Category Archives: Reality Distortion Field

Apple and Mac related stuff.

Basic HTTP access authentication in Workflow app

I’m a newbie to Workflow, the super powerful automation app for iOS that was recently acquired by Apple. I’ve known for a while that there’s some useful things I could do with it, but I haven’t had the time to sit down and play around with it.

Today I did, and my workflow required getting the contents of a URL that uses Basic HTTP Access Authentication. Since it took me a little while to figure out how to do it and didn’t find much help online, I decided to write a post and help the next poor soul to run into this.

 

Basic HTTP Authentication as seen on Safari.

The way Basic Access Authentication works is that the client (usually a web browser but in my case the Workflow app) sends the user name and password as part of the HTTP headers.

The nice little explanation on HttpWatch also has a handy little demo. You go this URL and use “httpwatch” as user name and anything you want as password. It displays an image containing the info you entered.

I created a workflow that hard codes the user name, asks you to enter a password, and then gets the image and shows it. It should be easy enough to use a starting point for your own workflow. You can download it here:

 

AirPods review

Introduction

AirPods,  Apple’s latest foray into Bluetooth audio.

I’ve had a life long addiction to gadgets. And I’ve had several Bluetooth headsets.

For exercise: a few from the same line as the Motorola S10-HD (pros: they stay put while I run and they don’t break from my sweat; cons: extremely uncomfortable and mediocre sound).

For other things: several different LG neckbuds (pros: decent sound, comfortable; cons: uncomfortable in bed and make you look like an a**hole).

More recently for exercise: cheap TaoTronics (pros: cheap and light; cons: awkward because heavier on one side, need to constantly adjust while running).

So when I saw the AirPods announcement I knew I wanted them, but I didn’t know that I wanted them $160 bad. Regardless, when the preordering system went live, I set up an alarm to place the order… I can always cancel before they ship, right?

A few weeks later, I got an email saying they are about to ship and they’d arrive on… the same day I’m leaving to Mexico for two weeks. I knew I didn’t want them to sitting outside my door for two weeks. I had to cancel even though at this point I did want them. At this point the thing is backordered 3 months.

In Monterrey I went to the local mall. As I’m walking by the MacStore I casually ask if they had them in stock. What do you know? Score! They had 10 units (should have bought more for Craigslisting) at the same price as in the U.S.

First impressions

These things are slick. The case has a nice feel to it with a solid magnetic latch. As expected, the packaging is nice. You first take them out of the box, open the case, and boom! a little popup on my iPhone comes up asking me to pair. I did not have to wait several seconds, press any buttons, go into Bluetooth Settings, look at spinning wheels. Nothing. It just worked.

This is light years ahead compared to any other Bluetooth pairing experience. Someone finally got it right.

Other products

Even cooler, once I paired with my phone, the things just started showing up on my list of Airplay speakers on my iPad, Mac, and even watch.  If I want to switch which device I’m listening to, I just have to select it from the device itself. This compares with my other Bluetooth headsets for which I need to put them in pairing mode and go to Bluetooth Settings and select them every single time. Death by a thousand paper cuts.

Sound

Without doing comprehensive side-by-side testing, they appear to be comparable if not a little better than Apple’s EarPods which I think are perfectly adequate for most uses. They sound better than any of my previous Bluetooth headphones.

The microphone also seems to be very high quality in my limited testing, and it works well in noisy environments.

So, not audiophile quality but perfect for casual listening.

Comfort

One of the worries I had is that they’d keep falling off. They don’t. These things are very light, and since there’s no cable adding weight or tugging, they stay put.

They are very comfortable, but maybe my ears just happened to be perfectly shaped for them. If you like the headphones that came with your recent iPhone, then you’ll like these. Added plus: listening in bed is great. With neckbuds you have the pillow pushing the thing to your neck and the blinking light distracting you in the dark. None of that here.

Another thing I really like is that the case is smaller than expected, so you can keep them in your pocket. This was not really possible with any of the Bluetooth headphones I had before. Yet another little but really useful perk.

Usability

The controls are very limited. You can double tap to bring up Siri (configurable to Play/Pause in the iPhone settings). You take one out while listening and it pauses, put it back on and it continues (cool!).

