I need an Calendar app that nags me more effectively. Any ideas?

I have a problem I’m hoping you might be able to help me with: I constantly overlook reminders that I’ve set on my devices.

As a baratric patient, I have an entire calendar dedicated, for example, to keeping me on track with the medicine and dietary supplements I’m supposed to take in order to maintain my health. Optimally it should be done on a fairly strict routine, so I’ve got it mapped out – take my multivitamins at this time, take my iron supplement at this time, then take my calcium supplements, etc.

It’s great, My watch buzzes me to remind me. Here’s the problem: I often glance down at the reminder, then go back to doing what I was doing. “I’ll get up in a minute,” I’ll say to myself. Then I won’t.

I’m wondering if anyone’s come across an app for the iPhone – preferably something with an Apple Watch app too – that might be a bit more of a noodge. Something that will nag me into actually getting up to take my pills.

Look, I own my behavior: I really need to start getting up as soon as the watch and the phone tell me to. But I could use a poke in the right direction that I’m not getting from my current setup. If this has happened to you, how have you dealt with it?

WatchOS 2.2 improves maps, more

Apple on Monday released an update to the operating system that powers its smartwatch, the Apple Watch. WatchOS 2.2 is now available for download (use your iPhone to check for the latest version, and update when your Apple Watch is on its magnetic charging stand).

Among the changes to version 2.2 is an improved Maps app. The Maps app adds a new interface layer that makes it a one-tap process to get directions to home or to work. You can also easilly search for locations, find your location, or spot nearby attractions with just a tap. Here are a couple of screenshots showing the new capabilities.


I’ve found the Maps app to be useful, but slow. It’ll be interesting to see if performance is an area that Apple’s improved at all. Still, it’s great to get turn-by-turn directions on the watch, because it taps your wrist when it’s time to turn, saving you from having to look at a screen and distract yourself.

Error 53 redux – Apple’s apology and explanation

Recent reports indicate that iPhone owners who get their Touch ID sensors replaced can run into an “Error 53” problem, at least if the repair is done by someone who isn’t an authorized Apple service provider, or an Apple store. I’ll let Apple explain in this support document that’s been posted to their web site.

The company has released an updated version of iOS 9.2.1 that fixes the problem. It was released on Thursday and is available as an over the air download or an update using iTunes on Mac or Windows.

Touch ID is Apple’s technology that unlocks iPhones and iPads using a fingerprint in place of a passcode. It’s a convenient feature, and Apple’s gone to great lengths to make sure that the fingerprint data and its corresponding connection to your iPhone’s passcode remains secure. It does this by storing the information in a special cache of memory called Secure Enclave. It’s walled off from the rest of the device, and it isn’t stored in the cloud. It’s all by itself.

So Error 53 is a good thing. It’s your device protecting your data. The problem is that it’s a really inelegant error report. 

The trouble has led some to think (and report) that Apple is trying to punish people for using unauthorized means to fix their devices. Turns out the answer is a little more prosaic and mundane. In a statement provided to Techcrunch:

We apologize for any inconvenience, this was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers

Hanlon’s Razor strikes again!

iOS and vestibular disorders

Apple makes its operating systems accessible to people with a wide variety of physical limitations, but its tendency to rely on visual trickery like faux 3D effects has caused problems for users with vestibular processing problems. Technology journalist Craig Grannell has been talking about this for a while, most recently in a new blog post.

Grannell talks about the hoops he has to jump through to get OS X working to his satisfaction now that El Capitan has incorporated System Integrity Protection (SIP), a new security feature.

Recently Kirk McElhearn took up the mantle on is own site.

I do not, thankfully, have the same problems Grannell does with motion effects in iOS actually causing physical discomfort, but I do find it utterly unnecessary and superfluous, and shut it off when I can.

McElhearn echoes some complaints I’ve had in recent years as my vision has begun to falter. I’m having more and more problems accessing content and devices not only because of stuff that Apple is doing but because of stuff that Apple developers are — and aren’t — doing.

The entire Apple/iOS developer community needs to pay more attention to these issues; we’re not all 25-year olds with excellent vision.

How to keep Facebook from wasting your iPhone battery

The Facebook app is a notorious battery hog, but that doesn’t stop millions of us from using it constantly to stay in touch with our social network.

I’ve given up on it for the most part. Instead, I use Facebook through Safari on the iPhone. Facebook looks and acts differently in a web browser than it does in the app, but Safari is much better behaved than the Facebook app.

Having said that, I understand why you might want to use the app instead. If you are using the app, I’d recommend turning off Background App Refresh to keep it from wasting too much juice.

