Apple Watch’s Spring 2018 Watch Band Collection

Today Apple has announced new band colors for their Apple Watch. Some of the new colors include:

  • Sport Band in Denim Blue, Lemonade and Red Raspberry
  • Woven Nylon in Black Stripe, Blue Stripe, Gray Stripe and Pink Stripe
  • Sport Loop in Flash Light, Hot Pink, Marine Green and Tahoe Blue
  • Classic Buckle in Spring Yellow, Electric Blue and Soft Pink

One of the primary, if not the primary, focus for the Apple Watch is health. Apple has partnered with Nike to provide some sport bands. There are some new colors for the Nike+ Sport bands as well.

  • Nike Sport in Barely Rose/Pearl Pink, Black/White and Cargo Khaki/Black
  • Nike Sport Loop in Black/Pure Platinum, Bright Crimson/Black, Cargo Khaki, Midnight Fog and Pearl Pink

There is another change with the Nike Sport Loop watch bands, they will now be sold separately, which was not the case previously. Smart Watches are not just functional pieces, but they can also be fashionable. One way that Apple does this is by partnering with Hermes. There are some new Hermes bands too. The Single Tour Rallye and Double Tour bands now display contrasting paint details:

  • 38mm Double Tour in Indigo with rouge H polished edge and rouge H contrasted loop
  • 38mm Double Tour in Blanc with rouge H polished edge and rouge H contrasted loop
  • 42mm Single Tour Rallye in Indigo with rouge H polished edge and rouge H contrasted loop
  • 42mm Single Tour Rallye in Blanc with rouge H polished edge and rouge H contrasted loop

All of these bands will be available later this month, which means likely next week. Many of these will be available on

Source: Apple

Apple Education Event Announced

Apple has invited some journalists to an event that they are holding on March 27th at 10:00 am. This event is not being held at Apple Park nor at 1 Infinite Loop. Instead, this event is being held at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago, Illinois. This is the first event that Apple has held for the press in Chicago.

This is not the first press event that Apple has held outside of California. In January of 2012, Apple held an education event in New York City. The invite states “Join us to hear creative new ideas for teachers and students.”

It is nice to have Apple hold an event close to where I live, it is just too bad that I did not get invited (nor did I really every expect to be invited, but it would have been nice.)

I will try to follow what is announced at the event and will let everybody know what Apple says.

Apple Announces WWDC 2018

Today Apple has announced the dates for its annual World Wide Developer Conference. The dates for WWDC 2018 are from June 4th through June 8th. Just like last year, the conference will be in San Jose, California.

Similar to the last few years, Apple is offering developers an opportunity to register for a raffle for the tickets.

“The opportunity to buy tickets to WWDC18 is offered by random selection. Registration is open until Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. PDT.*”. If you do register for the raffle, and you are able to buy a ticket, it will cost you $1599.

It will be exciting to see what Apple has in store for the next versions of their operating systems. I will post a prediction post, closer to June 4th.

HomePod Review: AirPlay, Apple TV, and Additional Thoughts

This is part two of my HomePod Review. You can read the first part that covers the Sound, Siri, and Songs.

AirPlay and Bluetooth

The HomePod does not have any physical input mechanism. This means no line-in jack, and it cannot connect via USB. The only way to get audio to the HomePod is through AirPlay, Apple’s propriety protocol. Despite AirPlay being propriety, Apple does make it available for third-party companies to use for connecting to AirPlay-enabled devices.

The HomePod does have a Bluetooth 5.0 chipset inside it, but it cannot be used as a Bluetooth speaker. The Bluetooth is only used for the initial setup and communication between iOS devices for when the trigger phrase “Hey Siri” is used. It would be a nice addition if the HomePod could just be used as a Bluetooth speaker for non-AirPlay devices, but I do not foresee this as being a feature that Apple will include at any point. If there was no AirPlay, then it would be a no-brainer, but in a world with AirPlay it is not likely to occur because this provides an advantage for Apple allows them to control the ecosystem.

HomePod and Apple TV

One of the functions of the HomePod is to act as an AirPlay destination. One possible AirPlay source is the Apple TV. Most people, when they use their Apple TV, use the speakers on their TV or if their TV is capable, a sound bar.

There are those that do use an even more involved setup, like a receiver, and surround sound speaker system. Even with this setup being an option for many, it can be complicated to setup and maintain for some. Setting the HomePod as the audio output from an Apple TV is simple.

