An Embarrassment Waiting to Happen

iPhone Do Not Disturb Setting Screen

The latest version of the Apple iPhone operating system offers you a way to keep your phone quiet when you are in public.

No vibrating “sound of a cell phone on silent”.  No marimba alert  breaking through in quiet moments of a concert. No nothing.

The Do Not Disturb toggle switch will keep your phone truly silent.

Except,  you have to change two default settings to make your phone really quiet.

By default, if anyone calls you from your “Favorites” list of people, the phone will ring and/or vibrate, ignoring your Do Not Disturb instructions.

By default, if anyone calls you a second time in three minutes, the phone will ring and/or vibrate, ignoring your Do Not Disturb instructions.

To really keep the phone from making noise you have to change your Notification Settings.  

Under the toggle switch where you activate the Do Not Disturb mode, choose the Notifications menu.

On this screen change “Allow Calls from Favorites” to “No One“.  Also toggle “Repeated Calls” to OFF.

I don’t know why Apple chose disruptive defaults for its Do Not Disturb feature.  Although I appreciate the flexibility of the optional settings,  it make a lot more sense to me to have a Do Not Disturb switch actually mean that your phone will not disturb you when you activate that hush setting.

I think the phone should behave the way most people expect.  Geeks and VIPs can decide that they  must be reachable.  These folks can then enable the exception list.

But, by default Do Not Disturb should mean just that!

iOS 6, Too Hot to Handle

Yesterday Apple unleashed a new version of the operating system that runs its iPhones, iPads, and probably iEverything.  I accepted the offer to download and install iOS6 on our household’s iDevices when I synched one of our iPhones yesterday morning.  I’d heard good things about the operating system’s new features, and, besides, Apple is fairly insistent that you upgrade when you can.  I didn’t make Apple nag me, I eagerly upgraded.

The OS looked good, but when we took our  iPhone 3gs’s outside of the house and tested the new mapping feature, the iPhones started running hot to the touch and losing battery life very quickly.

The news media has ignored the power story, instead reiterating how wonderful the iPhone 5 is and talking about the new features of iOS6. However, consumers like me have been screaming for help (or vengeance) on online forums and Tweets. A Google search for “iOS6 Battery Drain” shows plenty of anguish loose in the Apple orchard.

The loss of battery power is severe, maybe especially so in the older models like our 3gs.  A few hours without recharging and your phone is a lump of inert electronics and trim.

The Google search does turn up what the user community suspects are the problems.

  • Apparently the widely-disliked Apple map app is a power hog, in addition to its functional failings.  It, and other apps that use “Location Services,” do something wrong, like check-in with the mother ship too frequently. As a result the cell radio is active too much of the time.

How to fix the power drain:

  • Turn Location Services OFF for the new map app.  The setting is buried in the General, Privacy menu, but it’s a treasure worth hunting for. On my phone I went on a disabling spree, and I turned off location services for the map app, turned off Genius for Apps, and turned location-based iAds is OFF.  I also turned off “Use Cellular Data” for automatic downloads and iTunes Match.Yes, having a map not be able to tell where you are is stupid.  

But when we  turned off that location service and rebooted (because somewhere we read that the map app keeps the gps function going even after it is closed), our phones stopped being hot and battery life returned to pre-iOS6 levels.  We made our changes this morning, and my phone didn’t even want a mid-afternoon snack.

Now we’re enjoying iOS6 without having to keep our iPhones plugged into a charger.

Still, as a IT professional, I wonder all to hell and back how Apple could have put out another power-draining operating system release, this one caused by an Apple-made map app that is both inferior and faulty. Don’t they have pride, or at least a quality control department?

iPhone Backup Slowness Fixed

My iPhone 3GS backups had become incredibly slow, taking over 10 minutes on a fast computer. The backups and syncs were almost instantaneous when I first plugged in my iPhone, and the problem was vexing because my configuration, apps, and general information hadn’t changed.

I looked on the Internet and found several false leads. The most promising-sounding — but absolutely worthless in real life — was the suggestion to delete the old backups which were probably corrupt. I spent minutes in iTunes discovering where the “delete the backups” function was, and then discovered no speed improvement.

I finally found the answer to solve the slow iPhone backups on the Apple site that worked for me: delete the photographs and videos in the “Camera Roll”. You can download the photos and videos from the iPhone to your PC (copy them using Windows Explorer if you’re on a Windows machine). Then delete them from the iPhone… I did the delete in a Windows Explorer window while my phone was connected.  Now the iPhone backs up and syncs in under a minute.

If you’re having problems with slow backups try copying and then deleting your camera roll. Having photos in other folders seems not to affect the speed.

