• Accessories,  Apple,  Hardware,  iOS,  Review

    Apple HomePod Mini

    I used an Amazon gift card to buy a DOSS SoundBox portable Bluetooth speaker in 2017 when I realized I would be away from home and my stereo for an indefinite time. It’s worked really well, a charge lasts me almost a week of a few hours of daily use, and it’s easy to set up. But the sound quality isn’t much of an improvement on the speakers on my Mac.

    Space gray Apple HomePod Mini

    In November I used an Apple Gift card to buy an Apple HomePod Mini. It arrived today. You need to have an iOS device running iOS 14 to set up a HomePod Mini, but it took me less than 5 minutes, including unboxing. You unbox the Mini, plug it in to the AC adapter, connect the adapter to an outlet, unlock your iOS device, and hold it near the HomePod Mini. The iOS device screen instructs you to hold the iPhone so that you center the top of the HomePod mini in the camera’s view; you set up a room location (living room, etc,) with a tap in the iOS Home app,  the HomePod gets your WiFi and Apple account data, and you’re good to go (though you can tweak Siri via the Settings on your iPhone).

    The HomePod Mini takes up about as much space as a navel orange on my night stand. You can turn off Siri if you want, and just use your iPhone to send audio to the HomePod Mini. The top glows when Siri is active, and there’s a touch sensitive + and – to use as volume controls (or you can use Siri). Tap the flat area on the center top of the HomePod to toggle between pause/resume audio, double-tap to skip forward, triple tap to skip backwards. A long press puts Siri in listening mode (an alternative to using Hey Siri to signal Siri that you have a request).

    The HomePod Mini sounds amazing. No, it’s not like listening to my stereo, or even high-end headphones, but it’s much better, richer and with much more range, than my Bluetooth speaker or computer, and Siri works surprisingly well. I’m delighted.

    I’ve been exploring what Siri can do with a HomePod that I’ll find useful. I’ve added the Home.app widget to my Control Center. You can set options for room control and smart devices in the app. You can also play audio on the HomePod from your iOS device in several ways, including turning on BlueTooth and holding the iOS device near the HomePod to transfer currently playing audio to the HomePod, or vice versa. I should note that I have Apple Music, but you can also play music and podcasts you have purchased or downloaded on your iOS device (pod casts default to Apple’s Podcast app).

    Things You Can Do with Hey Siri:

    Play [Bruce Springsteen’s] latest album.

    Tell me a joke.

    What time [day, date] is it?

    Play [RSVP] podcast.

    Ambient Sounds

    Play Night sounds

    Play Rain sounds

    Play Ocean sounds

    Play Fireplace sounds

    Play Stream sounds

    Play Forest sounds

    Play Whitenoise

    Set up a Sleep Timer

    1. Start a track, playlist or ambient sound playing (Hey Siri play [Ocean Sounds Playlist]
    2. Ask Siri to set the timer: Hey Siri set a sleep timer for [45 minutes]

    Siri will play the audio for the specific duration, then audio will fade out.


    Buy me a Coffee! If you find this post or this site interesting, and would like to see more, buy me a coffee. While I may actually buy coffee, I’ll probably buy books to review.


  • Apple,  Commentary,  Hardware

    iPod 2001 still going

    I celebrated the tenth anniversary of the original iPod.

    The initial iPod was released on October 23, 2001. I’m pleased to note that mine is still going strong 14 years later. It’s funny now to look back and remember that I was absolutely sure I’d never be able to fill up five gigs with just music, or as Apple put it “1000 songs in your pocket.”

    I used my first iPod a lot for just listening to music, especially on the bus or working in the library, but I also used it for teaching. The fact that I could mount it as a drive via FireWire meant I could show students short film clips of plays or play audio files via the lecture hall’s sound system or workstation.

    Now, I have music on my iPhone, but not so much as I used to; I’m streaming a lot more via local WiFi. Instead, that storage that might have been used for music is now being used for photos and ebooks.

