Finding help on your own–Support Communities

Have you run into a problem with your computer, tablet or smartphone?

Chances are, somebody else has had the exact same problem and it has been discussed, and solved, in a support community forum accessible on the Internet.

Remember my problem with my iPad battery draining after installing iOS7? I found the solution, in that case, in a conversation in the Apple Support Communities.

How I Use Support Communities (Apple example)

ScreenShot Apple Support Communities Front Page

Apple Support Communities Front Page

Once I have opened the Apple Support Communities Front Page, I usually Sign-in (see 1 in Figure: Apple Support Communities Front Page). Use your AppleID to sign in. Note: this step is optional if you just want to look around, but you need to sign in to receive notifications and updates regarding conversations in the community).

Next, I Search the communities for a conversation relevant to my current issue (see 2 in Figure: Apple Support Communities Front Page). To date, I have always found an existing conversation that solves my issue.

If you don’t find a solution, then you can pose your own question (see 3 in Figure: Apple Support Communities Front Page) and wait for the community to respond (you will receive email notifications when your question receives a response if you have signed in).

Support Communities for key technologies

My wishlist—an activity tracker

I need to be more active…and I think an activity tracker will help me achieve that goal. The challenge is—what activity tracker should I buy?

I’ve read lots of reviews and have narrowed my list to (note: the following links will take you to each product’s website):

Here is what I think the pros and cons of each are…

Basis B1

Pros:

  • Comprehensive activity tracking (automatically detects your activities), including cycling
  • Built-in heart rate monitor (also measures your skin temperature)
  • Uploads information to a website and mobile devices where raw data is interpreted into actionable information
  • Wristband form factor
  • Includes a watch

Cons:

  • Most expensive of the choices ($199.00)
  • Clunky for a woman’s wrist
  • Some scathing reviews on Amazon

Jawbone Up

Pros:

  • Wide ranging ability to track metrics
  • Convenient wrist band form factor suitable for a woman’s wrist
  • Comfortable and (in my opinion) attractive
  • Works with mobile devices (iPhone and Android)
  • Available in a variety of colours
  • This is subjective, but counts: a friend has one and loves it

Cons:

  • Mobile apps only, no website or PC support
  • No data display on the Jawbone Up itself
  • Need to plug in to phone to synch (no wireless capability)
  • Doesn’t automatically track cycling

FitBit Force

Pros:

  • Recently released, the FitBit force incorporates and enhances the features of the FitBit One into a wrist band form factor
  • Clear OLED display
  • Automatic wireless synching to a PC or Mac and to select Bluetooth 4.0 mobile devices
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons:

  • Availability
  • Does not automatically identify activities
  • No heart rate monitor
  • More expensive than the FitBit One

FitBit One

Pros:

  • Highly rated
  • Friendliest price
  • Good features

Cons:

  • Clip-on form factor makes it easy to forget, or worse, lose

Conclusion

I think I will go with one of the FitBit devices. The Jawbone Up is consistently rated lower than the other trackers in online reviews and the Basis B1 is a combination of too expensive and, potentially, too clunky for a woman to wear. I prefer the wrist band form factor, but I would like a chance to try on the FitBit Force before committing to purchasing it. I just want to be sure it is comfortable on my wrist and not too clunky. If the FitBit Force doesn’t work out…I’ll be buying the FitBit One.

What I like best about iOS7

I promised I would tell you what I like best about iOS7. Remember, I have an iPhone 4 and iPad 2—so there are a number of iOS7 features I don’t have, including things that more recently released devices had in iOS6.

That aside, there is lots to like about iOS7…

My favourite things about iOS7—for an iPhone 4 / iPad 2

  1. Apple hasn’t abandoned these older devices—yet
    Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but the rate of obsolescence on consumer devices makes my hair stand on end. The iPhone 4 was announced in June 2010 and the  iPad 2 in March 2011. Thankfully, they are both hanging-in in December 2013. (Based on Apple’s historical product announcement cycle, iOS8 should be upon us sometime in 2014—June or fall. That may be the end of iOS support for these older devices.)
  2. No loss of performance
    My devices and all of my apps seem to be just as responsive as they were when iOS6 was installed. iOS7 features beyond the capacity of the device’s hardware simply don’t show up—see iOS7 features that are unavailable on iPhone 4 and Pad 2
  3. Automatic app updates
    I am unable to keep myself from dealing with notifications from the App Store app. iOS7 has a great feature, Automatic app update (your choice whether to turn it on or not), to keep all of your apps current without any involvement on your part. To turn on Automatic app updates:
    1. Select Settings
    2. Scroll down and Select iTunes & App Store
    3. Scroll down until you see AUTOMATIC DOWNLOADS
    4. Turn on Updates (see photo)
      Automatic Downloads

      Turn on Updates under AUTOMATIC DOWNLOADS

  4. The interface.
    At first iOS7’s interface seemed more primitive than iOS6, but it has grown on me. I am not a graphic designer so I can’t go into specifics…it just looks nice.
  5. Safari
    The changes to Safari aren’t going to overwhelm iOS6 users. As you get the hang of the new features, I think you will agree, they are make browsing a better experience. For an in-depth guide to what’s in iOS7’s Safari see iOS7: The Ultimate Safari Guide.
  6. Search
    Search used to be accessed by swiping the device screen, from left to right, until you reached the search page (the leftmost of your device’s Home screens). Now, search is available from any Home screen page—just swipe down and the search box will appear across the top of the screen.