  1. Wake up the Apple TV.
  2. Begin playing some media.
  3. Swipe down on the Siri Remote Trackpad.
  4. Select the HomePod


That is all it takes to connect an Apple TV to a HomePod. It does not take many steps and it is possible for anyone to be able to connect an Apple TV to a HomePod. There is an alternative method. You can perform the following:

  1. Wake the Apple TV.
  2. Navigate to Settings.
  3. Scroll down to “Video and Audio”.
  4. Click on “Video and Audio”.
  5. Scroll down to audio output.
  6. Click on “Audio Output”.
  7. Select the HomePod you want to use an an output.

This second method allows you to set the HomePod as the audio source before you begin playing audio. You can also select the output while playing music as well. This can be done by selecting the device name in the upper left, clicking, and you will get a list of all of the AirPlay destinations, including the HomePod.

HomePod and Apple TV Issues

I did notice one thing that seems to be a bit strange and does not seem right, but I do not know if there is a fix for it. Whenever I set the HomePod as the AirPlay destination for my Apple TV, I always have to turn the volume way up on the HomePod in order to be able to hear anything. This really is not a big problem, but it does seem a bit odd. This only occurs when playing video and if the HomePod is set as the output for the Apple TV. Now, if I switched the HomePod to play music, even from the Apple TV, the sound would be super loud. Just like commercials used to get on television before rules were changed so the commercials could not be louder. I know why this occurs, it is because the HomePod is playing the music natively from the HomePod and is not getting the audio from another source. The whole situation just seems strange, considering that the HomePod is receiving audio and can intuit the source, it should be able to accommodate for that and have the audio be louder.

It could be that this is just due to the current limitations of AirPlay and may be changing when AirPlay 2 arrives. In particular, because AirPlay 2 will buffer audio as fast as you can provide it, so there may be some adjustments possible there. It is also possible that this may be an enhancement that may be coming to a future, and yet unknown, version of AirPlay.

Features to Come

When Apple announced the HomePod at WWDC 2017, they indicated that multiple HomePods could be used within a single room to make the sound even better. This would be available through a protocol called, AirPlay 2. AirPlay 2 has some significant benefits over AirPlay. The biggest of the benefits is “faster than real time” audio transmission. When AirPlay 2 is available on the HomePod, this means that you will be able to use AirPlay to send long form audio to the HomePod, and it will continue to play even if the original source is no longer in range.

A second feature that is available with AirPlay 2 is the ability to use multiple HomePods as a stereo pair. This would allow even better sound because the two HomePods can work in unison to produce the best sound for the room.

Also with AirPlay 2, you can control multiple HomePods from the same device and play different audio on each, or play the same audio on all of the speakers simultaneously. Again, because the HomePods would be communicating and the audio could be synchronized across all of the HomePods.

AirPlay 2 is expected to be released later this year. I am sure that Apple had hoped to have it released when the HomePod shipped, but that was not the case. AirPlay 2 will be available through a firmware update on the HomePod, let us look at how to update the HomePod next.

Updating the HomePod

Even though there have not been any updates to the HomePod, when there is an update, it will be a straight-forward task. To see the current firmware version and check for updates, perform the following:

  1. Open the Home App.
  2. Tap the Arrow icon in the upper left corner.
  3. Scroll down to Speakers.
  4. Tap on Software Update.

Here you will have one option, “Install Updates Automatically”. By default, this option is enabled. You can turn it off, if desired. When you bring up this screen it will check for any HomePod update. If there is no update, the current version and build will be shown. As of this writing the latest firmware is 11.2.5 (15D59). This is the version that the HomePod shipped with. If there is an update, you will have an option to update the firmware.

The Physical Specs

When you look at speakers that generate good sound, it is entirely possible that the speaker would be quite large. If you happen to only look at photos of the HomePod it is possible that you might presume that the actual device is quite large. However, the HomePod is actually rather small. Specifically, it is 6.8 inches tall, and is only 5.6 inches around. Even with its diminutive size is shockingly heavy at 5.5 pounds.

When you remove the HomePod from its box, it is a lot heavier than you might think. Even though five and half pounds may not seem like much, and in reality it is not, it is a bit heavier than expected. This should not be an issue for most, since in most cases the HomePod will remain in a single place during its usage, but it is something to be cognizant of.

There is a single cable for the HomePod, that is the power cord. Unlike most other consumer devices, the cord on the HomePod is actually wrapped in a cloth. This is so the HomePod is more aesthetically pleasing and can be more easily hidden.