    I predicted that we’d be reading ebooks more; I missed entirely how much we’d be taking photos with our phone—though I used the cameras a lot on my iPhone 1 and 3, I mostly used them to take pictures of things I couldn’t see well, like street signs or small text on boxes. Now, I’m using the iPhone 5 camera more than my dedicated camera—and it’s changed the way I take pictures.

    No, I’m not taking selfies, but I am taking a lot more spontaneous pictures because the iPhone is right there, and I’m still using the iPhone camera as a visual aid, even though new plastics have made distance and close reading glasses possible for me. But I’m sending friends and families more photos than I ever did before—and seeing more in response, too.

  • Apple

    Harry Potter and the iBooks Author

    My co-writer Michael Cohen has an interesting piece over at TidBITS on the just published “Enhanced’ edition of Rowling’s Harry Potter series. They were made with the current version of iBooks Author, and are therefor exclusively available at the iBooks store.

    Apple’s iBooks Author app is still free; this is the first commercial example I know of using the current version iBooks Author 2.3 ability to export standard EPUB files. Go read Michael Cohen’s full Harry Potter and the iBooks Author article for more details about “enhanced” EPUBs and iBooks Author.

    What’s interesting to me, especially, is that this version of iBooks Author looks like academics could use it to create basic annotated editions or course readers, ebooks with limited enhancements, that would be fairly simple to create and still look professional.

  • Apple

    iWork.com Finally Going to Be Mercifully Offed

    Adam Engst of TidBITS has a smart piece on the demise of iWork.com, the never-out-of-beta sharing site for iWork files. Go read Apple Finally Puts iWork.com Out of Its Misery. It’s a good piece, but there’s this really smart observation at the end:

    Put bluntly, Apple has never understood how to support collaboration, and technologies like iCloud and sandboxing seem to be headed in the opposite direction.

    I think this is very true. iCloud does syncing, mostly, but it really needs to go beyond that. Other than the utility of storing and being able to re-download content purchased from Apple, and the usefulness of iTunes Match, Dropbox* offers me more ease of use and functionality than iCloud. I can sync, backup, share and collaborate.

    *I get extra storage if you join DropBox via my link.

  • Apple,  Hardware

    Apple’s March 7 New iPad Announcements

    First, the big news.

    Apple is taking orders right now for March 16 shipping for their third version iPad. The specs are here. The crude details:

    • Retina display with 3.1 million pixels (2048-by-1536-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch)
    • New rear-facing iSight camera offering 1080p HD video recording, 5 MP images, stabilization, Auto focus (tap to focus)
    • Also 2nd FaceTime camera with VGA-quality photos and video at up to 30 frames per second.
    • Voice dictation (this is NOT Siri)
    • An A5X CPU with quad-core graphics
    • Both WiFi 4G LTE versions (buy the model for either AT&T or Verizon) and WiFi only. See Glenn Fleishman’s explanation of LTE and why you should care.
    • Form factor a tiny bit larger (fractions of a millimeter larger), includes Bluetooth, battery life about the same, storage (16G, 32G, 64G) and pricing identical to the iPad 2. Black and white bodies both offered.

    Apple’s shiny pictures and tasty videos are here. Smart coverage from TidBITS here, Jeff Carlson in the Seattle Times here.

    Other announcements included the refreshed Apple TV, iWork updates, the $4.99 iPhoto for iOS (which is available now from the App store, and looks very very sweet, but requires iPad 2 or the new iPad), and iOS 5.1, with updates to lots of Apple’s apps, available now.

  • Apple,  Hardware,  Pedagogy

    Tenth Anniversary of the Original iPod

    My original 5 gig iPod, purchased in November of 2001, still boots, still charges, and still works. October 23 was the anniversary of the initial announcement regarding the then new iPod, and while mine still works pretty much as well as it did in 2001 (the battery is not what it was), I subsequently became a delighted owner of first a first generation iPhone (now, sadly, with a damaged sleep/power button) and then, an iPod Classic, and, last January, an iPhone 3gs.

    But it’s been interesting to look back via this Macworld piece on The Birth of the iPod, and to look back at the pundits’ initial takes on the first iPod via a companion piece on The iPod: What They Said.

