May 30, 2015

One Month with the Apple Watch

I’ve now been wearing my Apple Watch every day for a month now. When I purchased it online, about 6 hours after it went on sale, it gave a shipping date of June. To my surprise and joy, it still shipped and arrived on day one, April 24.

Since I get asked about it a lot, I decided to write some things down. This is not so much a review, but rather sample and summary impressions. I wanted some perspective, so I waited a month. Here are some thoughts after a month with it.

From the start, let me cut to the chase with a summary evaluation:
I like the Apple Watch. I’m glad I bought it. I’d buy it again. It’s comfortable. It’s very handy in numerous ways. I’m a happy buyer.

When asked about the Apple Watch, I often find myself correcting the inquisitor, “It’s not like having a small smartphone on your wrist; it really fills a different niche.”
Of course, there is overlap in some functionality, but it is not a replacement for a phone altogether. This is evidenced to me by reading posts from folks saying, “It’d be great to get my bible app on the watch.” or “I can’t wait till I can get ________ app on the watch.” Actually, mostly, no. Once you’ve USED the watch for awhile, you get a sense of what it is fantastic for, and a sense of what it stinks for.
The screen is SMALL. The text is SMALL. To illustrate, just browse the app store options for calculators on the watch. (It does NOT come with one from Apple.) You’ll see the great lengths and clever approaches they go to to compensate for the fact that you can’t even straight up put a reasonable-sized basic calculator on the thing. I like the screen, the touch and the force touch and I think the scroll wheel is brilliant. But the Apple Watch is for some things, but not everything. Period.

So what have I found it good for?

Texts
It is so fantastic to quick glance & quick reply to text. At a light, in a meeting, walking down the hall. The smart-reply options are amazing at times. My wife texted me, “Are you coming home or staying at the office?” And the quick one-touch reply buttons included, “Home” and “Office”. Superb.

Calls
OMG, OMG, OMG, it is so cool to answer calls on the wrist. You completely feel like you’re in a movie. It is so much better than walking around with a BT device in your ear in case you get a call. Transferring the call to your iPhone is super seamless, just open your phone and go to the phone app.
Downside:  This is not a big deal, but it really feels like overkill that I can get a call while working at my MacBook, and three things ring at once… the watch, the phone and the computer.

Activity
I love the basic Activity functions. For me, the stand reminders are the most useful. When it tells me to stand, I do, and I’m always better for it. I get so stiff after working so long in front of the screen.
Downside: When I take the watch off, it thinks I’m not doing anything. And, I don’t think there’s any way to add “mowed the lawn” or whatever to the Activity App on your phone. So, unless I wear it ALL the time, it will be an incomplete record.

Notifications
I long ago took control of notifications on my iPhone, intentionally only getting push notifications for select activity. My email is not even on push. I don’t get told about unimportant things like Facebook activity. So, the switch to the watch was pleasant. You can have the apps you choose mimic the phone settings, or specify for the watch.
So, no, I’m not suddenly getting annoyed and interrupted a lot by the watch. Some may have to actually pay attention and go to the Notifications option and choose what to include.
Downside: It’s one more device you have to remember to mute when in a worship service or meeting to what have you. I wish there was a setting to have the watch sync with the mute status of the phone.

Face info
The different watch faces and the customizations you can add are wonderful. Love love love having a quick glance of your next upcoming calendar event. As expected, some of the watch faces seem like just crazy eye candy. But, they all show the time, too, which is nice. And, you can choose calendar, alarms, etc of info to put on there as well. I’m happy with the options.
Touch
This is the new alternative to texting that works only between Apple Watch owners. You can scribble and send taps. I only have one good friend with an Apple Watch, so he’s been my guinea pig for testing the touch features. It is so very personal, especially when they tap their watch face and it taps your wrist. It really feels like they’re just gently tapping your wrist. Amazing. I immediately wanted my spouse to have a watch, so I could just tap her wrist during the day, Winnie the Pooh style (“I was just being sure of you”).

Directions
So cool, the map turn by turn directions. It uses different tap patterns to notify left turn or right turn coming up. So clever.

ApplePay
I was already in the habit during POS situations to always look for opportunities to use my iPhone to pay. What's great is that this includes my local grocery store, so I do this quite often. However, it is hardly more convenient to pull out my annoyingly large 6Plus than it is to pull out my wallet and credit card. This has all changed with Apple Watch. It is way more convenient, and easy, and handy, and quick. It has never even failed. Like Siri, ApplePay worked great on the phone, but it seems 'made' for the watch. I use it several times a week.

Siri
Siri is so good now, and it was made for the Apple Watch. The watch has no keyboard. You can not type anything into it. Dictating is the way to go. It has been so accurate. Initiating directions. Setting a reminder. Setting a timer. Etc.
Downside: Being limited to dictation stinks if you’re in a noisy environment, or one with the radio or a live person talking, to ruin your command to Siri.

