Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Tingle or vibration from the back of the iPad while charging

Posted in Apple, ipad, ipod by commorancy on August 24, 2012

You may or may not have noticed, but if you run your hand along the back of the iPad  (or even an iPod touch) while it’s charging, especially when using a wall power adapter, you may notice a vibration or tingle sensation on your hand. You might be wondering what it is. This article is short and sweet, so let’s explore.

Charging your iPad

When you plug your iPad into a wall outlet (or any charger for that matter), you would think the current should go into the device alone. Well, it doesn’t. Some of the charge is dispersed along the metal case by design. Here is a comment on Apple’s forum quoted from Apple’s support team regarding this issue:

There is measurable AC voltage across the external metal parts when an iPad charges. The measured voltage is within the SELV (Separated Extra-Low Voltage) limit, which means that the iPad is safe to touch. Additionally, the touch current is within the safety limit according to UL/IEC 60950 (Safety of Information Technology Equipment).[1]

So, there you have it.  This is by design and nothing to be concerned over.  Although, what Apple should have done is take that current being dispersed onto the case surface and run it to an LED to soak it up so you feel nothing.  Of course, that means the iPad would need an external LED, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to know when the device is charging without having to turn it on.

Checking your iPad with Apple

Note, if you get anything more than a mild sensation from the back of the iPad, then you should take it back to Apple.  The current you feel from the back should be minuscule.  If you see any sparks or feel anything more than a slight vibration, your iPad might be electrically defective.  If you’re unsure, take it to Apple and have them check it out.

So, there you go.

[1] Apple’s Discussion Forum Comentary on this issue

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Useless excess: Fashion Victim Edition

Posted in Apple, computers, iphone, ipod by commorancy on December 8, 2010

For whatever reason today, a lot of people can’t seem to temper their purchasing of useless things.  I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of this on occasion myself, but I try to exercise restraint with purchases by asking, “Do I have a real need?”

Purchasing excess

I see lots of people buying things where they haven’t really justified a need in their lives.  I’d say the most egregious example of this useless excess is the iPad.  So many people walked into the purchase of this device not knowing how it would enrich their lives, how they might use it or what it benefits it might offer.  Is the iPad useless excess?  I’d say so.  I still haven’t yet fully justified the purchase of this device for myself.  The only justification I have right now is the larger screen and reading email in a portable way.  Those are the justifications I’ve been able to come up with.  Since a I don’t avidly read digital books, that part isn’t really overall that useful me.  I do have an iPod Touch and have found this device to immensely enrich my life, though.  It solved my portable music need, it has a browser, a Kindle app and email and a few admin apps for in-a-pinch situations. It has a long battery life so I have something to use pretty much anywhere, again, in-a-pinch.   So, the cost and use for this isn’t useless excess for me.  On the other hand, the iPad isn’t that portable, so really doesn’t work for things like portable music.

Is an iPad worth $500?  Not yet for me. However, there are times where I’m walking around the office and having an iPad in hand could come in handy for spot email reading or forwarding an email.  Since it also supports some administrative tools, I might even be able to justify it for the use of those tools. On the other hand, a netbook is a more powerful hardware tool (i.e., usb ports, networking ports, SD card slot, etc).  So, hardware-wise, a Netbook is much more justified for what I do. They’re just a bit more cumbersome to use than an iPad.  On the other hand, composing email on an iPad is basically useless.  I’d much rather have a real keyboard, so I’d definitely need a dock for extended use of an iPad.

Keeping up with the Jones’

A lot of useless excess stems from ‘social’ reasons.  Some people just want to show off their money.  The reality is, I find this disturbing.  Why would you want to buy something just to walk around and flaunt it?  I really don’t relish the thought of being robbed or mugged. I mean, I can somewhat understand fashion.  Not so much fashion excess (i.e., diamond studded bling), but wearing fashion to accentuate yourself we have become accustomed to.  I don’t personally go for high fashionista, though.  Useful fashion yes, excess fashion no.  Unfortuantely, an iPad is not a fashion accessory.  No computer or electronic device is (other than those trashy flashing earrings). So, why must people treat Apple products (and some computers and phones) as fashion when it clearly isn’t.  You should always buy a computer for a need in your life, not because your next door neighbor has one or you ‘think’ it might be useful.