Feature Requests

Even with the HomePod having great sound, there is still one big feature that would be nice to have, which could be handled via software. That feature is the ability to tune the amount of bass. I love my Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones, and while Beats tend to be heavy on the bass, the amount of bass coming out of the HomePod is a bit much for some songs.

You can reduce some of the bass by using the “Sound Check” feature within the HomePod settings, but this feature only makes all of the songs have the same volume, as per this Apple Support article. This can help a bit, but having finer control over the bass would be nice. I do not think that having a full blown equalizer would be beneficial, since the HomePod is dynamically tuning itself based upon the room and the song. This means that any equalizer settings that you would manually set would likely ruin, and not enhance, the sound being generated.

Trigger Phrase

I completely understand and recognize the fact that Siri is a brand that Apple wants to keep consistent across all of its products. In doing so, if you say the trigger word, “Hey Siri” all of your iOS devices, as well as any HomePods will all hear you. Each of the devices will then have a “discussion” and one of the devices will be the one that responds to you. Which one responds is based upon a couple of different factors; how recently you used the device, and which ones are within range. Given the far-field voice recognition capabilities of the HomePod, it is likely to win more often.

While using the same trigger phrase created a consistent experience and makes it easier for those accustom to using Siri on their iOS devices, having all of your devices make sound when you say “Hey Siri”, can be bothersome. What I would like to see is the HomePod get its own trigger phrase, or at least an option for a different trigger phrase.

It could be something like “Hey HomePod”, or “Hey Speaker”, or “Hey Assistant”, or something similar. could even be based upon the current location of the HomePod. For instance, if your HomePod is in the living room, you could say something like “Hey Living Room, play this song.”

I understand that this could ultimately cause confusion for users and result in a non-optimal experience, it would provide an option for those users who decide to enable it to be able to target a specific device.

Even though I would like to see this, I honestly do not see Apple creating a distinct phrase for the HomePod, mostly because it would bifurcate the “Siri” platform. Even though it might do so, it would be better than having four different devices going off all at once when I want to ask the HomePod to do something.

Beta Request

Apple is constantly working on new features for the HomePod. It would be nice to have the HomePod be on the same version as iOS betas. The HomePod is a brand new product, so it is possible that Apple will allow the HomePod to be on beta versions. There is one potential problem with having a HomePod on a beta. It is the same issue with the Apple TV 4K.

There is no user accessible port, so if a beta installation were to fail, the only people who would be able to repair the device is Apple themselves. Apple has been pretty good with the updates, but the HomePod is the newest device and there could be some edge cases where things do not work as expected. It is entirely possible that this is already going to happen with the next version of iOS, but we are not at that point yet.

The Future of HomePod

Even though the HomePod has recently been released, there is no issue with thinking about its future. When Apple announced the HomePod back in June of 2017, they indicated that indicated that multi-speaker AirPlay would be released at the release of the HomePod.

With the HomePod having an A8 Processor, it is likely that the A8 will be the base for iOS for at least a couple more years. It is also possible that the HomePod will still be updated to the latest version of iOS even if iPhone 6/6 Plus/iPod Touch with A8 are no longer supported on the latest version of iOS.

I hope Apple is looking to make a smaller version of the HomePod, even if it does not fill a room with sound as the current HomePod does. A smaller HomePod would be great for places like kitchens, offices or other areas where sound is needed, but it does not necessarily need to be room filling, or places where the current HomePod is a bit too overpowering. The advantage to having a smart assistant in every room is one that could come in quite useful for many.

Closing Thoughts

Even though the HomePod does not have multiple speaker support, the HomePod is still a great speaker on its own. It is not the cheapest speaker on the market, but it also attempts to solve an issue that many other speakers do not; filling an entire room with sound and have it sound great in every part of the room. The HomePod accomplishes this with ease.

When I first got the HomePod I moved it from room to room, but it has now found its home in the master bedroom where I consume most of my media. This has had a couple of different consequences. The first is now that the HomePod creates great sound, I want to use it with everything. I already use it all the time with the Apple TV. I use the Apple TV to consume most of my media, so connecting it to the Apple TV is not an issue. This does result in not wanting to watch DVDs or Blu-rays, since my Xbox One, which is my Blu-ray/DVD player, does not connect to the HomePod. This has resulted in either converting my physical media, or buying a digital copy. I do not do this for all titles, but those I really want to watch I do.

