Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Crash and encryption and other stories

Something Is Crashing


There has been a little bit of weird behaviour with my iPhone during the last week or so. Two or possibly three times the phone has crashed, or maybe it was only just one or two applications that crashed. It is supposed to work out that the phone operating system doesn’t crash even if one of the applications does. I am still not quite sure how this crashing happened. So I am walking along the road with my dog and listening to a podcast using the application OverCast and at the same time I have the MapMyWalk+ tracking my progress. I have a suspicion that it is one, both or the two apps in combination which are causing the problem. In some ways this is quite amusing due to the fact that the developer of the podcast listening application OverCast has been complaining that the software produced by Apple is below par.

What actually happens is that the screen goes completely dead as if the iPhone is turned off. There is a possibility that the operating system is still running because when I do get it back, I don’t always have to login again. So I don’t need to put in the code to open up the phone, I can still rely upon my fingerprint. I also don’t have to put in the code to unlock the Sim card. I like to have something to listen to while I am walking and it was rather annoying not to be able to do anything with the phone for the rest of the walk. I kept pressing the buttons to try and get it working again. In the end, when I did get it back I couldn’t say for sure exactly what it was that I did to restore service. During the last few days it has been working okay again and I can breathe easier once more.

Yet another email client - But with encryption

This new application I just got to try out is an email client offering end to end encryption of emails. It is called Tutanota and it is based in Germany. I have only just set up an account with it and it gives me a new email address. As if I didn’t have enough email addresses to play with already! I wondered if it only worked when sending between email accounts all on the same system. I found out that it also works sending and receiving to email addresses wherever they may be situated. In any case, I already have the ability to send and receive encrypted emails on my iPhone using GPG encryption. I have two applications to choose from to be able to work that system. I can also receive emails that have been encrypted using the certificates that I have installed from StartSSL. It isn’t quite so easy if I want to send out emails encrypted using that certificates method though.

I have just sent an email from the application on my iPhone to one of my other emails which is not connected to this new service. I was able to send it encrypted. The way it works is that you have an agreed password shared with the recipient. What you do is to send that password to that person by a different more secure means. So for instance you might send it by telling somebody over the telephone. You could also use a secure chat service or any other way that you know that password will get into the right hands. When the recipient gets the email they see an email that has a link to the web mail for Tutanota and you input the agreed password to be able to see the message. My next task will be to find somebody else using the same service and to try sending an email directly to see how that works. It seems to be a fairly easy system and if you can’t get your head around the way that GPG encryption works it could be just what you need.

Encryption of files with Boxcryptor


I feel fairly sure that there are already systems in place to keep your files safe when you’re using services such as Dropbox, Cubby, iCloud drive, Google Drive and so on. If you are more paranoid you can use this service to encrypt files before you send them to the cloud drive spaces. The Boxcryptor system was a bit of a nuisance to set up because I first of all login on a webpage. With this you only get a temporary password and you have two create a new one on your computer or mobile devices. Once I have found out how it works I was happy enough with the process to encrypt and to decrypt files. At one point I was worried that it was going to encrypt everything I already had within a Dropbox. Fortunately, it didn’t work that way and you can choose which of your files you want to have encrypted. I think that you probably do need to be quite paranoid regarding your file security if you feel the need to use this service. Then again, sometimes using the belt and braces is the way to go.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Pixelmator for iPad Tutorial 2 - Getting to grips with brushes and layers

Pixelmator for iPad 2 Layers Brushes Erasers

Splashing around digital paint on the iPad

It is time to get creative with your iPad and punish some pixels with Pixelmator. Super app for editing photos and it also has some drawing and painting tools so you can create digital art. In the first Pixelmator for iPad tutorial we looked at using templates and the selection tools. I this one I take a look at using the brushes and the layers. Part of the brushes section is the eraser tool. You have to be able to take colour out of your drawing as well as put it in there. The brushes have rudimentary controls of size and opacity. I would like to see more customisation in future versions and the ability to create my own brushes or presets. Depending on the eraser you choose you get more or less control over how it works on you canvas. Some of the erasers won't give you a soft edge even if you set it as soft as it will go. Try a few out to see which work for you.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Four days with my iOS devices travelling in Ireland

It seems a little bit weird this morning to be in front of my iMac at my desk in the office. On my Irish trip I managed really well without having my Mac in front of me and for the most part I didn’t need to have the full OS X experience. I have got quite used to having just the single window to look into to do my computing. It is really pretty easy to use the four finger swipe to move to the next application or the previous application I was working with. If I think that the application is more than a swipe away, or I am not sure exactly how far away it is in the stack, then I use the home button to see all of my open applications. I can then swipe between the thumbnails and icons for each of the apps to get where I want to go to. I have found that I can work quite quickly indeed using just my iPad Air 2 and my iPhone 6. These two devices together as a brilliant combination especially for Blogging on the Move with iOS.

