iOS 7 Launch – A busy day today

iOS 7 will be released later today, and I’m looking forward to it!

Update: But first, a public service announcement. Don’t forget to BACKUP YOUR DATA (thanks for the reminder Ryan!) Here’s a great how-to from Apple’s support site.

From what I’ve seen, this update of the venerable iOS operating system will be the best yet, not in terms of huge technological leaps and flashy features, rather in terms of subtle usability improvements that really make sense, such as the new way your pictures are grouped, and AirDrop (ok, that’s a new feature for iOS, but it has existed awesomely in OS X).

One thing I’m not so certain of yet, is the number of clicks it seems to take to do certain things, such as back out of a folder in multitask view. I was kind of hoping there’d be a swipe command to get you back to the top level of the desktop, not a button press. My thinking is that buttons can wear out, but the multi-touch swipe tech will last longer.

As well, this week you’ll have noticed a flurry of application updates as developers get their software ready for today’s launch of iOS 7. Being interested in electronic music and photography, here’s a couple of useful articles on upgrading and app compatibility:

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see real-world experiences as iOS 7 goes live later today. If you’re upgrading and feel like sharing, let me know what you think!

Using your iOS device for offline navigation

One of the coolest and possibly the most expensive feature of an iPhone or iPad is the maps / navigation feature.

Pocket Earth iOS icon

On our recent vacation to Maui, we wanted to have live maps, but not have to rack up expensive data to do it. A bit of Internet sleuthing turned up PocketEarth, a very cool app that performs exactly as advertised — delivering offline navigation and mapping without a live internet connection.

Using Pocket Earth, I simply:

  • downloaded relevant maps while at the condo or before I left home
  • created routes I’d likely use
  • added potential points of interest
  • saved everything to my iPhone

And it worked like a charm!  Here’s a map of the stretch of West Maui where we spent a lot of time.

West Maui map in Pocket Earth

And here’s a bit on how it’s done – from the support forum:

PocketEarth is designed for offline use and makes it easy to avoid data roaming costs by allowing you to download maps and routes in advance and use them offline, even with GPS.  Here is some information and suggestions to make sure you don’t get charged!

GPS usage is always free, however downloading data is often not!  To avoid expensive map downloads, we recommend downloading all of your destinations in advance from a WiFi connection. Please see this forum post for information on how to download entire countries or regions with PocketEarth.
Once you have downloaded all the maps you may need, you can disable downloading to be sure PocketEarth won’t download anything. Just go to Settings > Network Mode and change it to Offline Mode or WiFi Only.
Alternately, you may wish to prevent all of your apps from using up your limited and expensive data plan, not only PocketEarth.  While the Airplane Mode will certainly do this, it will also prevent all GPS usage! Fortunately there is a better solution which will still allow you to use the GPS in PocketEarth and other apps while preventing cellular downloads: In the device’s mainSettings App, just go to General > Network and disable either Cellular Data completely or just Data Roaming and it will prevent expensive data usage while traveling abroad.

Please note that using the GPS “offline” (when both WiFi and Cellular are unavailable) works well, but may take longer to find your initial location. From our experience this is usually 30-40 seconds, but in some cases can be up to 2 minutes.

My thoughts
Quite simply a no-brainer purchase. For $2.99 (CAD) in the iTunes store, this is likely one of the best navigation and mapping purchases I’ve made. Regularly updated, community supported, and uses a lot of open data sources. Hard to beat that.

 

So. Google’s shutting down Google Reader

Frankly I’d not thought about my RSS reading process in a while. I use NetVibes (pictured above) as my main reader, and it’s been pretty stable up until today; they posted a note saying they’re dealing with an influx of new members — likely emigrants from Google Reader.

I like NetVibes because it gives me a simple headline-in-a-tile view that makes it easy to quickly scan my news, and NetVibes manages my feed subscriptions.

This is where the pain will be felt by those using Google Reader when the big G shuts it down. Many 3rd party apps for mobile devices use Google Reader as the ‘subscription management’ feature of their app. When Google Reader closes on July 1, these apps will have to have in place some sort of replacement for subscription management, or they’ll break.

Update: If you’re looking to migrate your Google Reader subscriptions to NetVibes, the team at NetVibes have this handy guide. (Thanks Randy!)

For now, this won’t impact me or my newsreading habits, but as I mentioned at the top, I’m rethinking my RSS reading, and as Dave Weiner states, rethinking my use of Free when applied to services I’m coming to depend on.

 

Review: Logitech Harmony 900 Universal Remote Control

Harmony900_Zone5.jpg
All things in life, as with the Force, have a Light Side and a Dark Side. The Logitech Harmony 900 Universal Remote Control has both.

A bit of a background
I have a history with Logitech Harmony remotes and currently own a Logitech Harmony 720. I’ve always found them challenging to program and set up. As well, in my experience, Logitech has never really succeeded in pairing ‘Activities’ (watching TV, listening to streamed music, etc) with my devices or components. My wife sets up and maintains our current Harmony remote — I get frustrated with it. :smileyvery-happy:

So, when I was offered the chance to take a look at the Logitech Harmony 900 I was curious. Has Logitech been able to address my concerns? Let’s find out… Continue reading “Review: Logitech Harmony 900 Universal Remote Control”

New smart Wi-Fi Router review – Linksys EA2700

EA2700_500.jpg

Since the last time I looked at home Routers, home networking has gotten more complex. These days, folks are hooking up almost everything to their home network, either wired or wirelessly: game consoles, audio systems, tablets, handheld gaming devices… the list goes on. And older routers have occasionally been cranky when mixing brands and types — causing more network headaches.

That being said, home networking just got much easier with the recent introduction of the new smart Wi-Fi router lineup from Linksys.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be looking at three members of this linup — starting with the powerful Linksys EA2700.

Continue reading “New smart Wi-Fi Router review – Linksys EA2700”

Powering your devices while on the go — Morphie Powerstation review

Earlier this year, I attended SXSWi (South by SouthWest interactive) and immersed myself in social media, gamification, and technology. Oh yeah, there was the odd party or two 😉

Being that this was my first time in Austin, I relied heavily on my technology to keep me on schedule and help me navigate this unfamiliar city. Using 4G was a treat, the best I get back home in Edmonton is 3G. But boy, does navigation really suck up the bandwidth. And power!

Yet, in order to be effective at that crazy SXSWi you have to be at all the events all over the convention core. And the tech is on *all the time*.

Which meant that while I was mobile, I was using up my iPhone’s battery faster than I normally do.

Luckily for me, I’d taken the excellent advice of Liz Strauss and picked up a Morphie Juice box — basically just a very smart, fast charging battery box that’s pretty much the same size and shape as an iPhone 4.

And it works, as advertised. Kept me mobile and my devices in use — I wasn’t tethered to a wall outlet for significant periods of time — as many other seemed to be.

Initially charging the 400mAh battery pack took around four hours, using my iPhone charger adapter and an included mini-USB cord. The Powerstation doesn’t come with it’s own wall adapter; use your own.

Then, it’s basically pack and forget it, until you need to juice up your iOS device (yep, it’ll power an iPad too, but it won’t give you a full charge).

I didn’t test it on other devices, but anything with a USB charging system could likely be powered. PCMag.com offers the following detail on that:

With its 4000mAh battery, the Powerstation helped a Droid RAZR get 5 hours, 13 minutes more of solid LTE streaming, and let an iPad 1 watch video for 4 hours, 16 minutes more than before.

Overall I like it. Small, does what it advertises, and (as long as I remember to charge it) is ready to power and charge my iOS devices when I’m out and about, and running low. A good $70 investment.