone ask:  " So you can only do the songs that you buy on iTunes?  Epic fail dude...."  Only to hear Mr. Jobs say those magical 3 words, "One More Thing!"  The announcement of being able to convert your entire library into 256 khz pieces was enticing.  And with a 25,000 song limit, this seems like a lifetime of music for conversion to the digital cloud.

    And then I got to thinking.  Was this the music industry's way of capitalizing on all of the "uncaptured" revenue from sources such as Napster, Limewire etc?  A sort of Amnesty for downloaders?  Or an admission of "We don't care where you get your music from, as long as you use this locker to store it for $25 per year."

    And then I heard about the way in which iTunes and iCloud would assess whether you had a song or not - by reading Metadata in the song.  This is obviously laden with future abuse!  Metadata could scream " Lady Gaga " while actually representing " Madonna " only to have iCloud download Lady Gaga.  Increasing the clever meta data hound with more "free" music.  It could be that all of this washes out with the $25 per year subscription plan.

    The good?  You finally have all of your music in one place, without the need to use that wretched USB dongle to the PC.  It's a great idea.

    3.  The Camera Software --  Wonderful and about time!   However, kudos could have been given to the real mavericks who championed using hardware buttons in the first place.  Somehow I thought that the hardware button issue was to prevent newer additions of hardware becoming incompatible with the software in question.  But what do I know?

    4.  Still lacking or at least not mentioned.  CUSTOMIZED RING TONES FOR SMS.   Read my other posts for my opinions on this.  Steve !  I cannot get rid of my pager if I cannot have this feature.

    5.  Read Later.  Somewhere in the world a man by the name of MARCO ARMENT is fuming vociferously as his creation becomes a part of an operating system, reducing his potential revenue significantly.  I would have much preferred Apple to have purchased Marco's company.  His idea was really original and super for cross platform use.  I can use Marco's product on my Kindle, Mac, PC or iPhone.  I was surprised to find it here.

    While on the subject of "gentle annihilation," there appeared to be features taken from other apps throughout the session.  If you're a developer, you have to be scratching your head on some of this.  I know I was.

    6.  Still lacking.  The codec issue.  Will Apple ever support Divx or other non Quicktime codecs?

    7.  iPhone Notifications.   --- Wow, about time on this one.  The present notification system was great for 2007, but not now.  This one looks like a winner.  Non obtrusive and I like the idea of not having to open my phone to get things to view my messages.

    8.  Missing ---  iPad Guest Login.  Handing off my iPad to someone to demo is a no go when I have my email available for all to peruse.

    9.  Wireless Synch.   Thank You.   Enough Said.

    10.  Calendar formation without the PC.  --  Hopefully this means that I can make contacts separable by whatever criteria I choose - ie. Work/Home/Family etc.   This is sorely lacking in iOS 1-4.  All of the folders and separation are done on the PC in another application outside of iTunes.  The integration issue is going to entice me to leave Google's email and calendar servers.  I have always wanted to sync my calendar with my wife's so that we can figure out vacations etc.  Without a Mobile Me account, this wasn't easily attainable.  In addition, we didn't really want to have every single detail of our lives given to Google.   Don't get me wrong, I like Google, but having commercials interrupt my email and directing ads to me during the reading of emails is just not my cup of tea (We had a death in the family a few years ago and while making funeral arrangements found ads for caskets - that was a bit too much for both of us).  Apple's new calendar set up is really nice.

    11.  Reminders.   -- Interesting.  My wife has not been a fan of TODO due to its complexity.  The idea of this program going across all iOS devices is appealing.  For me, I still love TODO, so I will have to see how this one pans out.

    12.  THE CLOUD.  Well what can you say about this?  It's nice and the implementation looks really good at this point.  Will they open the cloud to other documents though?  Will Microsoft files be allowed in the cloud?  How about documents that do not currently run on iWork?  Will the cloud be accessible by third party vendors?

    Where I see this coming into play was represented by several things that happened a few weeks ago.  My wife and I were working on a document together.  When it came time to store the document, we had an issue.  We had to put the document on a Mac for further editing.  Emailing the document worked, but that really was not an optional thing to do.  Now, we will be able to have the document pushed to each device and we can work on it together.   I really like that.

    One worry about the cloud is the idea of automatically downloading apps to unsuspecting people.  For example, will my kids automatically get songs that I download to my iPhone because they are on the same account as me?  Is there a way to separate ownership of devices other than the use of the Apple ID?   Without the software in front of me, I cannot tell.

