eXtensions - Wednesday 23 August 2017

eXtensions - The Wednesday File (19): Foundations for Digital Expansion

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


It is that time of year again when, almost by tradition, we are expecting the release of a new iPhone within a couple of weeks. The last few years have seen the announcements of the latest devices just before the middle of September. Despite all the dire warnings from Wall Street's "usually reliable" sources, there has been nothing to suggest any change from Apple and the "deer in the headlights" comment from Tim Cook on the lines of, No reason to change outlook, immediately negated 50% of the rumours, sending commentators into a tailspin.

This is why I always avoid making any such comments on what will or will not be coming from Apple - and certainly don't make predictions - as I have seen all this before. The magician wants you to look the other way. Instead I note that the number of beta releases has begun to increase: this week there were updates to developer versions of macOS, iOS, tvOS and WatchOS, only a few days after the last one. Closer and closer. In one of the releases it was revealed that Apple had dealt with a bug that had made it possible to crack an iPhone 7 passcode using a dedicated $500 hardware guessing box. Christian Zibreg (iDownload Blog) explains about the bug and the fix.

Although I make some other comments below, the expansion of the HomeKit and HealthKit is exciting and there is beginning to be more awareness of potential. With the next version of iOS, users of some of the more recent iPhones including the iPhone SE) will be able to experience ARKit output. Several demonstrations have been shown online after Apple released the software components for this. There is phenomenal potential here, not only for game overlays but for mapping and remote displays for instruction purposes. As has happened with iPhone technology before, even Apple is surprised by some of the solutions developers come up with.

So the latest version of Android is Oreo. The company making the cookies has joined with Google on pushing this and it is good publicity for them of course. I am afraid I am going to find it hard to resist making jokes about this. If I remember correctly (and I will buy a packet tomorrow) they are quite easy to break.

I did finally manage to set up a couple of Macs so that the proximity of the Apple Watch will unlock them. I had ignored this on my regular MacBook Pro as I had delayed setting up 2-factor authorisation on that machine. When I belatedly updated the MacBook with a Sierra release this week, a panel appeared asking if I wanted to activate this feature. So I did. When I looked at the MacBook Pro (Security & Privacy preferences) all I had to do was check a box and that now works too.

Security & Privacy

The reason for the delay was because, to set this up, I had to log out of the iCloud account and then log in again. Sounds simple enough, but this sets up all sorts of dire warnings about loss of data and asking about backups; but the data was all retained and nothing was missing when I logged back in again. I of course had backups.

The login with the Apple Watch is not quite walking into a room and having the screen become active - I still have to press a button - but there was no need to type in a password for the MacBook, although the TouchID access on the MacBook Pro does make the Watch feature a little redundant. TouchID by the way is not something that I think of much, until it is not available - the MacBook and my Mac mini - then the need to type in the characters makes one remember how easy life can be.

When the Touch Bar appeared so many commented on its uselessness, although it was clear from what they had written that they hadn't actually used the feature, or only tried it for a few minutes in an Apple Store. As apps introduced support for this, it became more and more useful and I find myself - not consciously - hovering over it from time to time.

There are several functions that I use on a day to day basis, and there are some apps for which I use certain features, for example browsing images in Photos when I have a lot to sift through. Now it is reported that the latest version of Parallels Desktop 13 has this and it brings native TouchBar support to Windows: at least when it is run on a Mac (Greg Barbosa, 9to5 Mac).

The emphasis on typing in the password was reinforced this week when I accessed the Mac mini for the first time in a while and found that the batteries in the wireless keyboard were flat. I remembered they were running down and also remembered that I had said to myself, I will fix that when I come back. I didn't, so before I could get into the Mac mini I had to run down to the nearest 7/11 and buy a pack of AA batteries. That was not wasted either as once I was in, the Magic Trackpad warned that it too wanted new batteries.

Forget the total eclipse (not visible anyway here), but the stars aligned for me this week when, after setting up the home automation, I thought it would be a good idea to do the same at work. I have showed some of the HomeKit and HealthKit devices and apps to students, but each time I do this, I need to set things up and there are always problems.

Apple Watch I suggested a demonstration facility and workshop. I was told to put this in a proposal as there are already plans for a new construction using roof space and it would be good for the department to stake its claim to some of the area as soon as possible. The proposal was submitted Tuesday, but to my dismay, when showing off the Home App, for the first time the devices showed, No Response. I wondered if there had been a power cut, but when I tried later in a different location, the system was working again.

I use the Apple Watch for a number of health reasons as well as now unlocking the Macs and I remembered that a few months ago Aetna Insurance had bought several thousands for its staff, but is now reported to be trying to come to some sort of arrangement with Apple to make these available (free or discounted) to its customers too. If an insurance company sees the benefits of such a device which can help with monitoring, others might want to take another look as well.

I named the site and my former columns in the Bangkok Post, eXtensions after the X in OS X (ten, not X) and the extensions that had enabled extra features in the pre-OS X Mac Systems. Some extensions later came to OS X (now macOS) and Apple has updated its Safari Extensions webpage (Michael Potuck, 9to5 Mac). There is a new look and nine featured apps at the top of the webpage. Potuck writes that "there are only 27 extensions available on the Mac App Store, with the majority just available via download from the Safari Extensions Gallery or directly from developers."

Safari extensions

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. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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