Muscle Memory and Force Touch

Muscle memory is a funny thing. It can both get in the way of and help to create a good user experience.

I’m using a new MacBook Pro that has a Force Touch trackpad. It’s my first experience with such a device and I adapted to it without too much of a problem.

IMG 1410

I spend a lot of my time on the computer writing, so my favorite Force Touch gesture is to press on a word I want to check the definition of. I do it dozens of times a day in some cases.

I also use an older Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad — the original, not the larger, considerably more expensive Force Touch-equipped model. They rest on a makeshift standing desk in my office. That desk is not something I use all the time, but I use it frequently enough that I find myself switching back and forth between the built-in keyboard and trackpad and my desk keyboard and trackpad.

A few moments of reorientation and I’m typing away happily, not looking down at all – keeping my eyes on the screen as I type these works. Then I’ll type something I’m not sure about, and I’ll select it and then press.

And watch as nothing happens.

About the same time I get frustrated that what I’m expecting to happen isn’t happening, I remember why. It’s because there’s no Force Touch on the Magic Trackpad.

It reminds me of what happened when I got my iPhone 5S. The 5S was the first iPhone equipped with a TouchID sensor. Within hours of using it, I went to unlock my third-generation iPad by resting my thumb on the Home button, then wondered why nothing was happening. Muscle memory had already set in.

Muscle memory is aided by frictionless interface design, and that’s really what Apple’s hoping to achieve with Force Touch on the trackpad and 3D Touch on the iPhone.

The case for a water resistant MacBook

Apple on Friday released the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and Apple Watch Series 2. All three of the devices sport new water resistance and water proofing features that should cut down the number of trips many of us have to take to Apple Stores to get our gear fixed and replaced. Water damage to sensitive electronic devices is an endemic problem, as anyone who’s worked at an Apple Store or service provider can tell you. I think Apple has a real market opportunity to offer a MacBook that can put up with the occasional spill.


I would love to see Apple make the same treatment to the MacBook line, because water damage to Macs is a major issue as well. In my almost three years working at a computer retailer, I saw computers that had been damaged by water almost every time I worked. Plumbing problems, spilled drinks, or full immersion in bodies of water were all real things that happened. I even remember one that was saturated in vomit from a night of heavy drinking.

I’ve been able to avoid the problem myself, thought it has happened to family members, and it cost hundreds of dollars to repair. If you’re lucky, all you’ll have to do is pay for a new top case for your MacBook, or maybe a new power board. Any way you slice it, it’s never cheap to fix water damage. What’s more, Apple’s AppleCare coverage, which I swear by when buying Mac laptops, especially, does not cover accidental damage. You’re on your own when that happens.

We’re not talking about taking the computer into the bathtub (although, in fairness, I had a retail store customer ask me if that was safe once). We’re talking about spill damage caused by the errant tipped coffee mug or the occasional misadventure with a cool beverage.

Right now water resistant laptops are very much a niche market. Panasonic makes the ToughBook and there are a few others whose makers say they’re water-resistant. They are for the most part ugly and inelegant machines, and all of them are running Windows.

So far it looks like the public is responding really well to the water-resistance of the new iPhone 7. Let’s hope it gives Apple an incentive to produce a Mac laptop that might sport the same sort of resilience to the environment.

Unlock your iPhone in iOS 10 faster with this tip

iOS 10’s lock screen now instructs you to press your iPhone or iPad’s Home button to unlock it. Worried about wearing out your Home button, or just don’t want to press it? If your device uses Touch ID (if it’s an iPhone 5S or later, or one of the many iPad models that sports Touch ID), you can set up your device to unlock by just resting your finger on the Home button instead. Here’s how.

How to unlock your iPhone without pushing the Home button

  1. From your iPhone’s home screen, tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Accessibility.Speed Up Your Home Button 1
  4. Tap Home Button.
  5. Tap the switch next to Rest Finger to Open to activate. (While you’re here, you can also modify the click speed needed to double or triple-click the Home button, if you’d like.)Fast home 2
  6. Tap the Home button to exit.

Now when your iPhone is locked, resting your thumb is all you have to do to unlock it. Enjoy!

T-Mobile iPhone not working after iOS 10 update? Fix Carrier Settings

Some T-Mobile customers who upgraded their iPhones to iOS 10 this week have run into “No Carrier” problems following a botched Carrier Update setting. There’s a fix available that should help, and it’s easy to install.

Apple released iOS 10 earlier this week. T-Mobile customers also saw a Carrier Settings update when they installed the new operating system. Carrier Settings files give the iPhone key information about T-Mobile’s network.

This is where things went pear-shaped: Apparently something went wrong with the carrier settings updates for iPhone 6, 6 Plus and SE, according to Engadget. After upgrading, some of us noticed our phones were dropping offline. With the hinky carrier settings, once an iPhone loses a connection to T-Mobile’s network, nothing short of powering it down and turning it back on restores the cell service. That’s been my experience, and it’s maddening.

Late on Thursday, T-Mobile and Apple pushed another carrier update setting that should fix the problem. I haven’t experimented with it extensively to test it yet, but I do see that the update is live. Here’s how to apply it. Obviously this will only work once you’re connected to T-Mobile’s network or on a Wi-Fi connection, so if your phone is offline, make sure to restart it.

How to update your iPhone carrier settings

  1. Tap the Home button.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap General.
  4. Tap About.Carrier settings
  5. The phone should automatically find the updated carrier settings automatically..Carrier settings 2

Once you’re done, you should see “Carrier” changed from 25.1 to 25.2.