Coffee table paperweights

Now that the iPad has been out for about 9 months, I’m still not finding a solid use for the iPad in my personal life. For business use, I have a couple reasons (cited above), but these reasons are not yet enough to justify a $500 expense.  In fact, I would think there’s going to be a growing used market for iPads very quickly here.  People will realize they don’t need or use them and will need the money more.   Especially when it is no longer the ‘chic’ device (and that’s quickly approaching).  Right now is also the prime time to get rid of your iPad, not before it goes out of ‘fashion’.  Additionally, it’s almost guaranteed that by spring 2011, Apple will have a new model iPad ready to ship.   This will majorly devalue the resale value of the 2010 iPad.  So, if you want to sell your iPad for any decent amount of change, you should consider doing it now.  Otherwise, sitting on it will only devalue it down to probably the $150-200 range by end of 2011 and less then that by 2012.

By now, people should really know if the iPad has a use in their life.  Only you can answer that question, but if the most you do is turn it on once a week (or less), it’s a paperweight.  You should probably consider selling it now before the new iPad is released if you want any return on your investment.  Granted, you may have paid $500, but you’re likely only to get about $200-250 (16GB version) depending on where you sell.  If you put it on eBay as an auction, you might get more money out of it ($450, if you’re lucky).  By this time next year, though, you probably won’t get half that amount on eBay.

As another example, see the Wii.  Now that the Wii has been out for several years, it is no longer the ‘chic’ thing to own.  Today, people are likely purchasing it because they want to play a specific game title.  And, that’s how it should be.  You should always buy computer gear for the software it runs, not because it’s the ‘thing to have’.  Wii consoles are now in a glut and easy to find.  So, if you want one today, it’s very easy to get them.

Gift excess

I know people who buy gift items not because it’s a useful gift, but because it’s the thing to have.  Worse, though, is that the person who receives the gift doesn’t even use it or carry it.  In this example case, it’s an iPad 64GB version.  Yet, this person doesn’t carry it around or, indeed, even use it.  Instead, they prefer to use their 2-3 year old notebook.  What does that say about the usefulness of such useless excess?

Is the iPad considered useless excess? At the moment, yes.  There may be certain professions that have found a way to use the iPad as something more than a novelty, but I’ve yet to see a business convert to using iPads as their sole means of corporate management.  For example, it would say something if FedEx would adopt the iPad is their means of doing business.  Instead of the small hand scanners, they could carry around the iPad to do this work.  Oh, that’s right, there’s no camera on the iPad, so scanning isn’t even useful.

While this article may seem to specifically bash the iPad, it isn’t intended to focus solely on them.  The iPhone is another example of useless excess.  You pay $200 just to get the phone, you’re locked into a 2-4 year contract with at least $80 a month.  And, the worst part, the iPhone isn’t even a very good phone.  Dare I say, Nokia and Motorola still make better quality phone electronics than Apple ever has.  Apple is a computer maker, not a phone maker.  So, they still haven’t the experience with phone innards.  So, when talking to people on the iPhone, the voice quality, call quality and clarity suffer over better made handsets.  Again, people justify the purchase of an iPhone 4 because of the ‘Apps’, not because of quality.  Worse, though, is that many people buying iPhones are doing so because it’s ‘the thing to have’, not because it’s actually useful in their lives.  If the only thing you find yourself doing with the iPhone is talking on the phone, then you’re a victim of useless excess.

How to curb useless excess

Ask yourself, ‘How will this thing make me more productive, or solve a problem?’  If you cannot come up with an answer, it’s useless excess.  Once you find at least one real need for a device, then the purchase is justified.  If you just want it to have it, that’s useless excess.  Just having something because you can doesn’t make you a better person.  It just makes you a victim of useless excess.  Simply because you can afford something doesn’t mean you should.

How do you justify an iPad purchase?  For example, if you intend to mount it into a door of your kitchen as an internet recipe retrieval device and you bake or cook every day, that would be one way it could enrich your life.  Although, it’s also not impervious to water or other wet ingredients, so you might want to cover it to avoid those issues.  In other words, for a computer to not be considered useless excess, it would need to be used every day to provide you with useful information you can’t otherwise get.