    Overall, I have to say that iOS 5 is going to be a great update to iOS .  On the PC side, OS X Lion is a bit iffy.  I am still in love with the independent software providers and I am seeing a push to centralize everything.  That may not be the best thing in the world.  One thought that I had with Lion is what do you do if your computer crashes?  Initially, one would put in the DVD which acted as a Rescue Disk.  What do you do now?   More on that later..... For now, I am looking forward to OS 5.


    Monday, May 30, 2011

    Conde Nast....Well Done !

    Condé Nast began offering in-app subscriptions for iPad versions of Allure, Glamour, Golf Digest and Vanity Fair on this month. The publisher began offering The New Yorker iPad subscriptions just a week earlier, marking the first time it has used Apple’s new in-app subscription system. (1)

    It took a few months, but the publishers finally woke up and noticed that there was coffee brewing in the kitchen.  When I purchased my iPad a few weeks ago I was absolutely shocked to find the staggering prices of the electronic versions of magazines.  $4.99 per copy?  No ink!  No sweet smelling perfume cards dropping out of the center page, no useless coupons for cut rate pricing on yearly subscriptions?  No, this was just the electronic copy of the magazine.  Naturally, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I purchased one.  And yes, it was very good.  Excellent navigation and excellent content.  But $4.99 per copy?

    The reviewers on iTunes lambasted Conde Nast and others for essentially gouging the consumer.  I totally agreed with their sentiments.  The age of electronic media was supposed to decrease the price of distribution for the creator and this was supposed to be reflected in the final pricing to the consumer.  Until last week, this began to look like the Wild West, with publishers attempting to find the pain point for consumers.

    But the magazine publishers may have arisen due to what has happened in the e-Book arena.  The eBook publishers still haven't figured out that $9.99 is the point of no return (although Amazon did very early on); anything above that leaves a reader with an option to purchase the hardcover version of the book.  Surprisingly, although being first to the table, e-Book publishers are still learning or should I say testing the waters to find that pain point.  Unfortunately they may have waited a little too long, because the e-Book authors, buoyed by Amazon predominantly and a number of new all electronic publishing houses (Zumaya Publications for example),  have found ways to undercut the $9.99 model and sell their products for $0.99 to $2.99.  Some authours have even taken to self-publishing their works,  bringing down the price to gross up to  60-70% profit.  While this may seem like small change, if an author can show volume across the channels with low pricing, some authors can essentially quit their day jobs.  Ask Amanda Hocking, a self published author, who sold over 1 million copies of 9 e-Books, grossing over $2 million in sales in just over 1 year.   This self-publishing phenom penned a hard-cover 4-book deal with St. Martin's Press for a young-adult paranormal series to be called "Watersong." For this she will receive $2 million.   Her Amazon e-Books are selling for $0.99 - $2.99.  Weblink here.

    With negative reviews, and probably seeing the carnage that has become the e-Book market, Conde Nast has finally stepped up to the plate and possibly saved the day for magazine publishers throughout the world.   They have finally lowered the pricing on individual publications, but more importantly, they have created subscription pricing.  And the prices are more reasonable than they previously were.  They started with The New Yorker, which was incredibly and ridiculously overpriced at $4.99 per issue (an obvious fishing expedition), ending the hate by offering a print/web/ipad bundle for $69.99/yr; while an iPad and web edition is now $59.99/yr.  There is also a monthly option of $6.99 for the former and $5.99 for the latter.  The New Yorker is a weekly publication so this comes out to about $1.50 per issue.  Not Bad! 

    Adding to this, Conde Nast came out with additional iPad subscription plans for  Allure, Glamour, Golf Digest and Vanity Fair.  All of these publications are using the In-App system by Apple.  I want to tip my hat to Conde Nast for essentially coming to the table and thinking reasonably about their pricing.  Some may think that the prices are still too high; you may be right, but I do believe that magazines need to stay in business and it is important for them to come to the table in the New Age of media with a plan that shows a decrease in the price that consumers have to pay.  It is the only way that adoption can take place.   It is only a matter of time before all of the other magazine conglomerates, who were salivating at the $4.99 looney-tunes price point come around to subscription pricing as well.

      But for now, I tip my hat to Conde Nast.  Next stop, addressing the looney tunes pricing of medical and educational e-Textbooks.



