iOS

Messages in iCloud by Adrian Galli

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With the release iOS 11.4, a new feature that was promised for iOS 11 is now available. Many times we have messages on multiple devices: iPad, iPhone, Mac, etc. When we read them on one everything is fine but deleting messages between those devices was a bit of a challenge. This new feature will sync messages across all iOS devices logged into the same iCloud account. The good news, too, is as one gets new devices, messages will appear as you left them on the previous device.

If you have not an install iOS 11.4, I highly recommend it. If anything for this feature but also for the many minor fine-tunings that come along with any iOS update. 

Acorns by Adrian Galli

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Saving money can be challenging. There is so much cool stuff to buy, vacations to take... bills to pay. I have a 401k, a savings account, and a change jar. I feel pretty good about my savings overall but years ago I wanted to have something a little more automatic and silent.

Great thing about a 401k, you can’t really touch the money until you retire. Bad thing about savings, you can pull from it whenever. Funny thing about the change jar, I rarely use cash so if there is ten dollars in that jar, it is a lot.

When Apple Watch launches in 2015, a lot of developers were showcasing their skill and ideas in what they could do making apps for watchOS. One that caught my eye was a very stylish app named Acorns—a digital version of a change jar but also a lot more.

The Basics:

Opening an account with Acorns, you link any debit or credit card(s) you’d like. Ever purchase you make using the registered cards will rounded up to the next dollar and that money is then deposited into you Acorn account. They call them 'Round-Ups.'

Like a change jar or piggy bank, that change adds up pretty quickly. You need not do anything other than pay for things as you would normally.

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After you hit a threshold, five dollars is the default, that money comes out of your checking account and is deposited into the your Acorns market.

Additionally, you can setup automatic deposits every week or month. You can open up the app on iPhone or Apple Watch and deposit a specific amount anytime. The Apple Watch version is exactly that an watchOS app should be—quick, simple, at-a-glance, functions.

The best part is that you’ll have the opportunity to pull money anytime, should you need it, without any penalty. I’m not an investment advisor but I’d vote on keeping it in the account longer than shorter.

When setting up the account, it will ask you how to manager the investments. Since this is a secondary investment opportunity for me, I have it set to aggressively invest the money. I don’t have tens of thousands in Acorns so it doesn’t bother me to see it fluctuate but over all it has made gains.

There are some other functions that are fun and helpful. Found Money is a feature linked to some of the biggest online retailers and brands like eBay, New Balance, Nike, Walgreens, and Apple.

When you purchase things from those companies through the Acorns app, a specific value or percentage of your purchase is gifted to your Acorns account. If you buy some Nike shoes, for example, the investment is currently 5% of you purchase. Not bad.

Over the years I’ve used it, I’ve literally saved months of rent worth of money. Because it is not something I access frequently, I’m not tempted to spend the money. Being a beautiful app, fun, easy to use, and nicely designed, Acorns adds a little incentive to saving money.

It ranks in as one of my favorite apps simply because of how it works and its design but it also is a favorite service. I definitely recommend it. Make it your digital piggy bank and save for a vacation, your future, or just have some backup money for an emergency.

Download and everyone who signs up gets $5.

Download Acorns

Price: Free

 

https://acorns.com/invite/NXTWY6

WWDC 2016 by Adrian Galli

Apple's twenty-seventh year of the famous World Wide Developers Concerence and this years was no disappointment.

Not only have I worked for Apple for thirteen years, the technology that Apple innovates drives my business and personal life in ways I could not begin to communicate in a blog post. WWDC is always an exciting time of year for us in the technology industry and with Apple's four pillars of software development, iOS, macOS (formerly OS X [ten]), watchOS, and tvOS, there is more engagement than ever.

iOS 10 Today View

iOS 10 Today View

iOS 10 is the biggest advancement in the most advanced mobile operating system since the dawn of iOS. With rich notifications and widgets right from the lock screen, raise to wake, and more interactions using 3D Touch, iPhones and iPads are becoming even more powerful and this opens huge doors to developers.

The biggest announcement, I think, is the availability of Siri api. Third party applications can be designed to integrate with Siri like those built by Apple. Image: "Hey Siri, I need a Lyft to Midway Airport." Or: "Hey Siri, I'd like a flight on Delta to London, departing August 17th, in business class." With Apple Pay, one can then pay in moments after Siri find the appropriate response to the query. I can't wait to see what developers do with Siri.

macOS has been the core of the Mac for 15 years. It is an incredibly powerful, intuitive, and secure operating system that runs every Mac. Sierra, the name for macOS 10.12, has great power behind it. Siri, again, is no doubt my favorite feature with integration with the desktop operating system.

Siri, at its core function, powers a voice interface for all of Apple's major products now and can be access from all of these devices: Apple Watch, Mac, iPhone, iPad, AppleTV. If you don't use Siri, you're missing out on the power, ease of use, and fun.

With a longer list of great features like Picture in Picture, an upgraded Photos app, Apple Pay for web, Universal Clipboard (also part of iOS), Tabs for all [multi-window] applications, and advances in the integration with iCloud Drive, macOS will power the next generations of Macs.