If you’re looking for a holiday gift, don’t just buy an iPad because you can, buy it because the person will actually use and actually needs it to solve a problem.

iTunes 10 and Windows 7: We’re Back (stupid fixable problems)

Posted in Apple, ipod, itunes, itunes bugs, windows by commorancy on September 14, 2010

In an earlier randosity article, I discuss permissions issues related to iTunes 8. We’ll, these issues have now returned with a vengeance in iTunes 10. Does Apple not actually test their software on Windows? I mean, seriously, it’s not that hard to fix this issue when installing.

Apple’s weak Windows developers

Clearly, Apple only focuses on Apple. When it comes to Windows, they just vomit out the software without thought to what crap it really is. Come on Apple, fix your crap. I’m tired of dealing with these issues that are so easily resolved.

How can Apple permanently fix this problem? Simple, the iTunes installer needs to uninstall iTunes fully and clean up all iTunes registry entries completely. Then, the installer should reinstall iTunes from a clean setup. Apple should NOT do the install-over-whats-existing-thing and hope it all works. This clearly doesn’t work.

Anyway…

If you are an iTunes 10 user and you continually keep seeing THIS WINDOW when launching iTunes:

Stupid iTunes 10 Startup Window

Stupid iTunes 10 Startup Window

… and that says “Please wait while Windows configures iTunes” …

Then, follow these instructions in my earlier randosity article to fix the registry permissions for iTunes.

Ok, so the earlier fix doesn’t work. But, you can read the article as it has some relevant information about what causes the issue. Anyway, this word doc attached contains the commands necessary to reset the registry permissions on iTunes and QuickTime registry keys.

Note, since WordPress doesn’t allow attaching functioning scripts as part of the media, I have created this Word doc with the commands. You will need to use the following steps to create the script. Note you will need to quit out of iTunes before you run this command.

Steps to create the reset.cmd command from resetit.doc:

  • Save the ResetIt.doc file to your hard drive
  • Open it with MSOffice or OpenOffice
  • Press ctrl-a to select everything in the doc, ctrl-c to copy it
  • Launch Notepad (Start->All Programs->Accessories->Notepad or Windows Button->All Programs->Accessories->Notepad)
  • In the Notepad window, press ctrl-v to paste
  • In Notepad, File->Save As… and save the file as Reset.cmd in a location you can easily find*
  • Launch a command prompt with Start->All Programs->Accessories->Command Prompt using right-click selecting ‘Run As Administrator’
  • In the command prompt, cd to where you saved Reset.cmd
  • Type in ‘reset.cmd’ into the command shell

Note that this script will take a few minutes to run. Once the script completes, try starting iTunes. If you no longer get this panel, it’s fixed. If you do, then you may need to run this reset script 2 or 3 times more to fully repair the permissions. The reason is that subinacl (the command that’s used to reset each key in the registry) doesn’t continue locating more keys and repairing them once an error occurs (even when it’s successful at changing things). Make sure your login account in Windows 7 is an administrator account.

I have found that the permissions were relatively easy to fix, but the difficulty is with Microsoft’s subinacl.exe command. This command doesn’t seem to work properly to drill down to keys below. This is why you will see lots of duplication in the script. The script needs to run the command multiple times to drill down and get all of the keys. This is also why you may need to run the script several times. If you find you don’t have subinacl.exe, you will need to download subinacl.exe from Microsoft.

Second Note, uninstallation of iTunes and reinstallation may not resolve this issue as the registry keys may not be deleted on uninstallation (due to permissions problems). Therefore, uninstalling and reinstalling probably won’t work. Even still, the new keys may install with the crap permissions that the existing ones already have and you’ll be right back in the same boat. The fix is to make the keys readable and writable by the current user and the administrator.

Come on Apple, fix your crap software.

*Make sure that notepad saves the file as reset.cmd and not reset.cmd.txt. To do this, in the Save As requester, make sure to type in only reset.cmd. Double check to make sure it didn’t append the .txt extension. If it does, you will need to rename this file and remove the .txt portion to run the script.

