Raise to Wake is a feature I’ve wanted for a while, so I love that. It sometimes seems a little sensitive, but I guess I’ll either get used to it, or it’ll be tweaked in a software update. The new behaviour of unlocking your phone without going to the Home Screen until you press the Home button seemed a bit unintuitive to me, I’ve changed a setting under General > Accessibility > Home Button to remove the press.
Functionally, the new notifications are great, and will get better as more apps embrace the feature. Like others, I’m not a fan of the styling, which is very evocative of “Web 2.0”. Clear All is another minor feature I’ve wanted forever, so I’m glad that’s there; I just wish I hadn’t had to Google to discover it’s hidden behind a 3D Touch gesture. These hidden or unintuitive features and gestures are probably my biggest peeve with iOS 10 for now.
Related to the notification area, I don’t get why the “Today” widget area is duplicated here and to the left of the Home Screen. One or the other would’ve been better, at least in my opinion. Maybe because I never used the old “Today” screen, but did use the old search screen which used to be to the left of the Home Screen…
Overall I like the update, but I’ve found some of the new features to be really unintuitive to use. The message styles (hidden ink, balloons, etc) are hidden behind a 3D Touch of the send button – so if you don’t get it right you’ll find yourself accidentally sending the message before it’s finished. This is a very minor thing, but it does cause frustration. I also found the Digital Ink features to be confusing to use, and the associated gestures a bit hit-and-miss. “Playback” of these messages is also hit-and-miss: sometimes they play automatically, but most times they don’t.
Being able to (finally) remove in-built apps is obviously something which has received some headlines. Surprisingly, I’ve removed fewer than I expected… I think it’s only Stocks, Tips, Find My Friends and weather. I’ve actually found myself switching to a couple of the in-built apps
Over the last couple of weeks, my iPhone 5S has been rebooting itself during the night. Once (last Saturday) it got stuck in a reboot loop on the Apple logo screen. Strangely, it seemed to be emitting some kind of tone every time it restarted… maybe that was my woken-at-3am brain imagining things, but I’m sure it also made a noise in the early hours of this morning when it rebooted.
The most annoying thing about this, is that it’s only happening at night, while I’m asleep. I know it’s happening because my lock screen tells me so, and I can’t use TouchID to unlock the phone. That, and the fact the display flashing up the stark white loading screen sometimes wakes me up. Throughout the day, everything appears fine. It’s really quite bizarre.
I’d reset the phone to factory settings, but there are a couple of security-related apps installed which would be a massive PITA to have to de-authorise and set up again.
So after the saga which was getting rid of a legacy Google Apps service on my “main” Google Account, I had to create a new one. I thought it worth sharing the experience of this, to round out the story.
At first I setup the account with my primary email, with no need for a GMail account. This was straightforward enough, and I was able to setup 2-factor authentication, Chrome browser sync, and re-setup some of the mobile applications.
I had to re-verify my account via a SMS code for a number of services, even after setting up 2FA, which is no big deal really, but you’d think once would be enough.
After a couple of hours, I decided I wanted to make use of Google Now. To get the most out of it I would need to use GMail. No big deal, I can setup some forwarding and aliases to integrate this with Fastmail1. Finding a usable address was the hard part. I must have spent a good 30-40 minutes coming up with and trying addresses only to find they were already taken. A “firstname.lastname@example.org” address would have worked, because I was setting up forwarding, but who actually wants an address like that? Completing the GMail setup brought a message that while my primary email on the account had now changed, I would still be able to login with the email address I had signed up with.
The Google mobile apps have a nice feature where, if you’re logged into one of them, it recognises your details and you can quickly login to the others. These all worked a treat, except the GMail account. The GMail app picked up that I was logged in to other apps with to my account fine, but trying to login kept coming back with an error. In the end I had to “login as someone else” and login with the GMail address + password instead of the other email address I was using as my login. A minor annoyance, and one which might catch some less technical people out.
YouTube was normal enough, but wanted me to choose between posting as myself, or creating a new Google+ page to post as. I don’t post to YouTube, and I wanted to keep my account as simple/clean as possible, so I went with myself even though I had a slight unease about it. If I did ever start a “channel” I’d probably want to call it something else, but that’s a problem for another day.