    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Temporary Solution to AFP, SMB & NAS problems after OSX 10.6.7 update

    Okay, so I'm not a command line expert.  When I owned my first Apple IIe years ago, I left the world of command line entries behind.  One of the beautiful things about OS X ( and Windows for that matter) is the lack of a need to know about command line entries.  However, the thing that separates new computer owners from the ones of my youth is the fact that those who grew up in the early days know exactly what is going on under those pretty little icons.

    I have been spoiled by the Mac, after walking away from Windows 5 years ago.  But I remember in those early days of Mac Loving, I still had an interest in what was going on in the background.  I wanted to know why the disk drive kept running in the background (Usually Spotlight updating) or more mundane issues,  so I began learning a little about OSX.  As always I have books on the subject, but stopped buying any more books due to the fact that Apple updates its OS every 2 years, making physical books obsolete.

    Coming from Windows I had to know about
    file servers and a new nomenclature for file transfers, especially the ones that were strictly adherent to the Macintosh:  AFP (Apple Filing Protocol) instead of SMB (Server Message Block).  I needed to know these two separate protocols if I wanted to access a Windows Network Drive or the Windows XP machine that I used.  Additionally, file access to the Mac required the above knowledge in order to access and transfer files to and from the Mac.  With the advances of NAS drives, creating a wonderful extension to the hard drive on the computer, I had to keep up with being able to place and retrieve data from both machines regardless of which machine I was using.  To begin with, I hated SMB protocols because my disk would always disappear, especially when the machine was turned off.  With the machine off, DHCP would take over when I turned the machine on again and my wonderful SMB drive would have a new ip address and so nothing would work.  Live backups were a nightmare.  As I learned more, I realize now that I could have leased the DHCP address for a long time and that would have resolved the issue.

    Although learning to use AFP on the Mac was new, it was much easier.  It kept track of the NAS drives even when I turned off the machine and rebooted it.  To be honest, using AFP was akin to having a disk drive sitting right next to me.  However, once in a while it wouldn't work.   Some of the Windows oriented NAS drives would not always respond to the SMB or AFP command.  This would happen in Windows and on the Mac.  However on the Mac I found a solution in one of the books.

    With OSX 10.4 there was an interesting command in the command line that showed whether OSX would read/write to the NAS drive.  If written with a boolean command, you could set up a signal to show whether the drive is ready to read/write.   I recall in those early years, 2007 to be precise, how I would toil away trying to decipher why a drive wouldn't work.   It was these wonderful commands that set me free finally. 

    I never thought that I would have to return to those days again because my newer network drives are so much more resilient.  First, not having Windows to deal with, I was able to use long file names and strange characters, something that we can now do in Windows 7.   Until I upgraded to OSX 10.6.7 I was in network Nirvana.

    So, after upgrading my OSX Snow leopard 10.6.6 TO OSX 10.6.7 as a good Apple Netizen should do a few days ago, I was stunned to find that I could no longer write to my NAS drive.  I thought it was my virus protection acting up, so I turned it off and actually deleted it (I have since reinstalled it, since that was not the problem).  All transfers to and from the NAS drive would hang.  I then remembered the last time that this occurred.   It was during those early learning days.  I wrote it down on a note card.

    It turns out that there is a command in OSX that when written with a Boolean request can tell you if the drive is accessible or not.   I believe that the latest update may have turned off a switch that enables Cleartext.  Cleartext is a ZeroConfig set up, meaning that you do very little to set up your network (a la AppleTV) since Apple takes care of all of this behind the scenes.  It is what enables your printer to "just work."  You can use names like "My_Printer" to signify that your printer is attached to a certain ip address hiding behind  your router (preferably an Apple Airport Extreme) and it will show up as "My_Printer.local"  something much easier to remember than or something akin to that.

    In reading the latest update, there is a mention of Apple correcting AFP mount errors and SMB mount problems.  Here is the full text from Apple:


    In Mac OS X v10.5 and 10.6 you can use a URL in the form afp:// or the mount_afp command in Terminal to mount a shared volume on an AFP server.

    Products Affected

    Mac OS X Server 10.6, Mac OS X v10.6
    In or Safari, when you click on a URL in the form afp:// , the Finder will mount the volume named Sharepoint on the AFP server, and open a window showing the contents of the directory named Folder. If you drag the text of the URL to your Desktop, it will create an AFP link which you can double-click to open that folder.

    mount_afp command can be used in a Terminal window or a shell script to mount a shared folder on an AFP server. For more information, type man mount_afp in a Terminal window.