Swapping and pinching on the iPad

Today I learned a new gesture that I can use on my iPad Air 2. This is a gesture that is specific to Safari for iOS. It is a three finger pinch which takes you to a screen where you can see all of your open tabs on your browser. Not only does it show your tabs that you have available on your iPad it will also show you a list of URLs you have open on other iOS devices that you are logged into with your Apple ID. So this would be quite handy if you were using your iPhone 6 to look at a webpage and decided that you wanted to see it in a larger format on your iPad Air 2. You do your three finger pinch to get to that screen, tap on the web page that you want to look at that is showing up your other device and hey presto you have it available in front of you. It is always good to find something new and marvellous that you can do with your iOS device. I spent some time drawing on my iPad using Sketchbook app from Autodesk.
Puffin Web Browser Download

Alternatives to using Safari browser on iOS

There is of course the Chrome Browser which is quite popular and I have used it a few times on my iOS devices. These days I tend to use the Safari browser 99% of the time. There are occasions when it is necessary to look for some other browser to get done what you need to do in a webpage. I had the Puffin browser recommended to me and while I was away on my trip I did have the occasion to use it. I have the free version and it did what I needed it to do. There was a webpage that must have been running some code in the background as part of its functionality. It was a webpage for creating emails on Mailchimp and was probably using something like JavaScript to make that happen. Or it could have been something to do with Flash. The Puffin browser app will actually let you view pages where flash is being used. Puffin does this through some server side technology and it does seem to work.

Paste not working in iOS sometimes

Whatever technology this webpage was using was stopping me from pasting from my clipboard into a section of the webpage. Every time I tapped on the area where I wanted to paste I saw a quick flash of the button for pasting and then it disappeared. When I did this within the Puffin browser it sort of did the same sort of thing, but it also gave me a separate bar of options below the field where I wanted to paste. So after a little bit of frustration in trying to get the job done in the first place, I was able to use my iPad to create those emails. I would much prefer to be using my Mac and my favourite blogging editor MarsEdit, but I did get the job done using the iPad.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Being productive with my Apple computers

A busy and productive week with my iOS devices and my Mac

Although this website is meant to be just about using touchscreen devices such as my iPhone and also my iPad, sometimes I have to mention the fact that I’m also using a Mac. It is all about having seamless integration between my computer devices whether they are desktop versions or whether they are my mobile devices. Wherever possible I choose iOS applications that have versions for both the Mac and also for iOS. For example, I use the application OmniFocus on my Mac and I also bought the versions to go for the iPad and iPhone. (It still bugs me that the iOS versions are not universal and that I have to buy separate versions for each device.) The same goes for iThoughtsX, Tweetbot, DayOne, Clear, 1Password and also Byword. Apart from being able to move files easily from one device to another it also makes it easier to remember how things happen because the developers try to make the applications work in similar ways where possible. So me being able to work in this way leads to less confusion. Yes it is true I am easily confused!

Blogging with the iPad using Drafts and Byword

This week I did two videos looking at ways to blog only using the iPad. On one of the workflows I used I did the whole thing on the iPad. I did all of the writing and collected all of the images and the embed codes for the video, on the iPad. I was able to get a post up to one of my websites directly from my iOS device. Some silly people still say that iPads are not good for creating content and are only good for consuming content. They obviously don’t know what they’re talking about and haven’t properly tried using an iPad or an iPhone. Next week I should do the same again, but using my iPhone 6 to prove it can also be done on an even smaller device.