Timers
I’ve been a big user of Reminders and Timers on my iPhone for a long time. Siri made that golden. Siri on your Apple Watch has made it platinum. It is so much more easy now with the watch. I’ve been timing routes as well, to note the best ones.

Finally, just a few hardware notes.

On the Sports strap:
I can only repeat what official reviews are saying. It is an amazing innovation. The Sports strap is very comfortable. I purchased a silver aluminum and wanted a black band, so ordered that separate. In another month or so, I plan to get a leather strap from a 3rd party.

On the Battery:
Simple answer: an absolute non-issue. I am almost always above 50% still at bedtime. And, I soon moved to the routine of not even charging it over night… I just “plug it in” when I wake up in the morning, and its fully charged an hour or so later when I leave the house. I’m certain you could download third party apps and use the watch for things that are unnatural to it like playing a game or whatever and you’d be out of juice in a matter of hours. Today, I never actually charged it this morning, and now at early-evening it’s at 23% (as seen in screenshot above). That’s thirty-three hours since charging up yesterday morning.
I may be on the low end of regular use. I don't jog for an hour a day. And, I'm sure in 6 months, the battery will lose some staying power. But for me, power is a not issue.

On durability:
I went with the cheapest model ($400 for a larger size Sport), because it’s already such a high price. And, I can imagine that after a couple updates, I’m going to want to sell this and replace it with the new and improved. The downside is that Aluminum and Glass are not as sturdy as stainless steel and quartz. And it shows, after just one month.
On my second day of having the watch, it dropped less than a foot onto a brick bench, and the edge of the aluminum scuffed, ever-so-slightly.
And, a few days ago, I noticed a scratch in the middle of the glass face. You can only see it with bright light reflecting just at a certain angle, and only when the watch is off. But, you can feel the scratch with your finger nail. Don’t know how it happened.
Neither dings affect the use of the watch at all. You can not see the scratch when the screen is on. I can only imagine what this thing will look like after a couple years.
Doing it over again, I would think hard about whether the stainless option was worth the price, but probably would not. Unfortunately, I can’t say more about that for a couple years.

April 01, 2015

Finding and Killing Jesus Documentary

I just learned about yet another Christian documentary this Easter season. MTV has announced a 2 1/2 part series debuting three days after Easter. Following the success of the offerings from CNN (“Finding Jesus”), National Geographic (“Killing Jesus”) and The History Channel (“Siege of Masada”), MTV’s documentary will air:
“Finding and Killing Jesus: Not far from Masada”.



Jane Elbib of TVGuide.com says,
In the days leading up to Easter, networks seem to be doing what they do best—see one thing work for the competition and rush their own copycat version to market. Last year’s “The Bible” from the History channel did well, and so here we are.
Personally, I’m a bit interested just because of their unique approach. The production notes say that the show will do what MTV does best, pushing the envelope, by covering topics such as:
-how much lumber could one lord lug if one lord could lug lumber,
-how could Jesus' family tomb end up under a Roman ramp, as well as
-what kind of candy a guy like Jesus would’ve preferred.
Academic consultants for the project include:
I first heard of the show when a friend retweeted Susanne Daniels, MTV’s head of programming, who tweeted: “It was either this or running music videos.”

December 17, 2014

Key Codes for Function and Special Keys in Applescript

Using Applescript to simulate keypresses can prove handy when doing automation. You can enter regular text with:

 tell application "System Events" to keystroke "testing"

This passes a string to the frontmost app. However, you can also simulate single key presses (Function keys, Right arrow, and other Special keys, etc.) such as a Tab:
 tell application "System Events" to key code 48

You can also add modifiers, so if you wanted the degree symbol °, which is option+shift+8:
 tell application "System Events" to key code 28 using {option down, shift down}

It's not possible to make any sense out of key code assignments; here's an exhaustive list of all Key Codes, including standard ascii keys, Modifier keys, Function keys and other special keys.


