Category Archives: Computer (OSX, iOS)

Bitten by Bluetooth; bem Mojo II mobile speakers

When I saw these tiny black cubes with elegantly understated controls on a spin-rack at Costco, I was so smitten that I wanted to buy two for everybody for Christmas. Now I’m so glad I didn’t. Their design is sweet; they’re handy; and they sound good when they’re working. But the controls are poorly conceived. The speakers are balky to connect and keep connected. And, whether due to IPhone flaws, Bluetooth technology growing pains or glitches in the speakers themselves, they’re trouble-prone.

Unpacking my Mojo II speakers, I was intrigued to see that each speaker “system” is really two units; a battery-powered speaker and a charger base. Also included;

  • USB cord
  • 120v wall plug with a USB socket
  • 3.5mm “headphone” audio cord

You can use the units separately or together in several ways.

Base charger

The base is all about power–not music. For charging, you can connect it to a 120v outlet or to a USB power source, such as a computer.

The base can power the speaker via a magnetized ring in the base’s top; or any USB-powered device, such as a phone, via a USB socket in the base’s side. This base is also a battery; so it can charge your phone or give your speaker extra playtime without a power source.

  • The base’s on/off switch controls the USB socket, not the speaker.

Speaker

These tiny speakers sound quite nice, but they’re not astounding. If you’ve been listening to a subwoofer, you’ll miss it.

The speaker also has a battery. You can charge it either on the base or directly from a USB power source, such as the included wall-plug.

The touch volume control makes an annoying alarm sound when it reaches the top of its range.  I never use it; it’s easier to control the volume with my iPhone.  But if I accidentally touch it while holding or moving a speaker, it instantly zooms the volume all the way up or all the way down.  I so wish it wasn’t there.

The on/off switch controls the sound and initiates Bluetooth connections.  This switch is small and hard to flick, and I have to use it constantly.  I wish that instead they’d made on/off a touch-activated control like the volume ones, and labeled it “Try again.”

The speaker has a Bluetooth receiver that can input audio from a device with a Bluetooth transmitter, such as an iPhone. If you have two speakers, and your music is coming in over Bluetooth, you can set them to Left and Right channels via switches in their undersides for stereo sound. One speaker alone is still good; set its underside switch to Monaural.

Audio can also be supplied via the 3.5mm audio cord, for example from an iPod. My first disappointment; when using this arrangement, a second speaker remains silent. It won’t magically get its music via Bluetooth from the first speaker.

Connecting

Connecting the speakers to my iPhone is dodgy, especially when somebody else is watching. First I disable and enable Bluetooth on my phone. Then I switch each speaker off (if it was on) then on. If I do this in the wrong order, they’ll never “find” each other. If they still fail to connect, I have to start over.

Problems

bluetoothMojo II speakers are prone to occasional misbehavior. Whether the problem is the speakers, my phone or some flaw in how Bluetooth works is hard to say. The only cure is to turn everything off and reconnect all over again.

  • One of their tricks is to get out of sync with each other (when using two speakers for stereo). One speaker plays each note a fraction of a second after the other, creating a reverb effect like a bad PA system in a train station.
  • Another is dropping the connection, for no apparent reason–unless it’s to embarrass me because other people are listening.
  • Then there’s dropping the connection when I absent-mindedly walk out of the room with my phone in my pocket. You’d think that, when I returned, it would all start working again, but noooooo.
  • Every few minutes I notice a brief sound dropout. I suspect my phone is multiprocessing and has taken a little break from playing music in order to do something else. Terminating apps or going to Airplane Mode seem to reduce the dropouts.  Buying a faster phone might help too.

While making dinner, I set up my phone with two speakers set to L and R channels, all within six feet of each other and stationary.  The speakers took three tries to connect.  In 90 minutes, they got out of sync twice, and one of them dropped the connection twice.  I spent so much time fiddling with them that dinner was late.

In sum, I’d have been happier with a mobile stereo player with a 3.5mm jack, or even an iPod-compatible socket. There’s much to be said for a device dedicated to playing music.  I’m not looking forward to the day my iPhone 6 breaks from Touch Disease or whatever, and I have to buy an iPhone 7 and use Bluetooth all the time.


Trivia: “BEM” in sci-fi stands for “Bug-eyed Monster.”