    I started using my first iPod at first to store music, and then to sync data. It wasn’t long at all before it became an essential teaching tool for me, as I noted in this blog post from 2004 written in response to a piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the Duke iPod project.

    I note for the curious, that The Chronicle is still usually hopelessly inane regarding teaching with technology, despite their recent harried push at becoming cool with respect to instructional technology.

  • Apple,  Software

    Apple’s iPad Announcements

    One of the slides Steve Jobs showed has this on it:

    iPad: Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price. Starting at $499.

    I think that’s absolutely true. I’ve been lusting for the iPad for years.

    iPad 1 2010
    Credit: Gizmodo

    I’ve tried to be funny about it, and patient, but this is exactly what I want. I mostly want it to read ebooks; I’m delighted that most iPhone applications will work well, and I’ve been assured by the developers of some of my favorite applications for reading stuff on the iPhone that they are going to support the larger screen asap. You can find Apple’s official iPad site here.

    For those of you in a cave, here are the basics:

    • 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
    • 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch
    • 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB flash drive1GHz Apple A4 custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chipWireless and Cellular
    • Wi-Fi model
    • Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n)
    • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR technology
    • Digital compass

    The Wifi Model comes out around the end of March, world wide; the G3 + WiFi about a month after that. In terms of pricing, the basic Wifi model with 16GB is $499.00. The 32 GB model is $599, and the 64 GB iPad is $699.00. When the 3G + WiFi models emerge, they’ll each be $130.00 more. There are two prepaid data plans from AT and T; 250MB/month for $14.99, or unlimited for $29.99.

    Apple’s own accessories include a dockable keyboard, and a case.

    As for me, I’d line up right now to buy one. I note that I’m not a “Apple released it; I gotta buy it” sort. The only Apple products I ever bought on initial release or earlier were my first generation 5 gig iPod (which still works, thank you very much) and my iPhone, which yes, I lined up to get. I’d buy the iPad now, were the cash available. I note, by the way, I wasn’t all that far off from what they released in this parody post from last year. I’d still like 180GB storage, and FireWire, but I’m awfully happy with what they’ve done. The two things that genuinely surprised me are the iBooks application and ebook store, and the iWork for iPhone. That’s sweet. I’m awfully excited, and off to learn more about ePub as an ebook file format; what I remember of it is that it’s not very good at internal links, images, or media handling. I’m still waiting for a media rich ebook that can do what Voyager did back in 1994 with MacBeth. I think this might be the best device I’ve seen for high quality media rich hypertext ebooks.

  • Apple,  Software

    iTunes Wishlist Service

    I started a new meme elsewhere which involves using iTune’s nifty “Give music to a friend” feature; you can “gift” entire albums or single tracks to anyone with a viable email address. It’s a lovely way to say thank you, to legally share the music you love, or to cheer someone up who’s having a rotten day—and it’s cheaper, faster, and more durable than a greeting card.

    But I’d be delighted for Apple to add a shareable Wish list feature (it’s a .Mac kind of thing, I ‘d think, though I’d prefer it be available to non-.Mac folk). And since they haven’t I’m really surprised some Ajax-savvy Web guru hasn’t created an iTunes Wish list site. There doesn’t seem to be an API for the iTunes Web service, though there’s a nifty RSS feed generator, and way to search for content and build links here, even some discussion of parsing iTunes RSS feeds with XML. You could have people use the Playlist feature in iTunes to create a Wish list, then export and upload it or email it to an address associated with a UID or account, though that’s kinda kludgey.

    Won’t somebody create an iTunes Wish list service? Please? You could probably use the iTunes Affiliate program to generate some cash.

  • Apple,  Software

    Older Versions of QuickTime

    I notice a fair number of visitors come here via Google searches for older versions of Apple’s free QuickTime sofware. The current version is 7.0.3, but you can still find QuickTime 5 for Mac OS 9 and PCs, QuickTime 6.0.3 for Mac OS 9, QuickTime 6.5.2 reinstaller and manual installers for Mac OS 9, QuickTime 6.5.2 for PCs, and QuickTime 7.0.1 reinstaller for Mac OS X all here.

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