Blogsy is an all-round super iPad blogging application

It would have been possible for me to do all of my writing into the Blogsy iPad application, but I wanted to use Byword for the writing. There are formatting facilities within Blogsy, but it was easier for me to write it in markdown and then to export out the text as HTML code. Another reason why it was easier for me to use Byword is because I wanted to do some of the writing on my Mac. I did about three quarters of the article on my iPad and then I opened up the same document on my Mac and did a little bit more. Due to the application synchronising over iCloud this was very easy for me to pick up at either end and continue working.
In Blogsy I was able to upload images ready to put into my blog post directly within the application. It is quite easy to get at these images and to drag and drop them into the post. I had forgotten that it is possible to place your picture either to the left justification, centre justification or to the right. Now that was really very handy indeed.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A wealth of applications on iOS - Part One

A wealth of applications on iOS

Since I got the iPad Air 2 and the iPhone 6 I have gone a little bit crazy with the number of applications that I have been adding to my iOS devices. There are some brilliant applications out there that do all sorts of things. Coming back into the iOS universe I have been keen to try out a few applications that I haven’t tried before, especially those that were not available on Android. This is despite the thoughts that I have been having lately that I should rationalise the number of applications I use. I think it is a good idea to make your choice on the application that you prefer to do a particular task and then to stick with it.

Notetaking on iOS - My choices

It not good to have text and notes scattered willy-nilly in between various notetaking applications. So you don’t really want to have one or two notes that you have arbitrarily decided to put into Simplenote, then one or two notes that are in the application Drafts and then other notes which are in Byword. Even so, despite this I have a number of notetaking applications on my iOS devices. Some of them are there to be used for specific purposes and some of them are just for me to have a look at. One of the applications that I have for me just to look out for the moment it is Microsoft OneNote. It does look like it is quite an interesting application that could be very useful. I just haven’t really spent any time with it yet to see if it would work better for me than Evernote. I also have an application called Editorial which is a really clever, well featured writers application and I haven’t really worked out the best way to use it yet. There is the default Apple Notes application which I haven’t even looked at and I also have MarginNote Pro. Sometimes I just get these applications because I see that they have been offered for free for a couple of days and I get them to have, just in case.

Drafts and Markdown

So the way that I keep notes, is like this. If I’m going to do some writing that is of a long form such as an article for a website or something that is going to be used as a chapter for a book, then I will usually start that in Byword on iOS. Mind you, that may have started off as a mind map, and has been pushed through to Cloud Outliner before I start filling in the body of the work.

Quick notes

If it is just a quick note and not something that is a to-do type of capture, then I will use the application Drafts. There is a chance that sometimes a note that I do in Drafts is only meant to be a quick note, but could end up as something longer so I will later move it to Byword. Sometimes it is hard to know when I get started how long or how much text I will up writing.

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Monday, 3 November 2014

A Visit to Ireland

 Shooting video with the iPhone

I am getting great use out of my iPad and my iPhone, especially when I am travelling. On this trip to Ireland I recorded snippets of video here and there and I was able to edit them on the iPad while I was away. This video I edited when I got back home, but I edited the on my iPad using Pinnacle Studio. When I was why I was using the application called Replay. It does a lot of the organising of the video clips automatically and adds music, which makes it very easy and quick to use. I think I like to have a bit more control over my video editing. I could do with spending some time with Pinnacle Studio and seeing what else I can do with it to make some good video edits.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Down and dirty with the iPad Air 2

Setting up an iPad Air from the backup of the old one is fast

iPad Air 2 day

I made a wise decision to set the new iPad up from a backup of the previous iPad I was using and I was utterly amazed how quickly it was able to be nearly completely set up. I did make a little bit of a mistake in that it would have been better for me to have the iPad connect to iTunes and to go through the rest of the applications that I wanted to have added to the iPad. I already had these latest versions of iPad apps downloaded into iTunes and it would have been much quicker to install them on to the new iPad. The backup didn’t have all of the apps that I wanted for the new iPad. My previous iPad was only a 16 GB version and because of that I had taken many applications off due to the lack of space available. I was able to speed up that process somewhat by reconnecting the iPad to the iMac again and applications that hadn’t started to download to the iPad were then uploaded from iTunes. It didn’t really matter too much, on account of the fact that I was having to go out of the house anyway and I wasn’t planning to take the iPad out with me either. I could just let it do its stuff and it was ready for when I got back home.

More setting up to be done.

It was necessary for me to go into the settings for 1Password so that I could have touch ID enabled. In fact I also had to set up the Touch ID on the new iPad because my old iPad didn’t have Touch ID. I set this up so that I can use either my thumb or forefinger of my right hand and for the moment is just the thumb on my left hand. This seems to work quite well for me.

