Why Alex Is Wrong And What Are Apple’s real Software Problems

OK, that headline is a bit inflammatory and an insult to a perfectly good tech journalist but Alex Kidman here is the latest in a long line of commentators to take a swipe at Apple for the quality of its software. Unfortunately he grabs the wrong end of the clue stick.

I am not going to argue that there aren’t some things that Apple could do to improve software quality, indeed I will point out some of them before I conclude. What I would like to do is look at some of the reasons there are problems. I will also point out some of the things that won’t fix the problems and why. As I do I’ll show why Alex is partly wrong though partly correct at the core of his arguments.

First, software is hard. I started out my professional life as a programmer, mostly writing code for accounting software, most of the time in C. It is impossible for anyone who has not spent several years writing software to understand the complexity of what you do and the difficulties you find in proving it’s correct. Continue reading

Hacking The Philips Hue

Philips hue mot vanlig lampa...

Philips Hue (Photo credit: Patrick Strandberg)

A short time ago I bought myself a Philips Hue starter pack and installed the three globes in my lounge room.

I must say that I love the way you can set the colour and brightness of these things. Having installed and played with the iPhone app it came to me that I should have a bit of a hack and see what I could do.

My first need was to find a way to turn the lights down as the evening gets late. I thought that would be a nice way to remind myself it was getting late and to think about going to bed.

I decided Python was the way to go since I can run it on both my server, the iPhone and iPad. I discovered a nicely usable library for Python and quickly wrote the required script. Then I just installed it as an item in the root crontab so now the lights get turned down to half power at 10:30 every night. The script required is tiny:


from phue import Bridge
b = Bridge('')
b.set_light([1,2,3], 'bri', 127, transitiontime=300)

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The Pebble Watch

Pebble Watch


I often support interesting projects on KickStarter and one I supported was the Pebble watch. Mine arrived a few days ago.

First impressions were good, it arrived in a nice custom cardboard box and the watch and charge cable were in a custom cardboard holder. All made from recycled and recyclable cardboard. There were no instructions beyond a note to “Get started at go.getpebble.com”.

The introduction page you end up on needs some work but I managed to get the watch hooked up to power and talking to my iPhone without too much trouble. It hooks up to power with a custom USB cable with a magnetic latch and two power dots. This is so that the watch can be totally waterproof – you can swim or shower with it on.

I then updated the software on the watch and added a couple of watch faces using the iPhone app.

The appearance of the Pebble is acceptable, for me it is a fraction too large but it is certainly no larger than a lot of mens watches. I really like the “Text Watch” face that tell you the time in words. I may have to change the band as I prefer a metal or leather band to plastic in Sydney’s warm weather.

The screen is a low power LCD with a backlight – in dark conditions you can turn on the backlight by touching a button, tapping the phone or even giving it a shake – a quick rotate of my wrist works fine. The screen is 144 by 168 pixels – large enough for a decent watch face or to show an SMS. The screen is easily seen in most daylight and office conditions though the white is more a light blue-grey.

Inside is an ARM processor, an accelerometer, a light sensor, a BlueTooth radio and a small vibration motor (easily felt when it’s on your wrist).

Once connected to my phone it worked fairly well. Due to some problems with iOS 6 it has trouble showing notifications from a lot of apps but it does fine showing an SMS, caller ID or details of a song when you use your watch to control your music.

At the moment that pretty much sums up all the functionality of the watch, there is promise of more to come with Pebble promising more software updates to add more apps and more functions to the current software.

Every so often the iPhone pops up a dialog asking of it’s OK for the app to communicate with the watch and hitting OK runs the app. When it does this is totally mysterious.

At the moment I have to say that the Pebble is a great start and a perfect addition to my network of things. I think the people at Pebble have been a little overwhelmed by the demand they’ve seen. I hope in the weeks to come we get some of the promised apps. I’m waiting for the cycle computer or Run Keeper apps in particular.

Some Notes On Real Racing 3

After a few more days with Real Racing I’ve made a few notes.

Race Types

Autocross is certainly the hardest of the race types – there are a few I’ve come across that seem impossible. I’ve raced in one where I had the best car in the series with all upgrades and my time was over 50 seconds when the time for first was 36 seconds. This is currently my biggest complaint about Real Racing 3.

Drag races are by far the easiest. You don’t have to worry about your steering since the car will always go straight, just concentrate on the tachometer and hit the gear up paddle when it hits the red.

There appears to be a couple of bugs in the endurance races, sometimes I see what looks like a ghost car and sometimes my car suddenly brakes as if it’s avoiding an invisible car. It has to be said that I often get an incredible result in endurance once 2nd was 6.4km and I managed 43.4km.

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Ten (or so) Essential Apps On My iPhone

iPhone 5

Here are the apps I use most on my iPhone. Once again I have to say I’m fairly quirky so your mileage may vary.


TaskPaper is used for lists of all sorts. The ease with which I can create them on my Mac and have them replicated on the phone and iPad and the joy of a text format make this an essential. See my posts tagged TaskPaper for my reasons why (and a bonus AppleScript to add tasks to Reminders).


I went looking for an app that would allow me to quickly log events and Tio is it. The free version allows you three different events but the paid one allows up to nine, the last three are actually timers. It’s perfect for logging when you took medication, I also used it on my last attempt to give up cigarettes. You press the button and the time date and button pressed are logged and you can easily look at the log. The event log can be mailed to you for easy analysis on your computer.

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Looking for work

Do you have a Macintosh fleet of 20 or more or a company full of iPhones and need some assistance? Then talk to me, I’m currently looking for work, either permanent or contract, in the Sydney area.

Who am I?
• Experienced Macintosh system administrator
• Experienced Macintosh support engineer
• Experienced IT Manager

What do I offer your company?
• Deep knowledge of Apple software
• Deep knowledge of Macintosh servers
• Extensive knowledge of Macintosh integration into Windows-centric systems
• Broad knowledge across multiple facets of Information Technology
• Quick learner and self-starter
• Capable of writing for both technical and lay audiences
• Informative and entertaining presenter/teacher

Check out my LinkedIn profile :- http://au.linkedin.com/in/honestpuck/

Installing The New Phone

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

So what do you do when you get that new phone? Here’s what I did. I was replacing a broken phone so your mileage may vary.

First thing to do was to set up a couple of accounts starting with iCloud, Gmail and Gmail CardDAV. You have to be a little careful at this point to make sure you are syncing only one of each type of account, for example you only want to sync your mail with Gmail and not iCloud.

Then start in on Settings. Connect to my home WiFi, connect to the Bluetooth in my car and go down the settings one by one till you get to “iTunes & App Store”.

Now is the time to check that you don’t need to update the operating system. One of the strange choices Apple has made is that if you update the OS over WiFi it only downloads the parts of the OS that have changed while if you do it via iTunes it will download the entire OS. This means that almost always it’s faster to do it over WiFi. Go into Settings/General and tap on “Software Update”.

Continue reading