Disclaimer: The script described above modifies registry keys and is used at your own risk. These keys have been checked against what Apple uses, but following the steps above and modifying the registry is not without risk. Therefore, each user who follows these instructions assumes all risk when creating and running the above reset.cmd script.

Apple’s iPad: 10 inch iPod Touch or iDisaster?

Posted in Apple, ipod, itunes by commorancy on January 28, 2010

Recently, I wrote the article “What is it about tablets?”.  In that article, I discussed what Apple must do to make the newly announced iPad (tablet computer) successful.  Apple needs a paradigm shifting technology embedded in the iPad that would make the usability of such a tablet go leaps ahead of previous tablet attempts.  Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Failure to launch (and type!)

The iPad may look like a pad, but it functions nothing like a pad.  In fact, this device looks and acts like an iPod touch on steroids.  But, Apple failed this device on so many levels.  First, let’s start with the design.  The iPad back is not flat (which is just like the newest thin iPod touch).  The back is curved. So, laying the iPad on a flat surface leads to wobbly typing or surfing.  This forces you to put it on a soft surface or hold it in your hand.  Not an optimal or convenient design.

Typing input

On the touch, however, it was small enough to hold in one hand and type with the other.  In fact, you could hold it with two hands and thumb type.  With a 10 inch sized device, one hand typing isn’t really an option.  But, this whole typing issue just goes back to the fundamental input problem with tablets.  How do you reliably get input into a tablet computer?  The options are voice, handwriting recognition and touch typing.  None of these input styles make for a truly usable computer experience.  So, on this level, Apple has failed.  Funny too, because Apple is usually the leader when it comes to innovative ways to improve user interface experience.

Finger Friendly?

I’d like to point out another possible problem.  On the iPod Touch, the touch screen surface only works with an actual finger touch.  It doesn’t work with gloves on or by using your fingernail.  As a result, this makes the touch surface a problem in the winter or for women with long nails.  I do not presently know that the iPad uses this same touch screen technology, but it’s very probable.  Therefore, this could make the iPad not friendly for glove wearers or women with long nails.

Lack of ports

Most computers today need to support the latest in port technology.  More and more, however, Apple seems to shun standards and try for their own proprietary connectors.  Sometimes it works.  More often than not, it fails.  In this case with this device, it adds to the design failure.  With the iPad, Apple should have added standard ports like HDMI and a Secure Digital slot.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do this and this device suffers as a result.  This is especially bad considering most Netbooks offer most of these ports.  Yes, some Netbooks even offer HDMI ports.

iPod Touch Clone

Unfortunately for the iPad, it appears to be a 10 inch iPod touch.  The interface is, of course, 10 inches.  This means it uses the same interface that’s on the iPhone and iPod touch.  On a small handheld device, that interface works well.  On a 10 inch screen, the oddness of it all is quite apparent.  The resolution is higher on the 10 inch screen and, thus, the iPad scales up most apps to accommodate.  The problem is the scaling.  Some apps look fine scaled.  Some can actually take advantage of the larger screen (mapping softwares).  With low res apps, the iPad scales up the app window to fill the 10 inch screen which looks quite lame.  Granted, all of this can be fixed by developers reworking their apps.  But, for now, it makes this device all the more clumsy.

App Store Tie-In

This is yet another in a series of devices that Apple is requiring the user to use solely with iTunes and the App store.  Inevitably, the iPad will be jailbroken.  Until then, the audience is captive to the Apple store.  So, if you want apps or media, that’s where you must go.  Of course, you can import media into iTunes app and sync that, but you cannot load any apps other than those that come from Apple’s app store until it is jailbroken (probably the day after it gets released).

This also means that tried and tested apps you’ve come to know on Windows or even Mac OS X may never become available on the iPad due to iTunes App Store restrictions.

A must have? No.  Not yet anyway.

Apple has yet to convince me (and many others) of the necessity of this device.  There’s no wow-factor here or anything compelling to make the iPad stand out as must have.  There’s nothing here to say that it is even useful for anything beyond what a Netbook can accomplish for less money.  The iPod touch is still much more useful due to its size.  The iPad is sitting in a cost space near Netbook pricing (the iPad is more costly), but Netbooks still have much more functionality due to a real keyboard and better use of the screen (not to mention, full fledged apps).