To turn off Background App Refresh:

  1. Tap the Home button to return to the home screen.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Find Facebook’s settings. It’s grouped with other social media networks whose apps you may have installed, like Twitter, Flickr and Vimeo.
  4. Tap Settings.
  5. Set Background App Refresh to off.
  6. Tap the Home button to exit settings.

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Looking for your Apple device manuals? Check iBooks!

“I like the iPhone, but I wish it had a manual I could read.”

Years ago, Apple streamlined its product packaging to only include the bare essentials, and the company decided at that point that those bare essentials didn’t include a user’s manual. After all, Apple products are easy enough to use straight out of the box, right? Why bother with bulky documentation that very few customers ever use.

I’ve actually heard this complaint from a lot of the customers who come in to the retail store where I work. So I know that this is a recurring theme, at least among a certain type of my clientele: Often older customers who are simply more comfortable with printed matter.

Unfortunately, the days of big books that come with computers and accessories is waning. It’s wasteful, it adds a lot of weight and bulk to product packaging, and the fact is that few people use them.

The good news is that there are manuals available for most Apple products. If you already have a Mac, iPhone or iPad, you have everything you need to get started. The secret is Apple’s iBooks app.

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iBooks is Apple’s electronic book reading software. It’s Apple’s alternative to Amazon’s Kindle, or Barnes & Noble’s Nook (apps that are also available on the App Store). It’s available for both iOS and for OS X. Here’s the link to Apple’s section on the iBook Store.

Apple periodically updates product documentation to reflect changes in new operating system releases, highlighting new features and newly exposed functionality.

The best part is that it’s all free, and you don’t even need to own the device to download the documentation. So if you’re curious about how Apple’s MacBook works,  or you’d like to know a little bit more about the Apple Watch before you drop $350 this Christmas, you can visit the iBook Store and download Apple docs to your heart’s content.

The crescent moon on the front of the iPhone 6

The iPhone 6 — not the 6s, just the 6 — is plagued with a manufacturing or design problem with its front-facing (or in Apple’s confusing parlance, “FaceTime” camera). Over time the camera itself will shift position inside the phone. It causes a distinct crescent moon effect:


I stopped in the Apple Store “near” me last weekend and finally got it fixed. They replaced the screen – under warranty, so there was no cost to me. If you have this problem, get yourself to an Apple Store. Make a Genius Bar appointment to save yourself time.

Apple adds Boston transit maps

iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan debuted with transit maps for a variety of North American cities, but Boston was left off the list. It didn’t take Apple too long to fix that, though. The company has updated its maps data with transit information for Boston commuters. If you plan to use the MBTA or Commuter Rail to get in and out of Boston, you can now use Maps to plan your route.

There are, of course, third party apps that have filled the gap quite nicely, like Transit. Still, it’s convenient to use built-in apps, and Handoff integration makes it convenient for you to plot your route on your Mac then transfer it to your iPhone.

You shouldn’t need to do anything to see the new content — it’s all server-side on Apple’s end.Screen Shot 2015 10 22 at 10 24 02 AM

The iPad Pro’s new Smart Connector

Almost since the iPad debuted, people have been trying to use keyboards with it. Third-party keyboard case makers have been only too happy to oblige. Over the years, there’s been a landslide of cases and other contraptions designed to make it easier to do keyboard input on the iPad.

With a few exceptions, almost all the keyboard peripherals for the iPad have involved Bluetooth. There’s no actual physical tether between the iPad and the keyboard, just wireless radio transmission.

In practice, this can create a few problems for the unsophisticated user. Bluetooth isn’t perfectly reliable — devices occasionally unsync and need to be resynced, and that’s a process that’s surprisingly difficult unless you’re familiar with the Settings app and how it works. Also, wireless devices need to be recharged, which means keeping yet another charging cable handy and remembering to do so when the battery runs low.

Ultimately, Bluetooth is a maintenance hassle and a pain point for the average user.

When the iPad Pro debuts in November, it’ll be the first iOS device to feature a new peripheral interface called the Smart Connector. The Smart Connector fixes these issues.

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The Smart Connector gives Apple’s new Smart Keyboard, another iPad Pro-specific creation, a place to attach. It’s a three-conductor interface on one side of the iPad Pro. So the new Smart Keyboard doesn’t use Bluetooth to communicate with the iPad. What’s more, it doesn’t need a separate battery for power — it will draw off the power of the iPad Pro itself.

Bluetooth remains a ubiquitous and important technology for the iPad. The Smart Connector is only on one iOS device to start, but Apple will distribute it to work on other future iPads as well.