The HomePod is capable of being more than just a speaker, it also includes Apple’s Smart assistant Siri. Siri can perform many of the same tasks for you as your iPhone or iPad. You can ask Siri the weather, current news, what song is playing, what movies are playing, or even control you HomeKit enabled devices, and much more. The reduction of the audio when Siri is active is a nice touch. If you have multiple iOS devices, they will communicate and decide who will handle your request, which can be rather annoying after a while. Another option for a trigger phrase would be nice, but it is not likely to occur.

There are many hidden options and features to the HomePod that are exposed through the Home app. These include who can access your HomePod, whether or not to require a password, and an option to setup the HomePod as a Home Hub.

If you are thinking of getting a HomePod, you have to be content with its current capabilities and not what it necessarily could do in the future. When the HomePod was announced, Apple indicated that it would be available by the end of 2017, but this did not occur. It is not due to the hardware, but instead the software. Currently, the HomePod does not support HomePods configured in stereo. The HomePod supports Apple Music, and any other audio that can be transmitted via Apple’s AirPlay protocol. If you are an Apple Music subscriber, and really want a good quality speaker for music, you cannot go wrong with the HomePod.

HomePod Review: The Sound, Siri, and Songs

If you were to ask someone back in 2001, what type of products “Apple” made, they would likely say computers. Apple still makes computes, but today they are not primarily known for their computers. That is not to say that their computers are not iconic, and often sought after, but it is not their defining product. Instead, they are known for their consumer electronics, primarily the iPhone. Apple’s latest product is also a consumer electronic, but it is not portable. The new product is called the HomePod.

The HomePod is first, and foremost, a music speaker. The HomePod is not just any music speaker, it has smarts. The smarts that is within the HomePod are two-fold. The first bit of smarts within the HomePod is computational in nature. The HomePod has an A8 processor to do its calculations. This is the same processor that is in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and sixth-generation iPod Touch. This is a ton of processing power, particularly just for within a Music Speaker. The A8 is capable of handling all of the processing necessary to be able to create the best sound possible. The second bit of smarts, is Apple’s assistant, Siri. The latter will be covered in a bit. First let us look at how the HomePod sounds.

The Sound

I am no audio engineer, nor do I ever espouse to being one. The only qualifications I have for being a sound engineer is adjusting the volume on my headphones or my HomePod. Along with not being an audio engineer, it is not easy to describe how a speaker sounds using text. I could do an audio clip, but the fidelity that I would be able to provide is nothing like hearing it in person. Even with all of those caveats, I will attempt to describe, as best as I can via text, how the HomePod sounds.

One of the areas in which the HomePod differs from traditional speakers is when it comes to the way the output sounds. With traditional speakers, depending on where you place them, you will not get sound all throughout the room. This is because most speakers are directional in nature, and while you can hear some sound from the sides, or behind, the speaker, it will likely be distorted. This is not the case with the HomePod.

The HomePod is capable of producing sound that can be clearly heard from nearly all parts of a room. This is possible through the computational audio mechanisms as well as the arrangement of the tweeters, since they go all around the HomePod. The ability to have clear sound throughout an entire room means that if you are having a party, everyone should be able to hear the music without any issue, which is always a good thing.

To me the HomePod produces great sound. It is by no means perfect, but it is the best speaker that I have heard. The sound is generated the one woofer, which points up from the top of the HomePod. The woofer works with the seven tweeters, which are located towards the bottom of the HomePod. The tweeters point outwards, which allows the sound to fill a room.

The HomePod is not your typical speaker. This is because the A8 Processor uses “computational audio”. Computational audio is best used with the faster than real-time streaming to analyze the audio to create a better sound. Along with analyzing the sound, the HomePod also listens to the reverberation from the current audio to adjust the output with the feedback that it hears. The HomePod uses the response time to determine how close objects are to the HomePod. The HomePod will do its best to fill the entire room with sound. With control over the tweeters, the HomePod can reduce the echo that other speakers may produce by tuning the sound coming out of each of the tweeters to be able to reduce the echo, which only adds to better sound.


While the HomePod is primarily a speaker, there are some smarts within it. The smarts are provided by Apple’s voice assistant, Siri. While Siri is available on all of Apple’s iOS devices, as well as macOS, Siri on the HomePod has a smaller subset of functions of all of Siri’s capabilities. In particular, you can ask the HomePod to play music, add items to notes, and you can even send messages to individuals, if you opt to do so.