Apple Watch was released a little over a year ago. It rarely leaves my wrist and has quickly become one of my favorite tools. Not to be relegated to "gadget status," I find I'm free from my iPhone. I used to drag my iPhone from room to room in anticipation of a message or a call or needing to know some piece of data like weather. But with Apple Watch, my iPhone rests nicely on the coffee table or night stand for hours while I'm at home and Apple Watch fills in while I'm free to move about and not taking my most valuable computer with me. 

watchOS 3 Dock, Breathe, Activity Watch Face

watchOS 3 Dock, Breathe, Activity Watch Face

watchOS 3 builds on a powerful and ever tiny computer for your wrist. The speed, up seven fold, the interface tweaked to allow quicker access to you most used apps, and new input methods for text that give freedom when Dictation isn't a viable option. Securely unlock your Mac while wearing your Apple Watch or use Apple Pay for the web to buy things quickly and securely online. Apple brings a whole new set of features to watchOS just for people who utilize wheelchairs and stress a relieving app to help lower said stress. The evolution of Apple Watch is just at the beginning. 

Lastly, Apple TV, the device that let me cut a major expense (cable) out of my life. Video on demand, iTunes purchases, Apple Music, Siri, games, and more, make the AppleTV a favorite TV and gaming console. Now supporting four controllers, developers have new opportunities for gaming and users have more opportunities for fun with friends and family. 

Check out all the new features in the online previews and be ready for the free upgrades in the fall. This is sure to be an awesome year for Apple technology.

www.apple.com

Images courtesy of Apple PR

Photos Tips and Tricks: Using Black and White Controls by Adrian Galli

Black and white photography is the original; classic, striking, moody, and reduces the photo to a more fundamental state. It is one of my favorite forms of photography and from some of the most famous photographers, there is nothing quite like it. Ansel Adams, Mary Ellen Mark, Yusuf Karsh, amount many others, are renown for their use of black and white.

In today's digital world, there are very few actual black and white cameras; the Leica Monochrom, Red Epic-M Dragon (monochrome) are a few notable examples that come to mind but, generally, if you're using a digital camera, even with a black and white mode, you're shooting color (RGB — red, green, blue) and it is converted to black and white. In other words, if you're making or seeing black and white digital photography, chances are you're look it was originally color.

Without giving a long scientific explanation of why or how digital cameras work, a "general" digital camera have a sensor with pixels, each capturing its own color: red, green, or blue. The Leica M Monochrom uses a sensor where each pixel captures only luminance.

Many of us simply can't afford a Leica or we would really like the option of color photography. Sadly, we can't, or currently can't, have a camera that is "dual-action" color or mono. As such, we'll need to settle for one or the other but don't be discouraged, a color photo can be altered into a stunning black and white photography.

In OS X's Photos app, there are three filters for use to convert your images: Mono, Tonal, and Noir (my personal favorite). Having covered how to use filters in a previous post, we'll forego these and move into a more advanced technique for black and white conversions and more flexible.

Original image, enhanced, no black and white.

Original image, enhanced, no black and white.

Opening an image and entering the edit mode, one will click on Adjustments. Even with the default option for adjustments, black and white is a already visible. Using the adjustment is a simple using the slider until the desired black and white appearance is achieved. This adjustment mimics the effects of using a color filter on black and white film.

Red Filter (right) vs. Blue Filter (left)

Red Filter (right) vs. Blue Filter (left)

This alone will give you more flexibility than just the general black and white filters. However, opening the adjustments will bring more control and a finer look should the basic black and white slider.

Upon opening Black & White, four additional sliders are available: Intensity, Neutrals, Tone, and Grain.

These adjustments are the key to taking advantage of the black and white capabilities of Photos. While it is a simple toolset, there is a great amount of flexibility, like nothing found in iPhoto, and also found on the iOS version of Photos. It is far different from yours average black and white conversion tool found in other apps, I have come to enjoy the ease and power.

Intensity: The strength by which the effect is applied to the photo.
Neutrals: Lightens or darkens the gray areas (midtones) of the photo.
Tone: Adjusts the photo for a more high-contrast or low-contrast look.
Grain: Adjusts the amount of film grain that appears in the photo.

For the final version of Art Deco Mountain, I initially expected I would use the Noir built-in filter, however, I found it too intense. While I wanted a nearly black sky with high contract with the highlights, the shadow area of the building was too dark.  Applying the Black & White adjustment and fine tuning the Intensity, Neutrals, and Tone, the sky looked as I wished as did the building. 

Art Deco Mountain

Art Deco Mountain

Making good use of these four adjustments on can achieve many high quality black and white effects on a photograph. This is to say, we should not forget about the many other adjustments available in Photos as things like Color, Contrast, Definition, and many others will also impact your black and white photography.

Instagram Gets Modern by Adrian Galli

Instagram's new icon.

Instagram's new icon.

What does his mean for the hipsters? 

After years of waiting and hoping, Instagram gets a new icon and a mordernized interface. As one of my favorites in social networking, I'm pleased to see it moving forward... admittedly, I'm not sure about the icon. I don't think I'm thrilled with it but the hurrah over how "ugly" it is seems highly exaggerated. 

The interface is overall much cleaner and I could see these changes coming with some adjustments made in the app recently such as flatter, less colorful UI features.

Technology is like a fast moving river. One can try to swim against the current and fail. One can also get swept away in the flow of water into confusion; perhaps drown in it. Or one can navigate the river like so many pioneers before and use the waterways to one's advantage. 

My experience in the industry, many fight changes in technology and cause themselves much frustration and irritation. Technology is change. I have made my way navigating the technological river and built a huge skill set rivaled my few.  

For right now, the icon is fine and the interface is great. Besides, if a change in icon is the worst thing to happen to a beloved app, consider it a first world problem like having too many choices at one's favorite burrito joint.

The *real* problem is that the new icon doesn't go with any of the other icons on my home screen.