The Department of Ungrateful Users

Fraser Speirs:

As iOS evolves, I keep using the same question to gauge its progress: what is it that keeps me going back to the Mac? The list is shorter now than it's ever been. Clipping to Evernote is now easy in iOS 8 with their Safari extension. Using 1Password is now as slick and integrated on iOS as it is on OS X. There remain a few stumbling blocks, but not many.

I ask myself what it would take for me to completely eschew owning a Mac. I'm not there yet and I'm not even all that close to it in practical terms. Like your pal that doesn't have a car but who can only do so because you give him a lift, I could possibly do without my own personal Mac only because I have access to Macs at school.

Well said.

LA-USD's Student Information System Becomes a Technological Disaster

Abby Sewell:

Instead, the Los Angeles Unified School District's student information system, which has cost more than $130 million, has become a technological disaster. The system made its debut this semester and promptly overloaded the district's database servers, requiring an emergency re-engineering. In the days and weeks that followed, many teachers were unable to enter grades or attendance or even figure out which students were enrolled in class.

Because of scheduling blunders partly stemming from the new system, students at Jefferson High School sat in the auditorium for weeks waiting to be assigned classes. A judge became so alarmed he ordered state education officials to intervene.

What a mess. Can this district do anything right?

The App That Holds iOS Back

When the iPhone was released in 2007 with a "desktop class" web browser, it was widely praised. You could view entire websites on a mobile device. Coming from the days of WAP optimized sites on my Motorola Q, this was incredible. If we fast forward to 2014, Mobile Safari has become the app that is holding the iPad back from becoming a fully featured laptop replacement for a lot of people. While Mobile Safari is fast and loads website reasonably well, it cannot upload and download files. It can upload pictures, but that is it. Mobile Safari needs a way to upload and download any type of file into iCloud Drive (a mirrored from the Mac downloads folder).

Last week, I had to upload 2 PDF files to a WordPress powered website. This is something that iOS should be able to handle. I should be able to save the PDFs from my email to iCloud Drive. Mobile Safari should then let me upload those files into a browser upload window. iCab Mobile can upload files reasonably well, why can't Mobile Safari? For iOS to mature as a platform, these are the type tasks that it must be able to do.

Until then, I'll use this app.

Making Instapaper Free

Brian Donohue:

What’s interesting to me from the above chart is the orange line, which represents Instapaper app updates. While the blue line shows a steep and steady decline of growth in app downloads, the orange line shows the size of Instapaper’s install base, which is significant. Unfortunately, there’s no great path to a paid upgrade if an app developer launches an update with a bunch of great features.

The only options for monetizing an existing install base are advertising (i.e. Facebook), creating a “new” app and converting your existing install base to purchase the “new” app (i.e. Tweetbot), or offering some type of subscription or consumable via in-app purchase (i.e. Evernote).

In-app purchases can be great for customers and developers. I still despise the way a lot of games do it, though.

Family Sharing and Apple IDs for Kids

Apple Support:

To participate in Family Sharing, all family members must have their own Apple ID. Children under 13* can't create an Apple ID on their own. However, as a parent or legal guardian, the family organizer can provide verified parental consent for a child to have their own Apple ID, then create it on the child’s behalf.

When you create an Apple ID for a child, it will be added to your family group automatically.

One of the nice things that Apple has done is made it possible for kids to transfer their account to another group once they are 13.

Grooming Students for A Lifetime of Surveillance

Jessy Irwin:

Ironically, the same technologists and investors who protest against the NSA’s metadata collection programs are the ones profiting the most from the widespread surveillance of students across the country, by building educational tools with the same function.

You'd be wise to read the entire article. I'm a big fan of technology in schools, but I'm an even bigger fan of letting teachers teach.

When we develop and use educational technologies that monitor a student’s every moment in school and online, we groom that student for a lifetime of surveillance from the NSA, from data brokers, from advertisers, marketers, and even CCTV cameras. By watching every move that students make while learning, we model to students that we do not trust them– that ultimately, their every move will be under scrutiny from others. When students recognize that they are being watched, they begin to act differently– and from that very moment they begin to cede one small bit of freedom at a time.

