AMITIAE - Tuesday 26 April 2016

Cassandra: Upcoming Events (2) and Feature Requests for iOS

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Yesterday I wrote about what might be expected from Apple at WWDC, particularly concerning iOS and OS X (or MacOS, perhaps), with a single point that I would like to see in Photos for iOS: White Balance. This is there on Photos for the Mac, but not the iOS app. I thought a bit more on this overnight.

Last week, taking advantage of new features that are now available in iOS I took a bunch of photos with my Nikon DSLR camera and transferred these to the iPhone using the SD card-Lightning adapter I have. They were all available for some editing within a few minutes (over 60 images were imported), but because of the ambient lightning, many needed white balance to be fixed. The photos I had taken a few days earlier of street scenes during the day were fine.

RAW in Photos

I did edit one or two photographs on the iPhone while waiting for a movie to start (Jungle Book - worth seeing, but not up to the Korda versions with Sabu). Apart from a couple of photos that I changed to black & white, most were not what I wanted to see. I had to wait until the photos were synchronised via iCloud and I could edit on the Mac. This is not wholly satisfactory as the images are slow appearing in Photos, although do appear in Aperture, which I am still using (at least for now).

This highlights two (slightly-related) aspects that could also see improvements from Apple in the next months: iCloud is still lagging in some aspects; and some users cannot rely on cloud access for data storage. Other solutions are needed.

Overall, I am reasonably pleased with what I get out of iCloud, particularly the synchronization of working data: Calendars, Contacts, Keynote, Notes, Numbers, Pages all work well, although in general these are relatively small files or amounts of data. These can be synchronised either using WiFi or carrier signals. As a quick test, I wrote a short text in Notes on the iPhone and it was available in a second or so on the iPad Pro I am working on today. Neither device was running WiFi (at that time) and they were operating on different carrier networks (DTAC, iPhone; True, iPad Pro).

Synchronization of photos only works if WiFi is available. This is a problem for some as not everyone round the world has access to super-fast, Cupertino WiFi speeds. A photo I took on the iPhone 6s Plus is shown as 1.7MB. An unedited photo from the Nikon is 19MB (or more). 50 Photos, or more in some cases, could be in excess of 1GB. While that sort of data transfer would eat into a user's data allowance on a carrier account, a more rapid transfer system would add to the functionality of some devices, particularly the iPad Pro which is being touted as a replacement (I prefer the word, Substitute) for a computer.

Cloud transfers should be made more efficient, but it seems nonsensical to me, working in Bangkok, that my photos have to travel to the USA (or some other data center) and then back again, to be viewed on another device (OS X or iOS) that is a couple of meters away, in the same room and sharing the same WiFi network: yes I want the photos in iCloud, but I also want them on my other devices, toute de suite.

I have suggested in the past (and this is now added to my iOS 10 wants list) a hybrid feature that allows a more direct transfer of photos between a user's devices on the same network: a speedy device-to-device operation, along with a more measured transfer of the images to iCloud and the user's storage.

Far more images are now appearing on iOS devices: the iPhone makes this all so easy; and the easy screenshot feature adds to the number of pictures in Photos. I try and cull these from time to time, particularly screenshots taken when I am testing apps, but the library is growing and I recently had to increase my iCloud space to 50GB.

Seagate WiFi Disk

At the beginning of the year, I did try a solution that stored data on a Seagate WiFi connected disk, but I did not find that this was easy to set up or to use. It sits in a cupboard at home now.

Seagate WiFi Disk interface

The disk could only be used for viewing data that had been added using a computer. In my view this was limited and not what I really wanted. I make good use of iCloud and DropBox, depending on which apps I am working in. Other solutions include Microsoft's 365, Adobe's Creative Cloud and Google's Cloud Platform, which many of my students use.

I have added a Transfers folder to iCloud (on the Mac) which allows me to send other files to my iOS devices. Tapping on the file, once it has appeared on the iPhone or iPad, opens a suitable app so I can view or edit as needed. Again, this has shortcomings and what is really needed is a direct Lightning to disk solution: files stored on a disk are accessible from the iOS device so they may be transferred to the device or viewed. Not all files can be edited (e.g. .rtfd).

iCloud folders

The MacBook and the iPad Pro (and other iPads) have shown the viability of using more nimble devices for work, but the major shortcoming is often storage, particularly for those with limited WiFi access. With the MacBook, it is relatively easy to attach a hard disk via an USB-C to USB adapter, but with the iPad Pro a user can rely only on on-device storage (up to 256GB) and access to cloud solutions.

Many feel that the time is due for Apple to add some sort of functionality that will allow connection of a hard disk via the Lightning connector so that data can be managed more efficiently: for some, iCloud (and similar solutions) may not meet all their requirements and a hardware option might be preferred.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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