When you ask Siri to do something on an iOS device, you have to be in close proximity of the device for Siri to hear you. This is definitely not the case with the HomePod. The HomePod has six far-field microphones that are designed to hear you no matter how loud the audio that is playing out of the HomePod actually is. During my testing, I was actually two rooms away and HomePod heard me without any difficulty and I did not have to raise my voice too much to get it to hear me. This is absolutely crucial for any smart speaker to be useful.

When you do use the trigger phrase, “Hey Siri” all of your iOS devices, and the HomePod, will have a very quick conversation to determine which one of your devices will handle your request. One thing that must be done for this to occur, as anticipated, is to have Bluetooth enabled on all of your iOS devices. For those with an Apple Watch, it is likely that Bluetooth would already be enabled on your iPhone. However, if you have another iOS device, like an iPod or iPod Touch, it is possible that you do not need Bluetooth so it will be off.

Siri Commands

There are a lot of things you can do with Siri on the HomePod, but a new one has been added. You can say “Hey Siri, play some news”. The HomePod will then begin to play NPR News. There are a few other options for news. You can get news from CNN, the Washington Post, or even Fox News; depending on your preference.

Siri can perform many of the same queries as other iOS-based devices, but there are some that the HomePod cannot do. One of these is ride booking, or identifying the currently playing movie.

HomePod and HomeKit

The HomePod is a HomeKit Hub, which allows anyone within your home to control any of your HomeKit-enabled accessories that are configured in the Home app. and due to its stationary nature may actually be the ideal HomeKit Hub. This is because the HomePod can provide auditory feedback to any request that you give.

There are a couple of limitations to using Siri to adjust your HomeKit accessories. If you have things like a garage door opener or smart lock configured, you can use the HomePod to close or engage the locking mechanism. However, you cannot do the opposite, at least not without confirmation on an iPhone. This is a security mechanism because Apple does not think it should be possible for anyone to come up to your door and say “Hey Siri and have the garage door open.

I only have a couple of lights configured within HomeKit, so my testing on this is limited. However, during my testing it does seem as though the HomePod responds much faster than when the Apple TV was the primary Home Hub, and when I would request Siri turn off my lights from my iPhone or Apple Watch.

HomeKit Hubs

There is a simple way to find all of the HomeKit Hubs that are in your home. Although the steps are simple, it can be somewhat hidden. To find all of your HomeKit hubs, perform the following:

  1. Open the Home app on your iOS device
  2. Tap on the arrow icon in the upper left corner. You should see a list of Home Hubs

There are only two steps, but finding it is not super easy. Once you do click on the arrow, it should list all of your HomeKit Hubs. The photo below shows the three that I have, my HomePod, which is the “connected” one and the two standby hubs, which are both Apple TVs. One is my Apple TV 4K and the other is my development Apple TV.

The HomePod will automatically be the primary HomeKit hub, if there are more than one hubs in a home. I cannot say for certain, but my guess as to why this is the case is because the HomePod can provide audio feedback and is constantly powered. Any other home hubs you have can still be used, but will say “Standby”.

While using Siri on the HomePod is very helpful and useful, the best thing to play on the HomePod is music. Let us look at that now.

Playing Music

One of the most common functions on the HomePod, and what the HomePod is designed for, is to play music. The HomePod works best if you subscribe to Apple Music. If you do subscribe to Apple Music, you can play any of the 45 million songs available on Apple Music. You can specify an artist, an album, or even a playlist. Playlists are not limited to just those provided by Apple. Playlists can be from your own music library. Your playlists are available because by subscribing to Apple Music the music from your iTunes Library is automatically matched or, if it is not in the Apple Music catalog, it is uploaded to Apple’s servers so it is available from any of your devices.

While third-party audio services are not natively supported on the HomePod, you can use Apple’s AirPlay protocol to send any audio from your iOS devices, or Mac, to the HomePod. There will be more on that in a bit.

I tested the ability to play anything from your library. I have a playlist titled “Elton John”. I asked the HomePod to play this and it was able to find this without any issues and it played the songs on that playlist. I also tested playing something that it is not in the Apple Music Library. I have a recording of a The Ted Talk $8 Billion iPod, by Rob Reid. I attempted to play it by saying “Hey Sir, Play $8 Billion iPod”. It did not play initially. This is because the actual title in my library is “$8 Billion iPod (Copyright Math)”. Once I gave the entire title, it worked as I initially expected. Despite these successes, there were a couple of times when things did not work as expected.

Specifically, I asked the HomePod to play “Golden Hour” by Kacey Musgraves. The HomePod replied, “I couldn’t find ‘Golden Hour’ on Apple Music or in your library”. This is a bit odd, considering that I have been playing a couple of the songs from the album on repeat for the last few days, so I knew it was available.