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iTunes 12.x/iOS 9.x: “Can’t play folders” playlist work-around

First, some quick defs:

  • Song: A digital audio performance, similar to an MP3 file but managed by iTunes.  Every song in iTunes has a song number.
  • Playlist: A container that can hold songs (actually song numbers).  A song can be in more than one playlist.
  • Smart playlist: A playlist, plus a set of rules for selecting songs to create itself.  You can set an option that makes a smart playlist re-create itself each time you use it.  A smart playlist looks and acts just like a playlist.
  • Folder: A container that can hold folders, playlists and smart playlists.  Because a folder can hold other folders, it’s possible to create a hierarchical structure of folders.  For example, a folder might contain three folders and some playlists; and each of these folders might contain other folders and playlists.

As a way to organize playlists, iTunes lets you drag them into folders.  If you select a folder in iTunes on your computer, you see all the songs in all the playlists in the folder.  And you can play all of them, intermingled.  Alt-click the folder and, from the floating menu, click Play.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 11.50.54 AM

You can also play a folder on your iPod Classic.  But, on an iOS device (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad), you can’t play a folder.  Touching a folder just lists the playlists in the folder.  You can play one of them, but not the whole folder.

iPhone

So, here’s a work-around; create a smart playlist that includes all of the playlists in the folder.  You’ll be able to play the smart playlist in iOS, thereby playing intermingled songs from all of the included playlists.  And, if you add songs to one of those playlists, they’ll automatically be included in the smart playlist.  Caveats:

  • If you add a new playlist to the folder, it’s not automatically included in the smart playlist.
  • Some versions of iOS won’t sync some smart playlists.  If you run into this problem, try updating iOS.

Making a smart playlist isn’t complicated, and it won’t take much time.  Let’s say you already have a folder that contains the playlists you want to include in the smart playlist.  What to do:

  1.  In iTunes on your computer, click the big plus sign in the lower left corner of the window.Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 12.20.46 PM
  2. In the floating menu that appears, select New smart playlist …  Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 12.20.26 PM
  3. In the smart playlist definition window, set up rules like this example.  Note that you can select any playlist, including playlists that are in other folders and playlists that are not in any folder.
  • Make sure that Live updating is checked.
  • It’s possible to select a folder while setting this rule.  But if you do, the smart playlist will remain empty.  Looks like a bug to me!Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 12.23.54 PM

4.  To add a rule, click the plus sign at the right end of an existing rule.  If there is more than one rule, set the Match rule in the top left corner to “Any.”  When you’re done setting rules, click OK.  Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 12.27.19 PM

5.  In the song-listing pane, double-click on the name of the smart playlist to change it.Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 12.28.03 PM

6. You can put your new smart playlist in the folder that holds its target playlists if you like.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.22.55 PM

The smart playlist will work just the same, no matter where in your hierarchical folder structure you locate it.  But this way keeps things simple.

7.  Sync your iOS device to iTunes to bring over the smart playlist.

smart playlist

Now you’re ready to play all of the songs in the folder on your iOS device, intermingled.  Just tap the folder to show its contents, and tap the smart playlist.

iTunes 12.x; Really delete a song

I wrote about how to delete songs once before.  That was for iTunes 11.x.  Maybe Apple read it and decided they’d made it too easy to delete a song?  In iTunes 12 it’s different!  “They’re always changing things; and they do it just to confuse you.”

The trick is to find the song in Songs, then delete it.  Delete it from anywhere else, such as a playlist, and it will lurk forever, orphaned in your music collection and uselessly taking up space.  That’s because a playlist is a bunch of pointers to songs, not a bunch of songs.

I just downloaded Simon and Garfunkel’s “Pleasure Machine.”  But I didn’t notice that I’d bought a truncated version of the song until I listened to the whole thing.  So I downloaded the full song.  Now I have to delete the truncated song.

1.  Using the search field in the top right corner, search for the song.  (Even if you’re looking right at it in a playlist, that’s no good.In the search results, find it under Songs.  In this example, there are two versions of “Pleasure Machine” so I’ll have to be careful not to delete the wrong one.

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 3.04.46 PM2.  Click a result under Songs.  Make sure it’s the one you want to delete.  In this example I checked the song’s length.

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 3.05.48 PM3.  Alt-click the song.  A floating menu appears.  Click Delete.  (You might have to scroll down the floating menu to find it.)

If Delete isn’t in the floating menu, then you’re looking at the song in a playlist, not in Songs; and you won’t be able to really delete it.  Go back to Step 1.

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 3.06.26 PM4.  Itunes asks “Are you sure?”  Check “Also hide this song in iCloud.”  Click Delete song.

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 3.07.02 PM5.  ITunes asks “Do you want to move … to the trash?”  Well obviously.  Ignore the Keep File default; instead click Move to Trash.