    : The path at which the shared folder is mounted is different in Mac OS X v10.6 through 10.6.6 compared to other versions of Mac OS X. For details, see the Additional Information section below.

    Additional Information

    In Mac OS X v10.6 through 10.6.6, a URL that points to a file on the server (for example afp:// will not work. This issue is resolved in Mac OS X v10.6.7 and later.

    In Mac OS X v10.6 through 10.6.6, if the target of the URL or
    mount_afp command is a folder within the sharepoint, the folder will be mounted. In Mac OS X v10.0 through 10.5, and Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later, the sharepoint is mounted.
    Example: afp://

    When you click on this link in Mac OS X 10.0-10.5 and 10.6.7 and later, the Finder will mount the volume Sharepoint. The local path to the shared folder will be /Volumes/Sharepoint/Folder/.

    When you click on this link in Mac OS X 10.6-10.6.6 the Finder will mount the subdirectory Folder. The local path to the shared folder will be /Volumes/Folder/.

    mount_afp afp:// /Volumes/mntpnt

    In Mac OS X v10.5 and 10.6.7 or later, this command will mount the volume Sharepoint at /Volumes/mntpnt. The local path to the shared folder will be /Volumes/mntpnt/Folder/.

    In Mac OS X v10.6 through 10.6.6, this command will mount the subdirectory Folder at /Volumes/mntpnt. The local path to the shared folder will be /Volumes/mntpnt/.


    I think that somewhere along the road, they turned off the Cleartext switch.  Cleartext is used because the NAS drives are running behind a Router, hence there isn't really a need to encrypt passwords, although it is interesting to note that in Snow Leopard, Apple does not give you a choice of not using a password as they do with the AFP protocol when using SMB.   Regardless of whether a password is used or not, I was able to find out that neither an SMB nor AFP protocol would work on my NAS drive.  The Boolean query showed a " 0 " for the ability to write to the drive.  In discussing this with a Mac Guru and in going back to my meticulous notes that I took 5 years ago, the query is for Cleartext and it is found to be turned off by default.  But only after upgrading to 10.6.7.  On my other Leopard machine which does not have the update and that was never upgraded to Snow Leopard, no matter what I do, the boolean query remains at "1" meaning that it is writeable and accepts Cleartext.

    What happens is this.  You log on to your computer (I am assuming that you are using AFP and using a MAC).  You click on to your Network Attached Drive somewhere in your house, apartment or office.  There is a delay.  The drive may or may not open at all.  If and when it does, everything looks okay.  You try to open a folder and the infamous equivalent to the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death on Windows) ensues -  The spinning Beach Ball.  Sometimes you can even get past the folder stage and the system will hang when you try to upload to the directory or download from it.  Or, heaven forbid, Time Machine decides to use it.  What you are left doing is trying to Force Kill the Finder.  That is something that is not nice, because it means that all of your icons disappear temporarily until the next boot up and you're left "hanging."  This is the so-called Kernel Panic.

    With the knowledge that the Cleartext flag is turned off, I found that I could get some work done by turning it back on.   The technique used is listed below.  I should let you know that this worked for a while, but it seemed that I had to continue turning this on again, every time I turned on the machine.

    Thus, if the solution listed does not work,  try the solution after this.   I tried two other solutions before finally finding one that eventually works for now.

    Here is the old school tactic first:

    1.  Check to see if cleartext is already enabled:

    A.  Shut down the computer.
    B.  Shut down the server, modem, gateway modem etc.  (basically shut everything off).  Then turn everything back on.
    C.  Turn on your computer.  Go to the login where you plan to use the NAS drive.
    D.  Hit the Spotlight icon (looking glass) and type in TERMINAL.  Click on the TERMINAL  icon.
    E.  While in the terminal, type the following verbatim:


           defaults read afp_cleartext_allow 

    This should return a "1."  If it does then the problem should be solved.  However if the return is "1" but the problem persits,  then the problem with the read/write is different from what is described here and you will probably have to look elsewhere for a solution (in this case, the second solution that I mentioned below).  The first thing would be to make certain that the disk drive is turned on.

    However If it returns a "0," then do the following:

    2.  Turn on Read/Write: 

    A.  Shut down the computer.
    B.  Shut down the server, modem, gateway modem etc.  (basically shut everything off).
    C.  Turn on your computer.  Go to the login where you plan to use the NAS drive.
    D.  Hit the Spotlight icon (looking glass) and type in TERMINAL.  Click on the TERMINAL  icon.
    E.  While in the terminal, type the following verbatim:

    defaults write com.Apple.AppleShareClient afp_cleartext_allow -bool YES

    Test the settings by going back to Step 1.  This should return a "1"  now.  If it does not, go to step 2 and try again.