During my testing the album “Golden Hour” was only available for pre-order, and there is a song by the name of “Golden Hour” on the album. I tried the same thing on my iPhone and got the following response:

I suspect that this is what Siri on the HomePod was also transcribing it to. Since there is no way to see what the HomePod is interpreting requests as, it make it heard to determine. If I said “Hey Siri, play the Golden Hour album by Kacey Musgraves”, it got it without a problem. I am thinking that the reason it was able to get it was because I specified “Kacey Musgraves” and it was able to translate “gold an hour” to “Golden Hour”. But this is simply a guess. Now, let us move on to other ways you can control music on the HomePod.

Controlling Music

The primary interaction method for the HomePod is your voice. You can use the trigger phrase “Hey Siri” to adjust the volume, amongst other things. While asking Siri to do things from time to time is fine. But, if you are really enjoying the music using Siri might not be the best experience. Luckily, there is an option for using your iOS device to control the HomePod. There are two locations that you can control the HomePod. The first is in Control Center, and the second is in the Music app.

In order to control a HomePod using Control Center, perform the following:

  1. Bring up Control Center
  2. Tap and hold on the “Now Playing” section
  3. Scroll down to the HomePod you want to control
  4. Tap on the HomePod you want to control.

Here you can adjust the volume, play and pause, and jump forward or backwards. In order to control the HomePod via the Music app perform the following:

  1. Open the Music app
  2. Tap on the “AirPlay” icon
  3. Scroll to the HomePod
  4. Tap on the HomePod to connect it
  5. Tap in the background to close the AirPlay selection window

With the Music app, you can control using the same functions as within Control Center, but you can also choose any song from your music library and you can play any of the songs that you want. Additionally, you can also put any songs in the “up next” queue, so you can create the perfect playlist for your HomePod. This is perfect for parties, or in any situation where you want to play a list of music without having to constantly adjust it.


Once you have performed the steps above, you can now play just about anything to the HomePod. When you do this, you are not using AirPlay to send the music over, instead the HomePod is playing the music directly, and the Music app is acting just like a remote.

There is one specific thing to remember when trying to control music via your iOS device, you cannot connect to the Ho,prod without being on the same wireless network. Having Bluetooth enabled is not enough. You can control who is able to connect to you HomrPod. This is done via the home app. To set limitations on the HomePod perform the following steps:

  1. Open the home app.
  2. Tap on the arrow in the upper left corner.
  3. Under speakers, select “Allow Speaker Access”.

Here you can choose what type of access to allow. The options are, “Everyone”, “Anyone On The Same Network” or “Only People Sharing This Home”. You can also require a password to be able to connect to the HomePod. Enabling a password provides a second layer of authentication. Enabling a password will allow anyone to see the speaker, but they would need the password to connect to it. The password option is only available with the first two options, “Everyone” and “Anyone On The Same Network”.

Even though the Music app is controlling music, you can play any other audio on your iOS device. When you do this, the new audio will take over for the music that was previously playing on the HomePod.

Stay Tuned

This concludes the first half of my HomePod review. Keep your eye out for the second half, which will cover the HomePod and Apple TV, upcoming features, updating the HomePod, and feature requests.

Panic’s Mystery of the Slow Downloads

Here is a video by Panic, makers of apps like Transmit, Panic, and Firewatch.

The brief backstory, is that some of Panic’s customers were reporting that downloads were really slow. The video explains what the issue was. The video also explains a small segment of how the internet works. This is not a technical video at all, so it is good for everyone to watch.

Original Apple TV and iTunes Support Expiring

In today’s modern technology-based world it is not realistic, nor practical, to expect a company to support a product indefinitely. Technology changes and many older products cannot reliably be supported. While the length of service for many of Apple products are getting longer and longer, they all do have an inevitable end-of-life date. There are two products that will no longer function, as expected, beginning May 25th, 2018. Those two items are the first-generation Apple TV and iTunes on Windows XP and Windows Vista. Let us start with the original first-generation Apple TV.

Original Apple TV

The original Apple TV was unveiled as sneak peak in September of 2006, with the code name of iTV. The original Apple TV was a similar form-factor as the Mac Mini available at the time. The first-generation Apple TV sported two different video output connections; HDMI and component video. The Apple TV was capable of outputting up to 1080p. The first-generation Apple TV also had an optical audio out jack, a 10/100 ethernet connection and a USB port. If you did not have ethernet connectivity, you could connect via the built-in 802.11b/g/n wireless. When released, the original Apple TV acted more like an iPod or original iPhone, where you had to connect it to iTunes in order to synchronize your media. This process was definitely not ideal, and this did change as the software progressed, but it was the original solution.