By watching every move that students make while learning, we model to students that we do not trust them– that ultimately, their every move will be under scrutiny from others. is the statement that stands out to me the most. We are saying to students that you are guilty of something before you have even done it.

I'll leave you with this quote from Fraser Speirs:

Analytics and Big Data is what you do when you can’t remember why you do what you do any more.

The New Tools & Toys

Shawn Blanc:

The site has thrived for these past 3 years. We have always subscribed to the principle that quality and honesty breed trust and attention. What I want more than anything when it comes to this site’s readership is to have people who trust that we’re not here to rob them of their time.

And today, we are taking things up a few clicks.

In addition to our daily posts of the newest and coolest gear, we’ll also begin publishing new types of content. Look above in the site’s navigation and you’ll see: photo essays, long-form reviews, gear guides, interviews, and a new regular editorial column centered on the topics of mindful and simple living. All this new content has its home in the brand new, beautiful website design you’re looking at right now. (A million thanks to Pat Dryburgh for doing the design and development of the new site.)

The new design is some of the best design work I've seen. We've also got a lot of awesome things in store for the future. If you aren't subscribed to the RSS feed or following on Twitter, you will want to fix that.

Serial Podcast

Their relationship began like a storybook high-school romance: a prom date, love notes, sneaking off to be alone. But unlike other kids at school, they had to keep their dating secret, because their parents disapproved. Both of them, but especially Adnan, were under special pressure at home, and the stress of that spilled over into their relationship. Eventually Hae broke up with Adnan. And then, depending on who you ask, Adnan was either understandably sad and moping around, or full of rage and plotting to kill her.

Serial is a new podcast from the folks at This American Life. I've listened to the first 2 episodes, and I am hooked. They've also made a pretty good video about how to listen to a podcast as well.

We Need to Talk About iOS 8

Fraser Speirs:

iOS does not provide a way for administrators to block users from updating their operating system. It's never needed it until now. Today, though, I regard it as a critically missing piece of a large-scale iOS deployment.

When iOS was a simpler beast, I tried to see beyond what we had "lost" in terms of, say, multitasking in order to appreciate what we had gained in these other areas I mentioned in the first paragraph. Today, we have regained much of the power but are in danger of losing one of the main pillars of what made iOS great in the first place.

In terms of features and capabilities, iOS 8 brings me a lot of optimism. In terms of robustness, stability and reliability, it's giving me new reasons to worry.

I'd be completely fine if iOS and Mac OS X went to an 18 month development cycle. iOS needs a "Snow Leopard" release.

iOS 8 MAC Randomization

Bhupinder Misra:

I found MAC randomization in iPhone 5s (details below), but not in iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. I suspect that this has to do with the OS architectural difference between old and new generations of iPhones.

In iPhone 5s, MAC randomization happens only under the following conditions:

  • Phone is in sleep mode (display off, not being used)
  • Wi-Fi should be ON but not associated
  • Location services should be OFF in privacy settings

I'm looking forward to the findings on iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. It looks like Apple has implemented this appropriately. I have no issues with my MAC address being shared when I actually connect, but not before.

Technical Details Of Peer To Peer AirPlay

Apple:

Peer-to-Peer discovery is initiated using Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) when a user selects AirPlay on an iOS 8 or OS X Yosemite v/10.10 device. This causes the device and the Apple TV to visit Wi-Fi channel 149 in the 5 GHz band and Wi-Fi channel 6 in the 2.4 GHz band, where the discovery process continues. Once the user selects an Apple TV and AirPlay starts, the Wi-Fi radios timeshare between channel 149 and whichever infrastructure channel each device is currently using. If possible, the AirPlay sender roams to the same infrastructure channel the Apple TV is using. If neither device is currently using an infrastructure network, the devices will utilize Wi-Fi channel 149 only for AirPlay. Peer-to-peer mirroring adheres to 802.11 standards, sharing Wi-Fi bandwidth with other Wi-Fi devices.