I feel a little better about my account situation now. Overall, Google’s account system is a deep rabbit warren of inconsistant WTF-ery, but once you make headway and get some of the key services setup, you should be more or less set.
I was a bit naive about what removing a Google Apps subscription entailed. In the absence of any clear documentation, I assumed it would remove the baggage of Google Apps, leaving me with a normal Google personal account (especially as the account predated Apps). It didn’t actually remove Google Apps… but it did remove my access to pretty much every useful Google service. I was locked out of Drive/Docs, Browser Sync… everything I use on a regular basis.
It turns out, that if you want to delete Google Apps, cancelling your subscription is only a partial measure. Whereas in most services “cancel subscription” means “I’m done, so remove all my stuff and let me go” if you want to cancel Apps then you have to cancel, and then do the non-obvious step of explicitly deleting your domain from the service.
At this point, my choice was: buy a new subscription to Apps, putting me back to square one – only paying for it, or completely delete everything to do with the Apps account. So deletion it was.
Eventually I tracked down where in the mess that is the Apps admin area I could find the delete domain button, held my breath, and clicked.
Milliseconds later I was dumped out of Google Apps, and everything was gone. Everything. Even the stuff you’d forgot about, like your Google+ profile, oAuth logins to other sites or logins on other devices, and accounts you forgot were merged, i.e. my YouTube account and subscriptions. My iPhone complained, WordPress complained, Feedly complained, Chrome complained, and so did many, many more! Years of settings, data, and integrations, gone in a button click.
Immediately I had a wave of regret, but also a slight sense of a weight being lifted. I no longer had to worry about the schizophrenic nature of my old account. If I wanted to try a new Google service, I didn’t have to wait for it to be Apps-enabled. Yes, a whole bunch of data was gone, but in a way, that was good. I would be starting over from scratch, without all the cruft that had accumulated over the many years.
So I guess it’s not that bad, really. Just a little inconvenient in the short-term. I’ve created a new account, relinked any complaining devices, and generally started rebuilding.
But please, Google, make the whole Apps/Account integration more user-friendly!
I like to think of myself as generally a smart person. I have my weaknesses, but I’m usually pretty good at figuring something out – particularly if it’s tech related. Problem solving is generally one of my strong points.
So why, oh why, can I not figure out how to “downgrade” or migrate a Google Apps account to a “normal” Google account?
For background, I have a legacy Google Apps account, from when I used to run my own-domain email account through the service. I switched to Fastmail a couple of years ago, but by this point the Apps account was my “main” Google account – the one I was logged into all the time and thus had my data attached to.
I wanted to get rid of the Apps part of the account, as it causes some weird issues now and again, doesn’t work with all Google services, and I don’t use it for the intended purpose any more.
But it’s increasingly looking like this might not be possible. I can think of a number of enterprise-y reasons why not, but I can also think of a few use cases where it should be possible to at least allow it. I’ll keep hunting for now.
Ads and websites which automatically redirect your iPhone to the App Store1 need to stop being a thing.
I’m seeing more and more instances of this user-hostile behaviour happening when I’m following a link on my phone. Usually it’s caused by an ad unit on the page, but now and again, it’s a site publisher who really, really, wants you to install their app.
Here’s the thing: if I wanted your app, I’d likely already have it installed. If I open a link to your website, I expect to (and am happy to) access your content there. Redirecting me to the App Store is a massive inconvenience and interruption; it takes me out of the app I was already using – often after I’ve already started reading your content – and puts me somewhere I wasn’t expecting to be. It breaks my concentration as my brain switches from reading your content to looking at the app download page. Assuming I still want to read your content after being treated like this, I now have to close the App Store, reopen the app I was just in, and hope I can pick up where I left off. The publishers who treat their users in this way seem to think I’ll:
Download the app, and wait for it to install
Create the usually mandatory account
Validate said account by switching to my email
Reopen the app, and try to find the content I’d clicked through to read in the first place
Read it (at last!)
Err, how about “no”? I was already reading your content. If you want to pimp your app to me, put a button or mention of it at the end of the article.
When this kidnapping of my attention is caused by an ad, I’ll sometimes go back to the site to finish reading, or I’ll go back to where I found the link, and send it to Pocket to read later instead (and without the ads to interrupt me). When it’s the publisher itself, chances are I’ll be annoyed enough I won’t return. You had your chance, and you chose to send me elsewhere instead. Either way, I sure as heck won’t install any app advertised using this method.