Name Symbol Code
Zero 0 29
One 1 18
Two 2 19
Three 3 20
Four 4 21
Five 5 23
Six 6 22
Seven 7 26
Eight 8 28
Nine 9 25
A 0
B 11
C 8
D 2
E 14
F 3
G 5
H 4
I 34
J 38
K 40
L 37
M 46
N 45
O 31
P 35
Q 12
R 15
S 1
T 17
U 32
V 9
W 13
X 7
Y 16
Z 6
SectionSign § 10
Grave ` 50
Minus - 27
Equal = 24
LeftBracket [ 33
RightBracket ] 30
Semicolon ; 41
Quote ' 39
Comma , 43
Period . 47
Slash / 44
Backslash \ 42
Keypad0 0 82
Keypad1 1 83
Keypad2 2 84
Keypad3 3 85
Keypad4 4 86
Keypad5 5 87
Keypad6 6 88
Keypad7 7 89
Keypad8 8 91
Keypad9 9 92
KeypadDecimal . 65
KeypadMultiply * 67
KeypadPlus + 69
KeypadDivide / 75
KeypadMinus - 78
KeypadEquals = 81
KeypadClear 71
KeypadEnter 76
Space 49
Return 36
Tab 48
Delete 51
ForwardDelete 117
Linefeed ? 52
Escape 53
Command 55
Shift 56
CapsLock 57
Option 58
Control 59
RightShift 60
RightOption 61
RightControl 62
Function fn 63
F1 122
F2 120
F3 99
F4 118
F5 96
F6 97
F7 98
F8 100
F9 101
F10 109
F11 103
F12 111
F13 105
BrightnessDown F14 107
BrightnessUp F15 113
F16 106
F17 64
F18 79
F19 80
F20 90
VolumeUp ? 72
VolumeDown ? 73
Mute ? 74
Help/Insert ? 114
Home 115
End 119
PageUp 116
PageDown 121
LeftArrow 123
RightArrow 124
DownArrow 125
UpArrow 126

Note:
The unassigned key codes are:
54, 66, 68, 70, 77, 93, 94, 95, 102, 104, 108, 110, 112
Several of these insert some unidentified control character in some apps.

The few codes with a ? are broken or are unreliable.

The first half of the list only applies to the standard English ISO keyboard, but the codes from "Space" and down are not keyboard dependent.

July 06, 2014

Customizing window icons in your favorite program

Customizing a program's window icons

When you have a window open in your favorite program, most often the little widgets you see in the window interface—arrows, icons, symbols, etc.—are just a collection of images sitting in the Resources folder of the application bundle. That is to say, if you'd like to customize the look of the window, feel free to experiment with looking through the bundle and making your own alterations.
I will here demonstrate how to do so with everyone's favorite bible program, Accordance Bible Software. Accordance uses a pencil icon and a little note(s) icon in the right margin of a text to conveniently provide the user the opportunity to interact with their own user notes. Let's
explore how we could change the notes icon to something a little less subtle.
I have previously show how to customize the "Highlighting Symbols" that Accordance uses in "Taming the Symbols in Accordance". This process is very similar.

Note that altering the contents of a program bundle is certainly not something a program author should necessarily encourage. If you delete something accidentally, you will need to reinstall the app. Any changes you make inside an application bundle can likely get written over the next time you update the app.

Changing the notes icon in the margin in Accordance:

1. Quit Accordance.

2. Find the Accordance.app application file in Finder. It's probably in your /Application folder. (You can right-click (or ^ control-click) on the Accordance icon in the Dock and select ⇢More options⇢Show in Finder.

3. Right-click (or ^ control-click) on the Accordance app and select from the popup contextual menu ⇢Show package contents. You will see inside this new folder the innards of the application (that's technical jargon).

4. Navigate to the folder /Contents/Resources/Icons/  This folder contains all the images that the program uses to build it's interface. Scrolling down, you will find the pencil icon image is 11255.png. The Note image is 11260.png and the Notes image is 11261.png.


5. Select 11260.png and 11261.png in the Icons folder and copy them to your desktop or elsewhere for safe keeping, so you can always go back. Because these are in a application bundle, the files have extra protection, so you'll have to hold down the ⌥ option key to copy them. (A plus sign will show up as you drag. You down want the arrow sign which only creates an alias link to the files.)

6. Once again, select 11260.png and 11261.png in the Icons folder and delete them. Because of the special protections, you may be asked to authorize as an administrator with privileges.

7. Choose a replacement icon. You may want to use one of the other images in this /Icons folder. I like 10331.png as a little notes icon, or perhaps you'd like to use a small diamond dot, which is 294.png. You can even search the web for your own icon. Searching for "web dot png", I found a simple little round dot you could drag to the desktop. If you find your own image, keep it within the size of the original, which is 14 pixels wide x 18 pixels high.

8. Select the new image you want to use in Finder. Duplicate the file twice in menu ⇢File⇢Duplicate (assuming you wish to use the same image for a single note and multiple notes).

9. Select the file and rename it to 11260.png and another as 11261.png and move then into the /Contents/Resources/Icons/ folder if they are not already there.

10. Notice that there is also a folder beside the /icons/ folder called /icons@2x/. These are slightly larger versions of many of the same images for higher resolution uses. You can also do the same process for the images in this folder. The Notes images are within 28x40 pixels.