But that’s it. If you want volume control, next/previous, or anything else you need to go to the phone. Or, if you have an Apple Watch you can go to the Now Playing Dock Item. This is actually very convenient and it shows that the more money you sink into the Apple ecosystem, the better things work together… but then you’re bankrupt.

I wish there were better controls, even if they are better voice commands. This is the biggest drawback with AirPods so far.

Exercising

I’ll stick with my cheap TaoTronics. I don’t like the prospects of a $70 tiny AirPod flying off my ear or my pig-like sweat drenching them dead. Maybe one day they can use the little speaker to push water out.

Conclusion

These are the best wireless headphones I’ve owned. That’s good, because they are also the most expensive. I’m taking them to work every day and I don’t look horrendously goofier than usual.

iPhone extreme sports

True story from this morning:

I got in the car in order to leave for work. I had my laptop in its bag and my giant coffee mug. I opened the driver side door to throw them in, then went around, got in the car and drove to the office.

As I was driving, I noticed my phone wasn’t in my pocket and I couldn’t see it. However, thanks to the magic of Apple Watch I could see that it was in range. So I dropped it and it’s under the seat or something.

On the first stoplight I used the nifty “make iPhone ping” feature from the watch. I could hear it, but faintly. So maybe it’s under the rug or something? I couldn’t find it. Second and third stoplights were the same. So I decided to wait until I park at work.

When I parked, I opened the door so I can better crawl under the seats. Ping – and now I could hear it loud and clear. What the hell?

And there it was:IMG_0003

IMG_0004

I bought the case with the following criteria in mind:

  • good looking
  • thin
  • inexpensive
  • transparent
  • rubbery (not hard)
  • protects the front of the phone

I never added “good car paint grip” to the list. Got lucky.

In case you care or plan on letting your phone air out while you drive down the highway, this is the case (Amazon) that saved me from re-purchasing a $750+tax brand new phone.

ITESM in today’s Apple Event

ITESM @ Apple Event

Many of you may have heard about an Apple Event earlier today in which OS X Yosemite launched, new iPads were released, and an impressive iMac with a 5k Retina Display came out.

What you may have heard is the brief screen time my Alma Mater, ITESM (a.k.a. Tecnológico de Monterrey) got while Craig Federighi was talking about Apple’s new programming language Swift (they are also mentioned in this page if you follow the link).

I wonder who’s teaching the course.

Spotted by Nathan B.

The MKX® iPhone 6 review

As the editor of a major technical news website (this one) I am forced to upgrade my iPhone every year so you can read my refined opinions. Let’s do it.

Getting the review unit

The pre-order process was rough. Not only did I have to wake up at 2 AM on a weekday in excruciating back pain (different story) but the Apple Store website was having trouble – flashbacks to trying to buy World Cup tickets. I almost gave up…

… but a helpful soul on Twitter caught wind of my whining and alerted me that the website was back up and I was able to place my preorder.

The phones went for sale on Friday. I was able to skip the line at shul The Apple Store, and that was good because it was rough:

This is a panorama I shot of the line outside of the Apple Store at The Domain (left).
This is a panorama I shot of the line outside of the Apple Store at The Domain (left) sometime around 8:30 AM. Click to enlarge.

Battery life

I’ve only had the phone for a few days and so far it seems like the battery lasts longer than the iPhone 5s, which was just fine. This is not going to be a concern.

Missing in Action

Apple Pay. I like my wallets to be thin. The added bulk of a credit card kills me. So anything that helps avoid carrying more stuff in my wallet is welcome. Unfortunately, Apple Pay isn’t out yet so I can’t test it just yet. And not every place will take it so I will still have to carry the credit card for the foreseeable future. Dang.

Camera

I haven’t used it that much yet! So I can’t tell. Instead I will direct you to some reviews about the camera. In summary: it seems to be better than the previous iPhone 5s which had the best camera of all smartphones, 42 MP Nokia fat-phones be damned. This is important to me because

  1. I care that my photos look decent
  2. For the most part I don’t want to carry a large dedicated camera
  3. I am going to be taking a lot of photos starting in late October

So read “Apple’s iPhone 6 Has Finally Convinced Me To Ditch My Compact Camera” and  look at this crazy photos taken in Iceland and watch this video taken in Disneyland which is impressive because of how there’s no shake and how quickly the video adapts to the changes in darkness and light.