For someone who’s primarily a developer/support person, I spend a lot of time setting up and configuring – or fixing – servers. I guess this came from an eagerness to learn and I got tarred with the “Linux/Server” Guy brushes at some point!
My interest in Operations has had an uptick again recently, so I’ve been doing a bit of reading of late. This morning, while waiting on news about some work-related activities I’ve come across a couple of interesting articles:
My First 5 Minutes On A Server; Or, Essential Security for Linux Servers by Brian Kennedy is a fantastic little quick-start for securing a Linux server. It’s not everything you need to do, but as noted in the article, it sets the foundations for a secure server which is easy to keep secure. Do these steps first, then go about securing any additional services you need to run.
One thing I’ve been wondering about, is setting up my own email system, rather than run on Google Apps. As convenient as the Google platform is, I do sometimes think I’m trusting them with a bit too much of my information. Recent revelations about the NSA/GCHQ, PRISM, and whatever-comes-next, from Edward Snowden haven’t done much to allay those worries.
But Google Apps is convenient. It wraps my mail, calander, contacts, and many other things into a nice package that is available everywhere and syncs across platform, with Push notifications, search, and other modern conveniences… but never the less, I’ve been thinking about how I could move away from the “Do-No-Evil” Empire, which is why Drew Crawford’s excellent, in-depth article “NSA-proof your e-mail in 2 hours” was a great find. I might spin up an instance on my dormant Joyent account and give it a try on one of my spare domains, so I can evaluate the process and benefits before deciding on moving my primary mail domain.
Other topics which have crossed my path this weekend are system configuration, maintenance, and automation using tools such as Chef and Puppet. The idea of taking a known-good environment and replicating it with just a few commands is definitely appealing – particularly when it comes to tasks such as setting up development/test environments! I haven’t gone too far into these topics yet, but I’m hoping to find the time in the next few weeks to go through some of the articles I’ve found.
I set it up in less than 2 minutes using these commands (note that I’m running Debian Sid):
sudo useradd -M pi
sudo apt-get install redis-server
git clone https://github.com/googlecreativelab/coder.git
Node.js is also a requirement, so if you don’t have that, you’ll need to install that at step 2 as well.
Once everything is up and running, point your browser at https://localhost:8081/. You’ll need to specify a password the first time you run Coder, after which you’ll be able to try the environment out. It’s pretty neat, and the sample clone of Asteroids is quite addictive!
Skills are much like muscles: if you don’t use them for a while they start to atrophy. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but there are many skills where you will forget things if you don’t do them frequently. The collection of skills needed to be a developer are no exception to the rule.
I’m somewhat speaking from experience here; my current role and workload has removed me from day-to-day development work for about a full year now. I still need to dive in to the code base every day to research issues or change requests, but actually writing something is quite rare these days. I’m aware of the skills problem, and I’ll describe below how I’m trying to address it, but never the less I’ve been self-concious enough about it I’ve recently found myself resisting taking on development tasks. I know it’ll take me a lot longer to get up to speed and complete as one of the developers who’re working on the application every day, and the time-scales involved are usually very tight. It’s a vicious circle: I’m rusty because I’m not doing development, but I’m avoiding development because I’ve been away from it for too long. In the corporate world it’s very easy to get rail-roaded into a niche – and incredibly hard to get out of it.
Time away for a developer is exacerbated by the speed in which technology and techniques moves forward in our industry. What was cutting edge a year-ago is old-hat today, and may even be something you’re encouraged not to do any more. If you haven’t been practising and keeping up developments then you may not be aware and get yourself into all sorts of bother.
So what can you do?
Subscribe to a load of developer sites and blogs in Feedly, for one source, but a more convenient way I’ve found to stay on top of things is using Flipboard:
Follow other developers on Twitter (actually, you don’t have to, but it’s nice to), and create/add them to a list, such as “Developers & News“.
Within Flipboard, add your Twitter account if you haven’t already.
Still within Flipboard, go to your Twitter stream. Tap your name at the top and select “Your Lists.”
Open the relevant list, then tap the subscribe button.