     You should be able to complete your session without any further hiccups.

    Unfortunately, I found that you have to go through this entire thing on all logins, so if you have other members logging in under different accounts, you have to do this again.

    So, I wrote most of the above about 2 weeks ago after installing the update.  I had planned on installing Lightroom and using an External NAS drive for storage, but halted after running into this problem.  A problem that has made me shy away from using a NAS drive as an iTunes server. 

    So, something came to mind a few days ago.  It was akin to the resolution of the FACETIME fiasco that I faced when I purchased my iPhone 4.  I recall that I had to reset my iPhone's network settings in order to use Facetime.   So I thought about doing the same thing for this issue of the "on again, off again AFP/SMB" switch.   Here is what I did:

    Resetting Keychain Login for Nas Drive

    1.  Go to Terminal.
    2.  Type in "Keychain Access"
    3.  Find the name of your Disk Drive login.  ie. "My_NAS.local"
    4.  Erase the two files that have the AFP and/or SMB login to that NAS drive.
        (This assumes that you saved them to the Keychain).
    5.  Restart your machine.
    6.  Try to connect to the drive.

    My results for this were mixed.  AFP worked but would hang occasionally.  SMB, surprisingly worked all of the time. 

    I then tried one more thing.  I erased all of the network settings and started again from scratch.  The results were the same as before.  My conclusion:  AFP is BROKEN !  Why SMB works is beyond me, but the only thing that I have not done is to reinstall OSX SNOW LEOPARD. 

    These are really Band Aid solutions.  I hope that Apple comes up with a solution to this problem as it affects Time Machine which is critical.   One worrisome point is the news that Apple will be abandoning the SMB file protocol in OSX Lion.  This may be a little early given the problems that many are now having with the AFP solution. 

    I hope that this helps.  By the way, I am no OSX, Cocoa, Obective-C master.  I am far from it.  I just poked around and I have a few really good books that I look at from time to time; not to mention the bulletin boards.  If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments.  Especially if you find any mistakes above.

    Thanks for reading.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Amazon Announces Library Lending. Is it Game Over?

    Perhaps the biggest news of the day, sans the Apple blow out earnings report of course, was the quiet announcement from Amazon, as reported by Andrys Basten on Kindleworld, that local libraries will begin placing Kindle formatted books at local libraries - 11, 000 libraries to be precise.  This is huge!  It is a game changer and as I tweeted earlier today, it may be The Endgame! 

    The ability for an inexpensive device such as a Kindle to get into the library system and to have Amazon succeed in getting its own proprietary eBook system accepted is not only remarkable, but places Amazon on a path that will be hard to follow, let alone beat. 

    To understand this you have to understand that Barnes and Noble has been available to the library system for a while, using The Nook, but it hasn't really caught on.   If Amazon can make this work, then they will have Kindle eBook readers everywhere, from the proprietary Amazon hardware to every Apple iPad, iPhone and/or idevice imaginable.  If you can borrow a textbook in color, why bother going go the library to borrow it or worse, why buy it?  As we can surmise, if this catches on, there will be more books in the proprietary .AZW format.

    More importantly, the ePub system may actually die a painful death because of this.  If all of the "good books" are in a proprietary Amazon .AZW (or .MOBI) format, then ePub will become a thing of the past, since Amazon's Kindle system does not recognize the ePub format at all.   I particularly like the ePub format as it seems to accomodate a lot of other ereaders outside of Amazon.  But this announcement could also put a dent in the Apple proprietary ereader iBook as well, since it too does not recognize .AZW.  Amazon will win the format battle.  I have to admit that Amazon's .AZW (and .MOBI) format is quite nice, but .ePub is equally as nice and I would hope that we will still have a choice in formats.  Nevertheless, this is huge and I am surprised that more attention has not been payed to this.

    One thing that I will have to say is that if Amazon can get this right with over the air downloads, instead of going through Overdrive on the desktop, they will win hands down.  If you have to be tied to the desktop in order to borrow books, that could put the brakes on the whole thing.  Overdrive is the software needed to facilitate the two-way encryption, DRM and authentication keys to ensure that the book expires after say 2 weeks. 