How to keep Mac Photos app closed when you connect your iPhone

If you don’t trust the cloud, you may connect your iPhone to a Mac periodically using a Lightning to USB cable. That opens iTunes and the Photos app to backup and synchronize. Photos isn’t the only photo management tool out there. If Photos gets in your way, follow these steps to stop your Mac from opening it. You can even tell the Mac which app you’d prefer to use instead.

Step one is to tell Photos not to open for your iPhone anymore.

How to keep Photos from opening when you connect your iPhone

  1. Connect your iPhone to your Mac using a Lightning to USB cable.
  2. Open Photos if it doesn’t open automatically.
  3. Under the Import sidebar, look for your iPhone.
  4. In the navigation bar, uncheck the box that says Open Photos for this device.Open photos
  5. Quit Photos.
This tip works with any iOS device, not just your iPhone. So if tethering your iPod touch or iPad similarly irritates you, you can turn off Photos for those devices too.
Now that you’ve told Photos not to open, the next step is to tell your Mac which app you would like to use to import photos. Adobe Lightroom and other software provide cataloging, editing and transformation tools that might be more your style.
Once you’ve got an app installed that you want to use, it’s easy to switch the default behavior of your Mac when your device is tethered. The secret is an Apple utility in your Applications folder called Image Capture. Image Capture is included with the Mac, so you don’t have to download it or install it. Just follow these steps.
How to make another photo app open when you connect your iPhone
  1. Follow the steps above if you have not already done so.
  2. Open the Applications folder.
  3. Double-click Image Capture.
  4. Look for this in the lower left corner. Click on it.Arrow
  5. A new menu will appear. It says Connecting this iPhone opens. Click on it.
  6. Any apps you’ve installed that can import photos from your iPhone will appear here. Select the one you’d like to use.

From now on, any time you tether your iPhone to your Mac, that app will open automatically. I’d keep Photos and its library files around if I were you, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them if you’d prefer other software.

MacJury: Ultimate Music Streaming

I recently had the pleasure to talk with Chuck Joiner and John Voorhees for an episode of the popular MacJury podcast. We talked about the state of streaming music services, and what the future might hold, so please listen in. Or if you like the bald(ing) white guy look, you can watch the video (embedded below). I call it “Attack of the Lobots.”

How to protect your Mac from malware (again)

A new malware threat affects both iPhones and Macs. Apple already released an update to iOS to fix the problem. Now the Mac has been updated too. Here’s how to check.

First off, this applies to OS X 10.10 “Yosemite” and 10.11 “El Capitan.” If you’re not sure what version you have installed, click on the  menu, then click on About This Mac. The overview window will tell you what version of OS X you have installed.

I’d strongly recommend backing your Mac up before you do anything. Use Time Machine, backup software like SuperDuper, Backblaze or whatever you prefer. Don’t make changes to essential software like your Mac’s operating system without making sure you have a current backup first.

To update your Mac with Security Update 2016-001

  1. Open the Mac App Store.
  2. Click the Updates button.
  3. Click Update.
  4. Restart your Mac to finish installing the update. It may take 5-10 minutes or longer to complete.
Security update

Once the update is done, your Mac will restart and you can continue to work.

In a tech note posted to Apple’s own support site, Apple explained that this update changes kernel operating system code to address “a validation issue” and a “memory corruption issue.” Apple’s links to the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures List identifications for these problems confirm that it’s the same issue reported for iOS 9 last week.

The actual problem Apple fixed here seems to have been used in a malware exploit created as an act of political espionage. While it’s a nasty hack and a security threat, the actual risk to those of us who aren’t political dissidents is pretty low. Still, Apple acted on this and has eliminated the security threat, so it’s a good idea to update your gear.

How to add Bluetooth to a car with a cassette player

If you have an older car without a Bluetooth connection or without an auxiliary input, it’s easy to spend a lot of money getting it up to snuff. You can easily blow a grand having a CarPlay-equipped third-party stereo installed professionally. But you don’t have to do that. Bluetooth can be added for pennies these days. Here’s how.

For a 12-year-old sedan, things looked grim. It had an AM/FM receiver, a tape deck, and a CD player, but no way to receive input from an iPhone – no Bluetooth support, certainly, and no auxiliary input either. The days of having an FM transmitter module plugged into the iPhone are long behind us. What to do?

That’s when I learned of Ion’s Bluetooth Cassette Adapter, a $20.99 device that does the job just fine. It’s a Bluetooth receiver that pairs with your iPhone, but it fits in the tape deck and the stereo thinks it’s a tape: audio is piped through the tape input.

Ion Bluetooth Cassette Adapter

The device has a built-in battery that lasts for 4-5 hours at a stretch and can be recharged using a micro USB cable (included). It also has a nifty built-in microphone if you need it.

Sound quality is fine – it’s Bluetooth, and all that goes with that, but you’re in the car, so you’re dealing with wind, road noise, engine noise and all other manner of distraction, so I don’t think you can really get into a meaningful discussion of audiophile quality for a $20 adapter.

Syncing is painless. As near as I can tell, though, there’s no multi-device syncing, so in order to pair it with a second iPhone (say, switching from driver to passenger) you need to disconnect the first iPhone using its Bluetooth setting, if it’s still in range.

It works as advertised and does exactly what I needed it to do. So if you’re still driving a car or truck with a tape deck, you may be in luck with a cheap Bluetooth fix.

Bonus tip: If Bluetooth doesn’t work for you, or if the idea of having to charge yet another device leaves you cold, there’s another solution that also works with cassette decks, and it’s even cheaper: The $7.99 Besdata cassette adapter sports a wired 3.5 mm connection which plugs into your headphone jack. Assuming your phone still has one of them. 😉