Loading up more applications

To celebrate the launch and delivery of the new iPad Air 2 the application Pixelmator for iPad was released today. I had already decided that I was going to buy this version of the Pixelmator application on account of it being such a good application on my iMac. It was the princely sum of €4.49 for Pixelmator for iPadand at that it is a bargain. I am looking forward to getting into that application and seeing what I can do with it creatively.

Cursor and Aperture

The camera on the iPad has now been upgraded to 8 megapixels and it is quite likely that I will use it to either take photos. I will also use the iPad to edit Spondicious Photos that come in through the Photo Stream. I have quite a few camera applications such as HDR, Paper Camera, Photo Sphere, Pro-Cam XL, Slow Shutter and there is another camera application called Camera Plus with AirSnap, which I want to try out. I have held back on buying that application because there is more than one application with nearly the same name and I want to make sure I buy the correct one. I went to the App Store for the Camera Plus application and the one to get is the one that offers the AirSnap. That lets you use one iOS device to control another for taking photos. It also does the thing with the focus that you see in the movies a lot called pulling focus. You have one part of the image in focus and when you pull the focus a different part gets the focus and it is a good story telling tool.

The camera is also going to be good for shooting video and I already have a couple of extra applications for shooting video. I have Movie Pro, Spark and Capture. Then I want to try out the application called a Replay as that was the application demonstrated at the iPad Air 2 Apple keynote. The iPad for editing video

Another great application that I have been meaning to try is the sky at night type of application which is called Star Walk 2. Where I live there is quite often clear skies and I would like to be able to look up into the sky and to have the constellations named for me. I can always look up and find Orion’s Belt and I know which star is called Betelgeuse, but I would like to know more. The iPad is such an educational device, it is amazing and this is a great example of that.

Security on the iPad for email

I do receive some email messages that have been encrypted and I need to be able to decrypt them on iOS. One thing I need to do is to add some of these certificates for my S Mime email encryption. I also have the application called oPenGP Lite which allows me to encrypt and decrypt both files and text. I do have to do the text within this application and not within the mail application by doing a copy and paste. It is pretty easy to do though and it is just handy to have the ability to do this sort of GPG encryption and decryption where ever I might be.

I also have an application called iPGMail and I might have a look at that again to see if it is going to be useful for email security on my new iPad Air 2. It’s a long time since I tried this application and I hope that in the meantime it has improved. I don’t remember it been particularly easy to use the first time around.


Games on the iPad Air 2

I don’t spend much time playing games on the iPad or on my Mac. It is, however quite nice to have one or two on there just in case. A game that I enjoyed playing before was Temple Run and I had a couple of versions of this. I had to stop playing it last time because it got too addictive. I also have a couple of word games on the iPad and one of them is called LetterPress.

My first impressions of the iPad Air 2

I decided to go with the 128 GB Silver iPad Air 2 and also have the LTE option. This gives me the SIM slot so that I can get better use of the iPad while I am out and about. I had to go down to the phone shop this afternoon to collect a new SIM card. I also have the Gig Sky SIM that I can use in this iPad when I go travelling to Ireland at the end of this month. I will be paying €11 per month for 1.2 GB. I had to do this with a separate account although I was expecting to get a special SIM card that only cost three euros per month and use the same data plan I have for the iPhone. It would have been quite handy to only have one bill for my data covering the iPhone and also the iPad. That didn’t work out, but the deal that I got isn’t too much different.

It’s a beautiful screen

Apple was correct in saying that the screen was improved over the previous retina screens. The new iPad Air 2 does have a particularly nice screen that is less reflective than the previous screens. I find this very useful for when I am reading books on my iPad. Even when I am using other applications it does seem that the images and text are almost floating on top of the screen. This makes my iPad Air 2 even more of a delight to use.

Is it a good upgrade to the iPad Air 2?

There are one or two people that are using the previous version of the iPad Air saying they don’t intend to update their iPad. They are correct to make a decision like this if they don’t find the need for the Touch ID or the new and improved camera. The weight of the new iPad is quite similar to the previous version. The faster chip on the new iPad is good to have, but you might not notice such a big difference if you are only changing by one iteration of the iPad.

I have jumped two or three versions of the iPad and for me it makes a huge difference and it is all worthwhile having. I have got the version that I can put a Sim card into and have mobile data and that gets me better GPS. Then there is also a motion coprocessor and so for me there are a number of good reasons stacking up to make this a good decision to upgrade to the iPad Air 2.