The original Apple TV initially came with a 40GB hard drive, but Apple released a 160GB model in May of 2007. The hard drive connection on the Apple TV was not Serial ATA (SATA) as one might expect, but instead it was a Parallel ATA (PATA) connection. The operating system of the Apple TV was a modified version of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. If you were adventurous enough you could actually install a full version of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger on it and use it as an actual Mac, but it was a limited amount of RAM, 256MB to be exact. This is a tiny amount compared today’s standards. From Apple’s support article:

[B]eginning May 25, security changes will prevent Apple TV (1st generation) from using the iTunes Store. This device is an obsolete Apple product and will not be updated to support these security changes.
After the changes, you’ll only be able to access the iTunes Store on Apple TV (2nd generation) or later.

This really is the end of an era for the original Apple TV. Now, let us turn to iTunes.

iTunes on Windows XP and Vista

It is well known that Steve Jobs was adamantly against iTunes on Windows. He needed to be convinced. iTunes for Windows was initially released on October 16th, 2003 with the availability of iTunes 4.1. When it was first released iTunes was supported on Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Subsequent versions added support for later operating systems. Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 14th 2014 and ended Windows Vista support on April 11th, 2017. Despite these operating systems no longer being supported by their manufacturer, Apple has supported these computers connecting to iTunes. Beginning May 25th, 2018 this will no longer be the case.

It is not that the software will stop functioning, at least in terms of being able to play the items you have already downloaded. The change is that the iTunes Store will no longer be available and you will not be able to re-download previously made purchases.

Starting May 25, Apple will introduce security changes that prevent older Windows PCs from using the iTunes Store. If you have Windows XP or Vista PC, your computer is no longer supported by Microsoft, and you’re not able to use the latest version of iTunes.

You can continue to use previous versions of iTunes on your Windows PC without support from Apple. However, you won’t be able to make new purchases from the iTunes Store or redownload previous purchases on that computer.
After May 25, you’ll need to use Windows 7 or later with the latest version of iTunes to make purchases from the iTunes Store and redownload previous purchases.

Closing Thoughts

I still own my original Apple TV. The featured photo at the top of this post is of my Apple TV taken with my iPhone X. The Apple TV has come a long way since its origins. I powered up my original Apple TV and it still works. I did have to hunt a bit for the remote for it, but I ultimately did find one of my original remotes that worked. I do not know if I will do anything with it. I may, like many others, end up using it as a stand for my iMac.


My Thoughts on Crypto Currencies

I am not investing in any crypto currency. The thought has crossed my mind, but I am a bit too risk adverse to get into that. I do not invest heavily in stocks either. I was asked by a friend about my thoughts on thoughts on crypto currencies. I had not planned on doing a blog post, but decided I might as well. These are my off the cuff thoughts about crypto currencies, as I understand them.

While I think crypto currencies can make some add to the wealth of some, is a bit too volatile for anybody to seriously get involved in investing. This is for a few of different reasons.

The first is that it takes a lot of computing power to be able to mine cryptocurrency. Not just like running a single computer all the time, at its full maximum, but instead large server farms that consume more power than some entire power stations can output. You would need that much power to be able to mine enough currency to make it worthwhile, unless you have a lot of capital to throw at mining coins.

The second is that countries are already starting to regulate it, which in some respects is a good thing, but it may cause panic and a sell off, meaning some could lose a substantial amount of money. It may also mean that being able to convert crypto currency to another currency may be limited.

Third, let us presume that one does invest, and you decide to sell. Right now for some exchanges it can take a few days to actually perform the sell the coin, which, given the violability, can lead to wild fluctuations when it does come to selling. Meaning that you could lose money if the value of the coin is lower than the time you wanted to sell.

The fourth reason is that there are an ever growing number of crypto currencies that are emerging, and until the overall market shrinks, in terms of number of coins, it will be hard to determine where, and when, to invest. For those who are more prone to take risks, this is actually a good thing, as they can invest early, and possibly make a huge profit. At the same time though, you could stand to lose everything you invested. Whether that is from a coin going bust, or whether its from something else, which leads to the next point.