Everyone was asking Apple to make Bonjour easier to manage. They solved it by allowing us to take the Apple TVs off the network. I couldn't be happier.

Link via @danfrakes.

New Report On L.A. Unified's iPads Reflects Problems With Curriculum

Howard Blume::

An evaluation of the iPads-for-all project in Los Angeles schools found that only 1 of 245 classrooms surveyed even used the costly curriculum.

The analysis, conducted by an outside firm, also highlighted other problems, including the pace of the rollout last year at 47 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. It found that district staff was so focused on distributing devices that little attention could be paid to using iPads effectively in the classroom.

1 out of 245 classrooms even used it. How many used it effectively? I'll bet a lot less.

It Always Comes Back To Vision and Leadership

ARLnow.com:

Earlier this summer, APS vehemently denied a rumored tablet purchase for 9th graders. Some parents have reported that their 2nd and 6th graders have been assigned iPads this year. Asked about tablet purchases for lower grade levels, Adusumilli was vague in his response.

“We are preparing for the transition from shared devices to personalized devices at all levels,” he wrote via email. “As part of this preparation each school is conducting a pilot to learn about the instructional benefits provided by personalization. The devices for all the pilots have been purchased. The purchases were made using existing computer replacement funds.”

One parent who learned about the laptop plan contacted ARLnow.com this week and questioned why APS hasn’t told the community at large about the pilot program.

“Through all of this, nothing on any APS channels, including the ‘welcome to school’ info packets for my 9th grader,” the parent said, without giving his or her name. “Why the cloak and dagger communications of what is actually exciting news?”

I've never been a fan of pilot programs. When you are doing a technology deployment, you have to go all in. Pilots are essentially saying that we aren't sure what we are doing. Pilots are also a way to protect yourself from failure.

We don't do pilots with new playground equipment or textbooks. We evaluate and then go all in.

Link via @thunderkeys.

Why The Apple Live Stream Failed

Dan Rayburn:

Unlike the last live stream Apple did, this time around Apple decided to add some JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) code to the apple.com page which added an interactive element on the bottom showing tweets about the event. As a result, this was causing the page to make refresh calls every few milliseconds. By Apple making the decision to add the JSON code, it made the apple.com website un-cachable. By contrast, Apple usually has Akamai caching the page for their live events but this time around there would have been no way for Akamai to have done that, which causes a huge impact on the performance when it comes to loading the page and the stream. And since Apple embeds their video directly in the web page, any performance problems in the page also impacts the video. Akamai didn’t return my call asking for more details, but looking at the code shows there was no way Akamai could have cached it. This is also one of the reasons why when I tried to load the Apple live event page on my iPad, it would make Safari quit. That’s a problem with the code on the page, not with the video.

Very interesting.

Link via @EricSchu_Ras.

Details Matter In Hardware Design

David Pierce:

Round is hard, though, and not just for Motorola. Google may technically support round displays with Android Wear, but the 360 provides constant confirmation that this operating system was designed with rectangles in mind. Scrolling through a list will often cut off titles and images; sometimes list items get kicked way down to the bottom of the screen for no apparent reason. As with the display, there’s nothing necessarily broken here; these are just small cracks in the armor that keep the 360 from feeling truly like a perfect, polished device.

Details matter.

L.A. cancels iPads-in-the-schools program: a failure of vision, not technology

Macworld:

The failure of LAUSD’s iPad program isn’t that iPads (or any other devices the district may have chosen) weren’t a good fit. If there’s blame to be placed, it starts at the top. Deployments are only as good as the vision set forth before a Wi-Fi system or even a type of device is selected. If a school district isn’t going to follow Apple’s guidelines, it shouldn’t expect a successful project.

Apple does a lot of the legwork here by providing both the iPads and detailed guidelines for deployment. And other school districts around the world have documented their successes and failures. So when it comes to learning about best practices for deploying these devices in schools, it’s a simple matter of those in charge doing their homework.

This is an article I wrote for Macworld on the LAUSD/iPad situation.