iOS7 Features that are Unavailable on iPhone 4 and iPad 2

Features, like Siri, that were introduced on the iPhone 4s still don’t work on older devices. No surprise there. Some other things you won’t get:

  • Maps—no 3D flyover or turn-by-turn navigation
  • Camera—no panorama or filters (but you can still apply filters later using various apps)
  • AirPlay—no mirroring of your iOS7’s screen on your TV screen (via Apple TV)
  • AirDrop
  • Graphical effects—translucency, live wallpapers, parallax effect on the Home screen

Upgrading to iOS7—Is it a good idea for older (supported) devices?

Yup, just do it. Here’s my story…

I am an advocate of keeping all operating system and app software up-to-date, but I was leery about upgrading my iPhone 4 and iPad 2 to iOS7. You see, I remember what happened to my iPhone 3 when I upgraded it to iOSv (v=I forget the version). In that case, my phone essentially froze and I went in search of a downgrade as quickly as I could.

When iOS7 came out this fall, I waited. I researched. I stalked the Apple Support Communities (more about that in a later post). I was cautious. Around me, friends’ iPhones were running iOS7. I started feeling like a dinosaur (not a good feeling when I spend a good deal of my time helping those same friends with their technology).

I finally bit the bullet after an update to iOS7 was released that addressed early problems.

I upgraded the iPad 2 first. The upgrade went smoothly—I started the upgrade and wandered off to do other stuff, so I am not sure how long it took to complete; probably in the range of 15-30 minutes. A bit of time going through the iOS7 setup screens and I was in business. Same experience on the iPhone.

Did I run into problems? Yes, but only one.

The iPad battery drained incredibly quickly after the upgrade. I found a post in the Apple Support Community that told me I would improve battery life by doing the following:

    1. Turn on Airplane Mode
    2. Turn off the iPad (fully off, not just the screen)
    3. Restart the iPad
    4. Turn off Airplane Mode

Did it work? Yes, it did. Do I have any idea why or how this worked? Sorry, I don’t.

Bottom line: I am running iOS7 on the oldest devices that Apple says will run iOS7. I have not experienced any performance degradation (over several weeks now). I am enjoying the iOS7 experience and new features (more about the features I like best in an upcoming post). Don’t hesitate. Upgrade your supported device. You will be glad you did.

How to access any eBook format on any eBook Reader, or not

eReader Folder

eReader apps on iPhone

The great thing about using a smartphone or tablet as an eReader is you can access eBooks or ePublications from many providers simply by installing multiple eReader apps, e.g., Kindle, Kobo, Overdrive, Play Books, and iBooks. The not so great thing about reading on those devices is it is hard to see their screens in daylight conditions.

In direct contrast, dedicated eReader devices—for example, physical Kindles, Kobos, etc—are usually tied to a specific provider—for example, Kindle to Amazon, Kobo to Kobo store—but their screens are designed to be easy to read outside.

My intent with this post was to describe a magic wand that would give you the control to put content from any eBook source onto the dedicated eReader device of your choice. Having gone through the exercise, I acknowledge it can be done—but the process isn’t straightforward and includes, in the case of DRM protected eBooks, a step that breaks license agreements and, in many jurisdictions, the law.

For the majority of my readers my advice is:

  • Use eReader software on your smartphones and tablets to be able to access as broad a range of electronic content as you can—the eReaders apps are free—you can install as many different ones as you need or like
  • Purchase a dedicated eReader device only if there are situations where your smartphone and tablet don’t perform well—for example, in sunlit conditions or times when you need battery life measured in weeks rather than hours—and be reconciled to restricting your reading in those situations to that device’s electronic content

If you are undaunted and really want to move your electronic content around, you will find more information at the following related links:

If you don’t have a universal remote control that is working well, this post is for you.

remote controls

Remote control chaos

Does your home entertainment system control centre look like the Remote control chaos photo?

There aren’t many things more frustrating than owning a great entertainment system that only one or, maybe, two members of your household know how to use.

Enter Logitech’s family of programmable remote controls. (No, I don’t work for Logitech—they seem to be the only company in this arena).

Yes, Logitech remotes require setup. Yes, the setup needs to be modified if you add to, or change, any of the components in your system. BUT—on a day-to-day basis, you have one remote that, seemingly, can read your mind.

One Remote

Reduce to one
Source: Logitech Website

Logitech remotes are activity based. Using your computer, you teach the remote:

  1. What components you have
  2. What activities you do
  3. Which components need to be on, and how they are connected, for each activity

Once you’ve done that, your remote setup information is stored in your Logitech account in a cloud-based database.

Once setup is complete, if you want to watch TV, select the activity that says “Watch TV”; if you want to play a game on your XBox select the “Play a game” activity.

If it is your dream is to reduce remote control frustration and clutter, get a Logitech universal remote control. There are a number of models to choose from. They aren’t cheap, but they are so worth it.