The fifth item, is the lack of backing. While it can be argued that the American dollar is not really backed by anything physical, like gold, it is still backed by the word of the U.S. Government, no matter how dubious that may be. Crypto coins, as of right now, are not really backed by any type of security for their value like real-world currencies are. So this is a problem.

Lastly, also on the topic of security, but in a different nature, crypto coins are ripe for theft. The big crypto coin exchanges are currently prime targets for thieves. Some of this is due to the exchanges’ lack of security. If a thief can cause the currency stored in one’s wallet and transfer that value to their own wallet. Thereby causing loss for many, through no fault of their own, but through the negligence of another entity in whom they trusted their information.

As to whether crypto coins will become an actual currency in the future has yet to be determined.. I do think that the block-chain technology, upon which crypto-currency is based, will actually be more useful to more people; even if they do not use the technology directly.

Those are my thoughts on crypto currencies, as it stands now. Even with all of that, there is still a small part of me that is kicking myself for not trying to mine a couple of bitcoins back when it was brand new. Alas, that seems to be my lot in life.

Idea for macOS Server

Earlier this year Apple announced a shift for macOS Server. Since writing up that article I have been thinking about some directions that Apple could take macOS Server. I have a couple of ideas, and thought I would share them.

Per Apple, the primary focus for macOS Server going forward will be device and storage management. Device Management within macOS Server is handled through Apple’s Profile Manager service. One of the primary tasks with Profile Manager is to be able to restrict functions on iOS devices. With this being the focus, there is a possibility for some expansions. This is great for solution companies, but what about individuals?

Profile Manager can be installed, and managed by just about anyone. The tricky part is that some of the settings are not easy to understand and determine how they affect operating of an iOS device. Most of the setting are somewhat self-explanatory, for those more technologically inclined. What if Apple were to make profile manager non-techie friendly? This is my first idea.

User-Friendly Profile Manager

There are many different aspects to iOS that can be configured with Profile Manager, but many users are not like myself, and are able to understand what impact each of those settings could have, when they are set. I would love to see Apple create a cloud-based management portal for non-techies. In particular, one that can allow parents to manage their children’s iOS devices.

Many parents would love to see the ability to limit the days and times that the iOS devices that their child has can be operated. In addition, they would also like to be able to allow certain applications all the time, like apps for school work, or maybe evening learning applications.

In order for Apple to provide this type of service, additional and more granular restrictions would be needed for iOS, but providing this type of service, as well as the restrictions, would go a long way to helping parents keep an eye on what their children are using.

The reason for making this could based, instead of just iOS-based, would be so a parent could adjust settings from anywhere. It would also be useful to have an app for the

Cloud-based Profile Manager

One of the other ideas that I have pondered, is one where Apple provides a cloud-based profile manager, similar to its current form, just cloud-based instead of on-premise. This would not necessarily replace profile manager for those who host it within their company, but could allow smaller companies to get into Profile Manager without needing to have a server on-site.

Profile Manager requires an Open Directory server to connect to. This means that you either have to have one on the same server as the profile manager server, or one that can connect.

Providing this service would require an additional Open Directory server to be present on the Profile Manager server. This server could be a secondary server, but one would be necessary. If a company is only hosting their profile management server in the cloud, then it would make configuration a lot easier.

Providing a cloud-based profile manager server could be a benefit smaller companies who would want to be able to have the ability to control devices, but do not have the internal expertise to manage a macOS Server. Similarly, this could help Apple add to its services revenue, which could help in the long run.

These are just a couple of ideas for where Apple could take macOS Server. Only time will tell if this is the direction Apple will take macOS Server or not.

Additional White Rings Issues

Yesterday I wrote about the HomePod leaving white rings on surfaces. There are some additional clarifications regarding the white rings.

The type of surfaces that are affected by this are surfaces that have been treated with wax or oil. This issue does not affect Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) wood, or any sort of other treated wood. This means that most surfaces should be okay.

The second clarifications that is needed is that this is not an Apple-specific issue. This type of issue also affects Sonos speakers as well as Amazon Echo devices. So this is not exclusive to Apple, but it can also affect Apple products.

The primary issue that is causing these white rings is the interaction of the silicone base with the wax or oil-treated wood. The chemical reaction that occurs between the two surfaces is facilitated by the vibration of the device and is the primary cause of the white rings.

Ultimately, what this means is that users who have oil-treated or wax-treated woods in their home will need to put something under their home pods, or other speaker device, it could be something as simple as a cloth, or even a paper towel. I would recommend something soft, like felt.