Your list will be added to your Flipboard sources and you’ll have an always-up-to-date magazine of what’s happening. The reason I suggest Flipboard is that it grabs the link in a tweet, pulls in the article, and will try to reformat it into something you can easily flip through. It makes reading on a tablet so much more enjoyable. Some of the links you get will not be relevant, but a large amount of it will be gold. I try to set aside 30 minutes a day to go through at least the headlines. If work is exceptionally busy I’ll aim for twice a week. Saving to a “Read it Later” service like Pocket is useful for storing the most interesting articles.
What about books? Yes, by all means, read plenty of technical books. They’re usually in far more depth than even the best online article. With tablets, eReaders, and eBooks, the days of thick tomes taking up lots of space are behind us, and no longer a major concern (at least for me). There is however, one major issue with books – they take a long time to write, and are often out of date quickly. The technology might have moved on by the time the book is published. Schemes such as the Pragmatic Programmer’s “Beta Book” scheme help a lot here – releasing unfinished versions of the book quickly and often, to iron out problems before publishing. Of course, you also need to be aware of the topic to be able to pick out a book about it!
Be Curious. Experiment.
Reading all the material in the world will not help you anywhere near as much as actually doing something. The absolute best thing you could do would be to develop side projects in your spare time. Admittedly, if you’re busy, time can be at a premium! Probably a good 99% of side projects I start lie unfinished or abandoned, simply for lack of time. So instead, I perform small experiments.
Curious about something? Do something small to see how it works, or “what happens if…”. Personal, recent, examples would be:
Trying out automating development workflows – installed Node.js (which then allowed me to run this), setup some basic Grunt.js tasks, Imagemagick batch processing, and some more Less.
Running Linux as my primary OS, and no Windows partition to fall back on – so in at the deep-end if something goes wrong… but it’s helped me brush up on my MySQL and Apache admin skills again, as well as generally working with the command-line again. The other week I fixed someone’s VPS for them via SSH – something I would have struggled to do only a few weeks ago. In case you’re interested: the disk was filling up due to an out of control virtual host error log, which I had to first diagnose, and then reconfigure logrotate to keep the site in check.
Little experiments can lead to a lot of learning. I would never claim to be an expert in any of the technologies I mention, but neither am I ignorant.
Shaking it Out
I’d still need a major project to focus on and really shake off the “ring rust,” to get back up to full development potential, but I’m pretty confident it wouldn’t take as long as if I hadn’t been working on the trying to keep my skills as fresh as I can.
* By “The Right Way”, I mean following the guidance and practices at the PHP: the Right Way website. I make no claims this is the “best” way 🙂
Mac OS X is a pretty good web developer OS. It comes as standard with PHP, Ruby and Apache all out of the box, and the underlying UNIX system makes it easy to add in other languages and components to suit your needs. On top of that, some of my favourite development tools are on the Mac, so unless I’m writing .NET code, nearly all my development is on an (ageing) Mac Mini.
Now, while all that stuff comes as standard on OS X, lately it seems Apple has made it harder to get to. The versions shipped with OS X also tend to be a little behind the latest releases. As a result, most Devs I know use something like MAMP to make the server-side of their environment as easy as running an app. Personally, while I think MAMP works, and is a good time-saver (and I’ve been using it for the last year or so), but I like to get into the nitty-gritty of the system and get things running “native”. So last night I fired up the terminal and got PHP set up on my Mac with the latest version, and following the Right Way Guidelines. As a result I have PHP 5.4, Composer, the PHP Coding Standards Fixer, and MySQL all setup quite slickly (i.e. to my preferences).
The whole process was pretty easy, but does involve the command line. If this makes you uncomfortable, then it might be best to skip the rest of this post.
This all worked on my Mac, but I make no guarantees about it working on yours, and I’m not responsible if you break something.
If you find any glaring problems with this guide then leave a comment/get in touch, and I’ll make any required edits.
Step 1: Setup Your PATH
Edit the hidden .bash_profile file in your home directory. If you use Sublime Text 2 you can use the following command:
TextMate has a similar mate command, or you can use vi(m)/nano/emacs/whatever.