At the entry level pricing of $499, which will mean a bare bones model, you’re sure to get as little as possible.   To get all the bells and whistles, you’re likely to pay well over $1000 for the equivalent of a large iPod touch.

In other words, Apple did not provide a paradigm shifting technology necessary to make the iPad absolutely compelling.  In fact, the whole big clumsy nature of this tablet is quite apparent even from the image of Steve Jobs holding it.

This is a 1.0 device that feels like a 0.5 device with poorly thought out software.  The iPod/iPhone interface and its apps were designed to be used on handheld small screen devices.  Putting this interface onto a 10 inch sized display and expecting full fledged computing out of portable apps is stretching this device to its limits.  Granted, Apple can generally get the kinks out of new devices.  But, the tablet has such a long history of failure going back to Grid Computers in the early 90s that Apple has a steep bank to climb to get out of this trench they’ve dug themselves into.

Overall, I’m still underwhelmed and I’ve seen nothing yet that screams, must have.  An iPod touch screams that due to its sheer size and portability.  The iPad definitely does not!

Reef

Posted in images, iphone, ipod, landscapes, render, terragen, wallpaper by commorancy on January 20, 2009

iTunes can corrupt your iPod’s iTunes library

Posted in Apple, computers, corruption, ipod, itunes, music by commorancy on January 19, 2009

As a follow up to this Randosity article, this article will focus on a specific condition when iTunes will corrupt your iPod’s music database… over and over and over.

How it all starts

About a week ago, my iPod became unrecognized by iTunes.  Because iTunes cannot ‘recognize’ the iPod, it requests that you restore the iPod using the restore feature.  As a result of a domino effect issue, this problem became more and more compounded.  Compounded to the point that I was ready to sell the iPod to someone else and get a different solution.

What is the issue exactly?

This issue started right after the first unrecognized error.  After the iPod becomes unrecognizable (we’ll get to what that means shortly), I had to restore the iPod to actually use it again.  From that point forward, I kept having to restore it about once a day.  Mind you, this is the 8GB iPod Touch and not a 60GB iPod.  If it had been a 60GB device, I would have sold it no questions asked.  I digress.  Anyway, the restores kept getting more and more frequent.

  • So, I plug the iPod Touch into the computer’s USB port and let iTunes synchronize the touch.  The synchronize progresses normally and then ends correctly.
  • I unplug the iPod and check it out.  Yep, everything is all there.
  • I plug it in again and iTunes then syncs again.  Except, this time I noticed (or thought I noticed) iTunes synchronizing some music that was already on the iPod.  I thought it was weird, but I discounted it.
  • I unplug the iPod and check the ‘Music’ app.  I see a “There is no music loaded” message…frustrating (note this was the first time it had happened).
  • I plug the iPod back into the computer.   iTunes says, “This iPod is unrecognized, please restore it”.
  • Note that the Touch’s Apps are all still loaded and the iPod works even though iTunes won’t recognize it (and the music is missing).

What does ‘unrecognizable‘ mean exactly in the iTunes?

After poking around on the Internet about any similar type issues, I’ve found others who’ve had similar behavior on their iPods.  The base problem that prevents iTunes from ‘recognizing’ the iPod is that the iPod’s music database (iTunesDB) file has become corrupted.  Basically, when the iPod’s iTunesDB file becomes corrupted internally, iTunes refuses to recognize the device or work with it forcing the user to do complete restore (even when the unit is STILL functioning).

Restore Process

There are so many problems with this restore process, suffice it to say that Apple is in desperate need of help.  Apple has designed the iPod to work under ideal conditions (i.e., never need to restore).  However, when it comes time to restore your iPod and because they didn’t really work this all out properly, the restore process is where iTunes fails miserably.