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 3.07.21 PM

 

iPhoto 2011 shortcut; work in “Last Import”

As a lazy person, I’m always on the lookout for an easier way to do things.  Of course the easiest way of all to deal with pictures is to format your SD card whenever it gets full.  And I can see the logic of this strategy.  After all, taking the pictures is the most enjoyable part of photography, and it’s all downhill after that.

Reasonably, tho, I’ve resolved to organize, edit and share the best pics I’m able to take, and eventually to archive the good ones and purge the rest.  These are the steps I’ve been going thru upon importing pics from my camera:

  1. Put pictures in existing or new albums
  2. Put albums in existing or new folders
  3. Edit pictures
  4. Rate pictures
  5. Select pictures to share

So, I’m interested in getting thru these steps faster.  I used to start by putting pictures in folders and albums.  But recently it dawned on me that this makes the other steps harder; it should be done last.  My new approach:

  1. Rate all pictures average
  2. Edit pictures
  3. Adjust picture ratings
  4. Put pictures in existing or new albums
  5. Put albums in existing or new folders
  6. Select pictures to share

Even tho I’ve added a step, I think this method saves time.  Now I do the first three steps in “Last Import,” a special library that iPhoto creates each time I upload pictures from my camera.  Here’s why:

1. Rate all pictures average

Why rate pictures at all?  Because I’ve found that ratings are useful later on, for example when I’m trying to figure out which ones to share.  Doing things now that save time later is the hallmark of the thinking lazy person.

I like to start by giving all of the new pictures the average rating I expect to assign to the set.  I can do this to the whole set at once.  (I’ll adjust some of the ratings later.)  What better time to do it than right after I’ve uploaded them and they’re all together in Last Import?  Rating in Last Import also avoids the risk of accidentally resetting the ratings of pictures that I’ve already put into albums.

Using a consistent rating scale is another way to be lazy.  My scale:

***** = A picture I’m proud of.

**** = Good enough to show people.

*** = Adequate if I have no other pictures of the subject; reluctant to show to other people.

** = Not very good; avoid showing to anybody.

* = Defective; taken by accident, out of focus, thumb on lens, etc.  Delete at the earliest opportunity.

How I assign the average rating to all the pictures in Last Import at once:

Edit > Select all

Photos > My rating > ***Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 9.22.03 PM

2. Edit pictures

You don’t need the pictures to be organized to fix them.  So why not edit them all at once in Last Import?

First thing to do is delete any defective pictures.  This is the time to do it; it’s easy to trash a picture in Last Import because here you’re working with real pictures, not pointers to pictures like you’ll have in albums.

How I trash a pic in Last Import:

Click the arrow icon in the picture’s lower right corner.  In the floating menu, click the Trash icon.

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 9.29.05 PM

Delete defective pictures now, while you’re still working with real photos and not just pointers.

  • I recommend not letting iPhoto delete the pictures from your SD card when you upload them.  Instead, let the SD card be your temporary backup, just in case you delete the wrong picture.

Now edit the ones that are left.  In the lower right corner, turn on the Edit view.  In the upper right corner, click the Quick Fixes tab Enhance is always worth a try, and it’s easy to reverse.  Other quick fixes I use a lot are Rotate and Straighten.  If you’re up for more complicated fixes, the Adjust tab in the top right corner has some useful ones.

3. Adjust picture ratings

Now that we’ve chucked the worst pics and improved the rest as best we can, it’s time to reconsider their ratings and adjust them upward or downward if needed.  We don’t need them to be organized into albums to do this step, either.

4. Put pictures in existing or new albums

Organize your new pics into albums and folders before you upload/import any more, so that later you won’t have to fish around for pictures that aren’t in albums.

5. Put albums in existing or new folders

Folders give you the power to organize your pictures hierarchically.  That’s because folders can hold both albums and other folders.  You can’t put pictures directly into folders.  You can put a single album in a folder to get around this limitation.

6. Select pictures to share

I only share a group of pics that have a common event or activity.  So to me it only makes sense to share pictures after I’ve put them in albums and the albums in folders.  Otherwise, I’d have to select pictures twice. 

Similarly, it only makes sense to share pictures after I’ve rated them and sorted them in descending order by their ratings; otherwise I have to think about which ones are the best two times.  Did I mention how lazy I am?  Hopefully by now you’re getting it that truly lazy people do a lot of prep work before getting around to the parts they want to do.  