The camera does have one big drawback: the lens sticks out a little bit. If you use a case, then it’s a non-issue. If you don’t use a case, the phone will wobble on it’s invulnerable sapphire lens. Me? I use a case.

Screen

It looks great, and it can fit more content in it’s 4.7″ than the old 4″ iPhones (duh!). I like reading from it. But adding a large screen it has a big drawback…

Size

Left: iPhone 5s. Right: iPhone 5
Left: iPhone 5s. Right: iPhone 5. Hand model: Marcos. I tried to make the scale of the photo roughly the same. The size difference is striking.

It’s big, and this is the “small” model, not the gigantic iPhone 6 Plus. I get it: the demand for a larger iPhone was huge. And then there is that dirty little secret every other phone maker hasn’t told you yet: making large phones is easier. Apple can’t keep doing both forever: competing in specs and make the phone smaller. The market has spoken loud and clear. The giant iPhones are upon us.

The phone is very thin though, even with the case. And since it has rounded corners it slides in and out of my pocket just fine and doesn’t bother me at all – which was a pleasant surprise.

But oh boy, one-handed use suffers big time. You can’t reach the top of the screen without some impressive hand calisthenics , and the phone feels top heavy, precariously close to tipping over.

In the past years while at the public restroom at work I’ve accumulated accolades from both peers and higher ups due to my ability to keep up with my RSS feed while I urinate. This is going to be a lot harder now, and just imagine the embarrassment when my phone falls into the urinal while I try to tap that out of reach button (note to self: look into this). Reputations take years to build up, but a mere instant to destroy. Reachability may help, but it’s not yet second nature to me and it still seems like an inelegant easy way out. The original iPhone was a pleasure to use with one hand – at the expense of screen real estate. The new iPhone flips the table. Perhaps modern medicine can come to the rescue?

Other

The phone with its A8 processor feels faster, which is cool but not in a way you notice right away. In my experience, jumps in performance were similar across iPhone generations with the notable exception of the 3GS which was a much faster than its antecessor. But the speed bump is definitely there, and when you go back to use the previous phone, it feels sloooow. Every small gain in performance makes the thing more pleasurable to use and it adds up over time.

The phone now has a barometer, so not only do you know how many steps you take in a day, but how many floors you climb. I will be testing this more this week.

And I am selling my old factory unlocked pristine 32 GB iPhone 5s. Great phone, usable with one hand anywhere in the world. Supplies are limited! Hurry up!

Additions (September 22)

  • The lock button was moved from the top to the right of the device. This is a good idea, because the top is hard to reach with one hand. But there’s a drawback: the lock button is now opposite from one of the volume buttons, so if you squeeze the phone to lock it, you may end up pressing the wrong button.
  • Touch ID (fingerprint sensor) seems to be a lot faster and a lot accurate. This may or may not be my imagination or due to the fact that I just programmed it – but my guess is that it’s a new revision of the hardware.
  • Apps that aren’t yet updated for the iPhone 6 look zoomed in. This makes everything look larger, means that the app doesn’t take advantage of the added screen space, and that the keyboard is larger. The last point is a big problem, since one relies on muscle memory for fast typing, and switching keyboard sizes is ver bad for that.

Exclusive: Apple/Beats first joint product revealed

Many Bothans died to bring us this information. A The MKX® exclusive, “The iBeats”:

iBeats headphones by Apple

And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984”

Ten years ago (yes, The MKX® is that old) I posted a side-by-side comparison of the original 1984 commercial and the updated twentieth anniversary version shown in 2004. It even made it to the venerable MacSurfer’s Headline News. Sadly, modern QuickTime doesn’t like that video, maybe it dropped whatever codec I used, or the file got corrupted, or something.

So today, for the thirtieth anniversary (!) I whipped out good ol’ QuickTime 7 to put it together again. Here’s the YouTube version:

And for those of you who’d like to download the QuickTime file with both videos embedded (you can play with each element in QuickTime 7 in the properties dialog for the movie), a link to the original MOV file. Download the file and open in QuickTime 7. The browser embed messes it up (go figure).

And last, this is my Twentieth Anniversary 1984 poster, given out after the keynote by Steve Jobs at MacWorld 2004.

1984 poster.jpgWhere is my Thirtieth Anniversary version, with the girl wearing an iPhone in an armband?