It’s possible you already have a line defining your PATH variable. It’ll look something like export PATH=<something>. I’ve found it most useful to change the PATH so /usr/local/bin is at the start, making sure anything you install there is used over the system defaults in /bin. Add this as a line below your existing PATH definition (or just add it in, if you don’t have an existing line):
Follow the prompts given, including entering your password. After a few moments everything will have installed. For convenience I created a symbolic link to the newly installed PHP binary in /usr/local/bin:
ln -s /usr/local/php5/bin/php /usr/local/bin/php
Step 4: Install Composer
Now we have PHP installed, it’s time to look at the nice-to-haves, like a good package/dependency manager. Composer is relatively new on the block, and allows others to download your code and automatically grab any dependencies by running a simple command.
You can install Composer in your project, or you can install it globally. I prefer globally. As with PHP, installation is simple, from the command line:
If you didn’t install Brew, then you will need to install MySQL through some other means, such as packages on the MySQL website. I can’t help you with that, I’m afraid.
For managing MySQL, I use the excellent Sequel Pro, which is a successor to the venerable CocoaSQL.
As a next step you should look into changing the root password of your MySQL setup. This is a local dev environment, and likely only used locally by yourself, but it’s the proper thing to do.
Pear doesn’t seem to work, which is slightly annoying, but (to me) no real biggie. I didn’t test this with the built-in version of PHP, so I don’t know whether it worked beforehand. I’ll post an update once I figure it out.
I’d like to make bash script smart enough to stop MySQL when the PHP web server stops, but my early attempts haven’t managed to get this working (most likely due to the Ctrl-C used to stop the web server also stopping the script).
Throughout this process we’re running scripts directly from the web. This is pretty risky behaviour, especially with unknown/untrusted sources. You should always take a look at the raw script before running it, so you don’t get hit by something malicious.
I’m pretty OS agnostic. I’ll use the best tool for whatever the job is at the time. For my main computer I’ve switched between Windows and Linux, replaced the PC with various Macs for a time… just whatever is needed.
My Netbook has had Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X on it at various times. OS X works suprisingly well on such a little machine, but I wanted to try something designed specifically for working with the constraints of a netbook. Knowing I have some Linux/LAMP work ahead of me, I also wanted something Linux-based so I could refresh my CLI-Fu.
I’d heard mention of Jolicloud, as some sort of Netbook-centric Linux distro. The selling point was supposedly the very “un-Linux” GUI, optimised for a small Netbook screen, which in most of the screenshots posted around the web looks something like this:
Looks good, doesn’t it? The official site bills Jolicloud as “a cool new OS for your netbook“. Intrigued, I applied for an Alpha invite to try it out. A day later I had been accepted, downloaded the install image, and was ready to go.
Confusion Sets In
After installation I was presented not with a screen similar to the above, but with what looked, acted, even sounded like the Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Hrmmm. There was a Jolicloud “Get Started” icon, so naturally I clicked on that; up popped the dashboard I had been expecting to see at startup.
At this point, Jolicloud isn’t an OS; it now looks like an application installer/launcher with some “Social” features built in.
Speaking of those Social features, it appears Jolicloud has it’s own social network in the making to power the friends and notifications. It would be nice if I could instead use my existing networksinstead. However, I digress…
A computer is nothing without applications. Jolicloud presents a lot of applications for installation, a mix of “normal” applications with a heavy dose of web apps. Everything from Google Apps toZoho is available to install. This fits with the marketing pitch for Netbooks – processor doesn’t matter when your app is run “in the cloud”. Installing these applications is so simple it almost hurts.
Logically, one would expect to be able to launch the apps I have installed from the Jolicloud dashboard. Well, simply put, you can’t. Applications are launched from the Netbook home screen – the one we were given at logon.
So now Jolicloud isn’t a launcher/installer, it’s almost just a installer. An App Store for Web Apps if you will.
There’s a big difference between “a cool new OS for your netbook” and an installer.
“Jolicloud is an Internet operating system. It combines the two driving forces of the modern computing industry: the open source and the open web.”
In my words:
“Jolicloud is a simple means to add Site-Specific Browsers (SSBs) for your favourite web applications to your Netbook by utilising Mozilla Prism on top of Ubuntu Linux Netbook Remix.”
I guess my version isn’t as buzzword friendly as the official statement.
Maybe I’m being harsh. In fact I probably am, as I’m feeling a bit grumpy today. Jolicloud is still alpha software (that’s pre-beta, for those who’ve forgotten), and will no doubt morph and change before it goes to wider release. I just find calling it an OS is a bit… wrong.