And, I linked above to Apple’s answer to help it rise in Google search results.  If I saw the right 2010 answer earlier, I would have saved time and angst!

No Flash in the Pad

My web design approach is to create simple, good-looking pages that attract visitors to my client’s web sites and then to their businesses.

When I first started designing, I had to fight persuade clients that animated cartoon .gif files and unrequested music were not not good additions to their Internet home. Times changed, and the music died down and the animated files became fewer and fewer. But, then, Adobe unleashed a new technology: Flash!

Flash lets web designers put movement and sound into their pages. Done correctly the animation is professional video quality, and the sound can be multi-tracked and amazing. It is terrific tool for presentations and for some online functions such as videos and virtual tours.

But, I have consistently dissuaded clients from using Flash, especially for “welcoming” visitors to their home page. (Why do people feel the need to welcome web site visitors, anyway?? Visitors want to be informed, not welcomed!)

Flash blocked on an iPhone
Example of an iPhone blocking Flash. The tiny blue dot in the middle represents the blocked Flash -- the visitor never will see the key content on the center of this page.

My reasons have been:

  • Flash is more difficult to produce than simple text and photographic web pages. This means more work for me or another designer. More work means greater cost, and most of my clients are very cost conscious.
  • Search engines don’t understand Flash content very well, if at all. If you want to show up on Google search results, using Flash gives you a handicap to overcome.
  • Flash can be slow to download and start up. We’ve all seen the Flash screen countdowns, promising that they’re “loading… 55%”. A certain percentage of visitors (potential customers) will click away instead of waiting.

Now Steve Jobs and Apple’s latest gadget, the iPad, re-validates my recommendation to avoid Flash. Jobs has gotten into a slap fight with Adobe, Flash’s makers, about the application. Flash has always been blocked from working on iPhones because Jobs thinks it is buggy and has security flaws, and now he has expanded the ban to keep Flash from working on the hot Apple iPad.

Think about it: if you are a company trying to get business from Internet visitors, you want the hip visitors who can afford things like iPhones and iPads. But, if your site uses Flash, these best prospects won’t see what you’re offering!

Apple’s decision to continue to block Flash reinforces my decision to stay away from Flash as a web development tool. If you are a large corporation with a large budget, you can make Flash and non-Flash versions of your pages — or normal and mobile versions — to get around Apple’s Flash block. But, what a lot of work to use a tool that doesn’t truly benefit most sites.

My recommendation is to save the extra money you’d spend on Flash development and instead spend that on Google ads, updating your site’s content, or creating an email marketing campaign.

Flash doesn’t show up on iPhones or iPads. It’s relatively expensive to develop. Flash just doesn’t make sense for most sites. Sorry, Adobe!

Do You Want to Exclude iPhone Users from Your Site?

The Full Navigation Menu
The Full Navigation Menu

I was talking with a San Francisco limousine service owner last week who wants his website to drive more potential clients to his business. As we chatted, I pulled out my iPhone and took a look at his site.

On my iPhone it looked like he had only one page on the site.

As we talked, our conversation sounded more and more like we were from alternate universes.  He kept talking about the page about his airport services, about his tour services, with his contact information, etc. And, I kept looking in vain for links on the one static page I saw.

When I got home and went to his site. From my desktop PC I saw the navigation links to all of the pages he’d been talking about.

I investigated and discovered that the navigation menu and its links had been built using Microsoft’s FrontPage (or Expression Web) and that program’s custom Java applets.  The menus look great on browsers that run applications from websites. But, iPhones block these applications (and they also disallow Flash).

My first step in helping Regency Limousines capture more business was to re-write the navigation menus using standards-complaint JavaScript which is supported by iPhones.  Limousine services — and your business! — want to be seen by iPhone owners.  I haven’t seen official statistics, but I’m willing to bet that iPhone users as a class are more likely than average to call for limousine services.

There was no visual or design reason to use the Microsoft applet for the navigation menu.  Microsoft had simply created an easy way for novice users to install navigation buttons that change when you put your cursor over them.  But, the way Microsoft created the navigation buttons made them take a relative lot of computer resources to display.  And, Microsoft’s way of creating moving images was not standard, didn’t catch on, and very few sites use it.

Apple had an easy decision when it designed the iPhone.  It decided to not support a seldom-used, non-standard, resource-intensive way of displaying buttons.  Those few sites, like the limousine service, that used Microsoft’s applet would not show navigation menus on iPhones.  But, few businesses would be impacted, and iPhone users would probably assume a broken web site and find a competitor’s site to use.

So, I’ve uncovered another step for site owners who want more business from their websites:  check out the site on an iPhone, Blackberry, and other smart phone.  Make sure that the up-scale people carrying these devices can see your up-scale website.