    A copy of the actual news release is listed below and if you get the chance, go to Kindleworld, Andrys Basten's great blog about all things Kindle.

    Amazon to Launch Library Lending for Kindle Books

    Customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 local libraries to read on Kindle and free Kindle reading apps
    Whispersyncing of notes, highlights and last page read to work for Kindle library books
    SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--(NASDAQ: AMZN)— Amazon today announced Kindle Library Lending, a new feature launching later this year that will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the United States. Kindle Library Lending will be available for all generations of Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps.
    “We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries”
    “We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” said Jay Marine, Director, Amazon Kindle. “Customers tell us they love Kindle for its Pearl e-ink display that is easy to read even in bright sunlight, up to a month of battery life, and Whispersync technology that synchronizes notes, highlights and last page read between their Kindle and free Kindle apps.”
    Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.
    “We're doing a little something extra here,” Marine continued. “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we're extending our Whispersync technology so that you can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books you check out from your local library. Your notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book. But if you check out the book again, or subsequently buy it, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced.”
    With Kindle Library Lending, customers can take advantage of all of the unique features of Kindle and Kindle books, including:
    • Paper-like Pearl electronic-ink display
    • No glare even in bright sunlight
    • Lighter than a paperback – weighs just 8.5 ounces and holds up to 3,500 books
    • Up to one month of battery life with wireless off
    • Read everywhere with free Kindle apps for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry and Windows Phone
    • Whispersync technology wirelessly sync your books, notes, highlights, and last page read across Kindle and free Kindle reading apps
    • Real Page Numbers – easily reference passages with page numbers that correspond to actual print editions
    Amazon is working with OverDrive, the leading provider of digital content solutions for over 11,000 public and educational libraries in the United States, to bring a seamless library borrowing experience to Kindle customers. “We are excited to be working with Amazon to offer Kindle Library Lending to the millions of customers who read on Kindle and Kindle apps,” said Steve Potash, CEO, OverDrive. “We hear librarians and patrons rave about Kindle, so we are thrilled that we can be part of bringing library books to the unparalleled experience of reading on Kindle.”
    Kindle Library Lending will be available later this year for Kindle and free Kindle app users. To learn more about Kindle go to

    Reference: Link

    Other interesting reading:

    Book lending on the Nook Link

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    The Belkin Verve Folio Cover....Surprising Findings

    So, a few days ago I finally received my Belkin Verve Folio from Europe.  It is a nice little cover.  It is thicker than I imagined and the blue accents make for a nice and elegant holder.  The phone fits nicely into the "pocket" and feels very secure.  I actually think that the phone could be dropped on the floor and it would be very well protected by this case. 

    The first surprise that I got, and something that I think needs to be clarified, is that I ordered the Belkin Verve Folio version 2, but received version 1 of the device.  You may recall the difference between the two versions in my previous post.  I expected the worst response from this and was prepared to send it back, but after trying out the device for a few days, I am going to keep it.

    The biggest issue of course is the sensor issue.  I am happy to report that this is a NON ISSUE with this version of the Verve Folio !   I am very surprised given the fact that the para-sensor setup is very similar to the SENA cases that I reviewed previously.  The latter had many problems with the sensor - showing a blank screen during phone calls.  What is more surprising is the fact that the Verve Folio case is thicker than the Sena Case  around the sensor area and it still does not affect the phone.  I have tried it out in over 10 different lighting scenarios that failed the Sena Hamilton, but there were no outages with the Belkin case.

    Something that I really love about this case is the way in which the cover drops down in the back to reveal the camera.  The camera does not have to peer through a hole in the case/cover, it is fully exposed.  What this means is that if you use flash photography with the iPhone, the cover does not get in the way.  The pictures are not washed up due to "tunnel vision."  It is also not obscured by the cover which is nice.  With the weird blue tint of the inner case, you can actually do some interesting photography, such as placing the cover in such a way as to bounce the light upwards and even focus the flash a little more.  Very unique, very nice.

    Although I miss the belt clip, I can live without it.  In conclusion, to say that I am very surprised is an understatement.  I was expecting the worse when I first saw the packaging and read the reviews from several sites.  But I have not had the problems that these people have had.  Additionally, although I was looking at a few different cases, I am probably going to stay with this case for a while, hopefully for the life of the phone.  The case is very nice and using my Wife Indicator, it's a winner.  So, it's two thumbs up on the ORIGINAL Belkin Verve Folio case.