11. Restart Accordance and enjoy the new look. Don't like it? Change it.

If you wish to change the Notes image, chances are you also don't want the original Pencil image. You can change it as well, although there is an option to remove it all together in Accordance Preferences…/User Files/Hide Add User Note pencil.

July 05, 2014

Creating a New Automation Service for Accordance

As of Accordance 10.4.3, Automator Actions are now included that allow you to build your own OSX Services as well as other Automator Workflows. The best starting place is to download the sample Services from Accordance, and get familiar with those, including the Instruction file included with them.
This is a tutorial on how you could go about building a new Service workflow, one that queries you for a verse reference in a dialog box and then inserts the full text of that reference in whatever document you're in. (This tutorial uses OSX 10.9.)



1. Launch Automator.app which is located in the /Applications folder.

2. When the dialog box for a new workflow shows up (you may have to select menu File/New), choose the option to create a new "Service". A Service is a special type of Automator Workflow that gets installed in the system-wide Services menu for quick access to automation tasks from inside other programs.



This opens a new Workflow in Automator. A Workflow is the palette that you can create individual steps for the Workflow to run that results in automated tasks being accomplished. The pane on the right is the canvas where you create the steps. The top pane on the left are the individual Automator Actions. These actions represents a large number of single tasks that can be added to the Workflow (by dragging them over). They are the building blocks of your automation Workflow. The pane below on the left shows the description of each Action... what kind of input it works on, what it accomplishes, what the results will be. As you add Actions to the Workflow on the right, the results (output) of one Action get passed on to the next Action in the Workflow.

3. Select menu File/Save and name the Service something descriptive of what it will accomplish. We will name this service "Acc - Query Insert Verses". The 'Acc' will group it with other Accordance Services, the 'Query' indicates it will first ask you for input, and the rest describes that it will insert the full text of the verses.


4. For creating our Service, the first task we need to accomplish is bringing up a dialog box to allow us to input the verse references we want to insert. There is an Automator Action called "Ask for Text", which brings up a dialog box. This Action is flawed, however, in that once it pops up you still have to click on it to type in it. So, we won't use it. We can overcome this flaw with a little Applescript. Find the Action titled "Run Applescript" and drag it into the Workflow space.

5.  Change the text of the default Applescript content to bring up a dialog box. You don't need to know anything about scripting to accomplish this. You might observe that the script will run every command between the words "on run" and "end run". So, let's change what the text runs.
Delete the line that says:
return input
(You can also delete the "(* Your script goes here *)" line if you like. It's just a comment.)
Paste the following command onto its own line, in between the "on run" and "end run" lines.
return text returned of (display dialog "Enter a verse reference:" default answer "")
Note that this text is all one paragraph. The result should look like this:

6. Next, find the Accordance Actions. You can do so by typing "acc" in the search bar above the Actions. You will see two Accordance actions. One is "View Text in Accordance". This Action building block is for taking references and searches and bring Accordance forward in order to run those searches in a new text or tool of you choosing. Find the Action called "Get Text From Accordance" and drag it underneath your Applescript action in the Workflow.

7. Select the options you desire in the "Get Text from Accordance" Action. The popup menu will populate with the short name of all the Text Modules you have installed in Accordance. I'm going to select "First Text Module" which will pull the verses from the module at the top of my module list in the Accordance Library. You can also choose whether the text is to be formatted using the Citation format you stipulate in Accordance Preferences, or if you prefer it to just use one verse per paragraph.

8. At the top of the Workflow, change the option to display "Service receives no input". This means that the Service does not require you to have anything selected in order to activate it (because you will be providing the input in a dialog box.)

9. Close to that option, select the option for "Output replaces selected text". This is what instructs the Service to insert the results of the Workflow into the current cursor/selection of your current document. This means that our Services will only be available in the Services menu when the current selection is a type of document that you can in fact edit/type into.

10. Save the Service Workflow and quit Automator, and you're done.

Now, you can be in a text document/email/etc. and insert verses quickly by:
1. Placing the curser where you want and invoking the Service "Acc - Query Insert Verses":

2. Enter a valid verse reference in the dialog box:

3. Enjoy the textual goodness that results:

You can peruse the Actions in Automator (especially those in the "Text" section) to get an idea of the possibilities of what you can create.
Note that the Service you just created, as well as the sample Accordance Services you should have installed, are located in ~/Library/Services/. If you want to add a new Service that's only a slight change from one you already have, you can select the file in that folder, duplicate it, open it in Automator by double-clicking, change the options (such as selecting "Second Text Module", rename the file and save and quit.
Note also, that if you have a Service you end up using often, do yourself a favor and add a global keyboard shortcut using the Apple Preferences / Keyboard Preferences.
You can find more information about this in the Instructions that come bundled with the sample Accordance Services.