When iTunes needs to restore the unit, it places the iPod into a special restore mode.  A mode that appears to make the unit receptive to installation of firmware (a special icon appears).  After iTunes extracts and transfers the firmware over to the iPod, the iPod reboots and installs the firmware (all the while iTunes is watching the progress).  After the unit has restored the firmware to factory defaults, iTunes allows you to try to restore from a previous backup or set it up as a new iPod.  This factory reset process can take anywhere between 10-15 minutes.

iPod Backups

iTunes only allows for one (1) stored backup of your iPod at a time.  So, if that one (1) backup that iTunes has is corrupted, you’ll waste a ton of time trying to restore only to find that the iPod is still corrupted.  So, you’ll have to start the restore completely over again and then set the iPod up as a new device (wasting even more time).  This happened to me.  I also quickly realized it was simpler (and faster) to avoid using an existing backup and just setting it up from scratch again.  Apple really needs to allow iTunes to take multiple backups in dated slots and allow these backups to be stored outside of iTunes in files.

Note, if you choose to set the iPod up from scratch, you will have to completely set up your apps again.  For example, settings like your WiFi settings, your email settings and your VPN settings will all have to be manually reconfigured.  Any apps that require login and passwords will need to be re-entered.

Restoring your settings and media

If you’ve chosen to restore your iPod’s customization settings from a backup, this process will take between 10-15 minutes to complete.  And no, as slow as this process is, it doesn’t restore music, videos or any other media.  That still has yet to be done (and comes last).  After the settings have been restored, you now have a workable (and very blank) iPod again.  So, the next thing iTunes does is sync up the applications, then the music, then everything else.   The applications will take anywhere from a few minutes to over ten minutes depending on how many apps you have downloaded.  The music restore will take whatever it takes to copy the size of your unit (about 6 gigs takes at least 15-25 minutes).  So, an 8GB iPod Touch, it takes probably 15-45 minutes depending.  If you’re restoring a fully loaded 32 or 60GB iPod, your rebuild will take a whole lot longer.

Corruption

The issue I faced, however, is that something kept corrupting the iTunesDB file on the iPod.  It was either the iPod’s hardware messing up or iTunes was shuttling something over it shouldn’t have been.  I noticed that on a particular CD the artwork kept disappearing in iTunes (it would be there and then it would show the blank icon when I know that the art previously worked).  I also noticed that iTunes would randomly transfer this music over even when it already existed on the iPod and had not been changed.  I guess it thought something changed about the music file.  Anyway, after it transferred that music, I believe this is what corrupted the iPod.  Whatever was causing the artwork to disappear must have corrupted an iTunes file which was transferred to the iPod.

Fix

The fix for this issue, that I found by trial and error, was to completely delete the entire iTunes music library, podcast library and video library and reimport it.   So, I went to the ‘Music’ area and selected everything and pressed delete.  Of course, I used ‘Keep Files’ to keep them on the disk.  I also made sure to NOT use downloaded artwork on the reimported music as I believe the downloaded artwork database is what is getting corrupted.  I don’t know why the corruption happens and the guy at the Genius Bar had also never heard of this.. so much for their Genius.  He also offered to replace the iPod Touch just in case the hardware was bad, but I don’t think it is.

Arrgh.. Apple get your ACT together!

iTunes can be a hassle to deal with, as evidenced here.  Apple needs to take a long hard look at how this all works and fix these problems. One of the ways to fix this issue is to stop marking the unit as unrecognizable when the iTunesDB is corrupted.  Instead, they should simply delete the database and rebuild it.  Better yet, they should keep a copy of the iPod’s database on the computer for restoration.  Also, if Apple allowed multiple backups stored by date on the computer, it would be far simpler to roll back to a previously KNOWN working configuration.  Because of this lack of foresight of Apple and because of the simplistic backup system Apple has implemented, this leads to a complete timewaster in restoration by trial and error.

Since there is no real fix you can do to iTunes itself to manage these limitations, I recommend that you turn off automatic synchronization so you can manually sync the iPod yourself at the time of your choosing.  I should also mention that Apple decided to turn off visibility (through a drive letter) into the iTunes library files with the iPod Touch, so you can’t even use a third party utility.  I can’t imagine having to go through this restore process on a 60GB or larger iPod.  Having to go through it 5 times in 5 days because of iTunes is ludicrous and enough to make anyone want to get away from Apple as fast as possible.  Apple, you definitely need to figure out how to deal with this issue!

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