Next week on “Grumpy Netbook OS Ramblings” – Moblin.
So a Windows version of Safari is finally here. Hurrah, another browser to support. Cynicism aside, is it any good?
Now, bearing in mind this is a beta version, there are a few issues I have. These are only my personal annoyances, based on first impressions, and in no way a comprehansive list of bugs.
Fugly in the sense of it dowsn’t fit in with the surrounding OS one little bit. Not even an iota. I give Apple credit for porting the thing in the first place, and I know there’s a kind of UI “branding” to stick to, but the window border looks awful.
Another issue is the font rendering. I have Windows ClearType turned on for font smoothing. Safari has its own font smoothing (which can’t be turned off – another annoyance). The combination of two font smoothing algorythmns makes text look almost bold. It needs sorted ASAP.
There’s the Aqua-style widgets as well, but there a minor annoyance.
I can middle-click on a link in a web page, and it opens in a new tab. If I middle-click on a bookmark, it does nothing. That irritates me no end. Off the top of my head, some dialogs open in OSX-style “slide-down” windows, others don’t. Maybe this is a OS limitation? Or am I imagining it?
No dotMac Sync
I know, I know… dotMac sucks. But it has one very useful feature which I use extensively – bookmark syncing. I had hoped the Windows version of Safari would include this, but alas, it’s not there. Maybe they’ll add it in before the final version? If not, I don’t know if Safari will be able to compete against Firefox + Google Browser Sync as my first-choice of browser. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt for the moment, simply for the speed boost over Firefox, but speed alone won’t keep it in front.
So all round, Safari on Windows is a bit meh, hovering precariously close to pure dissapointment. For now, I’m willing to the give Apple the benefit for the doubt – it is a beta version, after all.
As one final note, how to do you bring up the web inspector panel I’ve heard so much about? Email chris@ this site with the answer, please!
Something I like to do for each of my Macs, is keep a backed-up folder containing all the “essential” apps for both machines (along with all registration codes for easy reinstallation). I was updating my iBook copy this evening and thought I’d share. Some of these are generic apps that I’d use on either machine, while others are iBook specific.
Side-note – My iBook is pretty exclusively a web development machine.
Textmate. Textmate describes itself as “the missing editor for OS X”. I’m not sure what that’s meant to mean but hey, I’ll take their word for it! Textmate was the first Mac App I ever bought and is by far the best file editor I have ever used. Textmate handles just about any text file format you can throw at it, and above all else, lets you work without getting in your way. Seriously worth trying.
Ecto. Ecto is the best blogging client in the world. Especially on the Mac. I used to be a fan of MarsEdit (I own licenses for both), but Ecto won out in the end for its wider range of features. If you’re in any way serious about this blogging malarkey, I’d recommend you give it a try. Even the Windows version is recommended (although, naturally, it’s nowhere near as good as the Mac edition!)
Transmit. If Textmate was the first Mac App I paid for, then Panic Software’s Transmit was the second. It’s a S/FTP client with more features than you’re ever likely to need, but wrapped in a highly polished and intuitive interface. Transmit makes working with files on remote servers as effortless as working with local files in Finder. The synchronisation features alone are worth the price of the license.
Coconut Battery. More of a useful widget than an application, Coconut Battery can tell you near enough anything you need to know about the status and health of your battery. Ideal for checking if you want to know if you’ll be needing to buy a replacement any time soon.
Colloquy. Sometimes, the best – or only – way to get help on open-source applications/scripts, etc, is to jump into an IRC room. Colloquy is the best OS X IRC client I’ve found. As a rule, I don’t like chat or IM applications (they tend to be little more than a distraction), but Colloquy has helped me get access to the right answers on more than one occasion.
That’s really it for my iBook’s list of essential apps; I try to keep laptops “light”, hence the short list. My iMac list is probably huge in comparison. Besides, my other needs are either met by the apps bundled with OS X – Safari for web browsing, Terminal.app for command-line activity (remote sessions, etc.), iTunes and what-not, or by web applications –PHPMyAdmin for MySQL administration, Roundcube for accessing my IMAP email anywhere. Are there any applications you can’t live without on your Apple laptop? Please share!