 

I hate Ethernet, and it hates me

This is the story of my adventure installing the Comcast Wireless Gateway 1 (TG862G) modem.  A modem (modulator-demodulator) is a thingie that helps computers talk to each other over a telephone line. My first modem was a 150-bps acoustical modem—a low box with two rubber cups in its top, into which I placed the handset of my circa-1981 telephone. The computer would send some bits to the modem, which translated them into a squealing noise and sent it up the line; and the computer at the other end would squeal back. Of course I’d already progressed way beyond this technology before I started my TG862G adventure. I now have a cable connection that includes high-speed Internet and landline phone service.

Acquisition

This adventure started when I called Comcast for help with a connectivity problem. The solution involved resetting my Apple Airport Express router even tho it showed a green status light. Comcast’s tech support suggested I replace my phone-modem with one that has a built-in wireless router, saying that it would be more stable and make any future problems easier to solve. It’s also capable of twice the speed, for an additional $5 a month; but I’m content with my current speed, so I declined that offer. Comcast wanted $15 to ship me the modem; or I could pick it up for free. I decided to go get it.

The fellow behind the counter was very encouraging. “Just plug in the power, co-ax and your phone, call this number, and they’ll send the modem a startup signal. Easy!” I’ve been around this bend before and I didn’t think it was going to be that easy; but I used to work in IT (in application development, not with hardware or networks); so I was game for whatever challenges I’d signed up for.

When I got home I got hit with the first challenge right away; my new modem didn’t come with installation instructions. I had four pieces of paper:

  1. An invoice thingie with the activation phone number
  2. A Quick Start Guide that only tells how to connect to the default wireless LAN
  3. An advertisement for Xfinity Home
  4. A sticker reminding me to give the fellow behind the counter a high rating when Comcast calls for the customer satisfaction survey

Preparation

I figured I’d just do what the fellow behind the counter told me to do and see what happened. But, first I wanted to download any related documentation so that, if things went awry, I could read what to do to fix them.

My first concern was that I didn’t want to change my Wi-Fi network name or password.  That would require me to “teach” the connection to two computers and two iPads, half of which were Pat’s; and she was bound to grumble about the change.  The Quick Start Guide told me to make a note of the already-configured Wi-Fi name and password, and explained how to change the password—but not the name. So I googled the User Guide, http://www.arrisi.com/support/documentation/user_guides/_docs/TG862G-CT_User_Guide_Standard1-0.pdf

This document didn’t answer my question. Apparently Comcast doesn’t expect its customers to want control over the names of their networks.

Next I googled for the answer to my specific question. I found a short HTML document here, http://arrisi.force.com/consumers/articles/General_FAQs/TG862G-NA-Changing-the-Wireless-Network-Name-SSID/?l=en_US&fs=RelatedArticle

I looked it over; this looked like stuff I could do. Other preparations:

  • A sketch of all of the wired connections of my current modem and router, so I could fall back to the old setup if things went south.
  • A sketch of how I would connect the new combination modem/router (the User Guide calls it a “telephony gateway”).

Installation

I shut down the computers. Then I unplugged the router and unplugged all its thingies. Then I unplugged the modem. At this point, my landline phone rang. I was a bit rattled because I was holding the plug in my other hand; but I remembered that the modem has a battery. I dealt with the call and finished detaching the old modem.

I hooked up the new “telephony gateway,” and (on my cellphone) called the number for the startup signal. A voicemail system answered the call; happily, it responded to voice input, and it understood me. Unhappily, it determined that I didn’t have digital voice service (wrong!). It connected me to a human. I asked her if she was in India. Shyly she admitted that she was in the Philippines. This wasn’t a problem; she was technically savvy, her English was excellent, and the connection was good. I also learned that the Philippines includes over 7,000 islands–intriguing to a sea-kayaker.

She did some stuff on her end and sent the signal. I reported which lights were coming on (unlike the old modem, the new one has large, well-labeled indicators). When the telephone lights wouldn’t come on, she had me check that the telephone cable was tightly seated. When that didn’t help, she had me move it from port 1 to port 2 on the modem. For some reason, this did the trick; one by one, all the lights came on. We tested the phone and we were done before I could find out any more about the Philippines.

Proceeding on my own, I was able to connect to the Wi-Fi right away with an iPad, despite its ungodly-long default password. When I started up my iMac (OSX 10.7.5), I was able to find the Wi-Fi and join it; but the connection didn’t work.

OSX interrupts itself with news about the new network while I'm trying to set it up.

OSX interrupts itself with news about the new network while I’m trying to set it up.

Restarting the iMac somehow fixed it.

Ethernet

The instructions for renaming the Wi-Fi network recommend working over a wired Ethernet connection, which makes sense; renaming the connection that you’re using to rename it feels eerily recursive. Besides, ether is an anesthetic; so this should be painless, right?

Back when I was setting up the modem, I plugged the Ethernet cable that came with the new modem between the modem and my iMac. Now it was time to see if I could get that connection to work.

On the iMac, I turned off Wi-Fi to force it to use Ethernet. It showed that Ethernet was already connected. “That was easy!” I thought.

That was easy!  Uh-oh ...

That was easy! Uh-oh …

I looked at a couple of web pages before I realized that they’d been cached and the connection was actually broken. I tried diagnosing the problem. OSX told me to restart the “device;” I reset the modem, but it didn’t help. Then I restarted the iMac; that didn’t help either.

Following the Comcast User Guide, I tried dinking with the Ethernet DHCP TCP-IP network settings. The screen-prints in the Comcast guide for OSX are totally different from what my somewhat elderly Lion OSX showed me. I groped my way to the “Renew lease” button (what on earth does that do?) and clicked it. It didn’t help.

How much does this lease cost?  Suppose it has three houses on it?

How much does this lease cost? Suppose it has three houses on it?

Should I call Apple tech support and have them nag me to update OSX? Or should I call Comcast tech support and have them tell me it’s an Apple problem? At this point, Pat came home and I explained what I was trying to do. “Why?” she asked.

“Because I thought you’d want the Wi-Fi to have a familiar name.”

“It doesn’t matter to me,” she said. “I’ll just use the new name.”

Just use Wi-Fi!  You know you want to.

Just use Wi-Fi! You know you want to.

Who, I was left wondering, really needed a familiar name here? But, never mind that question. Problem solved! I’ve always hated Ethernet; now I don’t have to muck with it. If you were hoping for Ethernet guidance here, I’m sorry to let you down. The path of least resistance was just too tempting.

I logged onto the modem as user admin, following the Quick Start instructions. I changed the Wi-Fi password to the one we had before, just to retain something comfortingly familiar. The moment I saved the change, the web browser bogged down.

After a couple of minutes, I suspected the connection had been broken by my password change. I looked in Networks and sure enough, the Wi-Fi status had gone from green to yellow. I turned Wi-Fi off and on, found the network and joined it again, supplying the new password. Success!

What’s next

Okay, there’s one more thing I should do here; disconnect the useless Ethernet cable and throw it away. But it’s such a pretty cable (yellow) and it’s seven feet long. There’ve been times when I paid good money for a cable like this. Oh, this is going to be hard. I may need a nanosecond or two to work up the nerve to chuck it.

Copy (sync) a .pdf file from iMac to iPad

Environment:

  • On your iPad; iOS 6.1
  • On your iMac; iTunes 11.1

I think that if you have later versions of this software you’ll be fine.

Prerequisites:

  • You have the .pdf file in a folder on your iMac
  • You have the free iBooks app on your iPad

What to do:

Add the .pdf file to iTunes

Make sure the iMac is awake.

Attach the iPad to the iMac, using the sync cable.  If iTunes isn’t already running on the iMac, this attachment should start it automatically.  Also, a sync will start running automatically; but never mind that for now.  This connection makes iPad-related functions of iTunes visible.

In the iTunes View menu. if you see Hide sidebar, click it.  This will make your display consistent with the following instructions and examples.10 view hide folder

In the iTunes menu, Fiile > Add to library30 add to lib

Navigate to the .pdf file and click Open .15 add to lib

Sync the .pdf file from iTunes to the iPad

In the iTunes toolbar, click the middle of the iPad button on the right end.  Don’t just click the dismount arrow on the right end of the button.  This gives you access to the iTunes iPad Toolbar.40 iPad syncing button

In the iTunes iPad toolbar, select Books .35 iPad books button

In the top section of the Books page, make sure that Sync Books is checked.  Also make sure that either All Books or Selected Books is turned on.17 books sync settings

in the Books section of the Books page, top left corner, make sure that an option that includes PDF files is selected, so you’ll be able to see .pdf files in iTunes.

In the Books section, find the icon for the .pdf file you added.  If you’ve turned on Selected Books in the top section of this page, check the box next to the icon for your .pdf file to select it.15 iPad books

In the bottom right corner of the Books page, click Apply.  Then click Sync when it’s enabled.

On the right end of the toolbar, click Done .

When the iPad button on the right end of the toolbar shows a little iPad icon, that means the sync is done.  Click the dismount arrow on the right end of the button.42 dismount

Unplug the iPad from the iMac.

Read the .pdf file on your iPad

Start the iBooks app.45 iPad ibooks app

in the top left corner, touch Library.

Touch the icon for your .pdf file to read it.50 iPad iBooks lib