Documents by Readdle

28 02 2014

Documents by Readdle (USA) is a universal app for iOS devices and intended to support file management. The developer is a reliable company updating it’s products regularly since years.

File sharing is an indispensable requirement for collaborating, backing up relevant files and continue working on other devices. For private and business environments the following features should be provided by apps for the iPad and the iPhone.

  • 01 Connection to well-known cloud providers
  • 02 Connection to external storages via WebDAV
  • 03 Connection to storages attached to Windows networks
  • 04 Connection to storages attached to Apple’s routers
  • 05 Connection via SMB, FTP, SFTP
  • 06 E-Mail support for sending and receiving multiple documents from within the app
  • 07 Reading all well-known file formats (Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, etc.)
  • 08 Transfer of files between all connections
  • 09 Organization of files in self-created folders

Some technical information about SMB …

Wikipedia: Server Message Block
In computer networking, Server Message Block (SMB), also known as Common Internet File System (CIFS) operates as an application-layer network protocol mainly used for providing shared access to files, printers, serial ports, and miscellaneous communications between nodes on a network.

Not only does SMB allow computers to share files, but it also enables computers to share printers and even serial ports from other computers within the network. For example, a computer connected to a Windows network could print a document on a printer connected to another computer on the network, as long as both machines support the SMB protocol.

Though SMB was originally developed for Windows, it can also be used by other platforms, including Unix and Mac OS X, using a software implementation called Samba. By using Samba instructions, Mac, Windows, and Unix computers can share the same files, folders, and printers. This is great for those Windows-based office networks where there is a graphic designer who refuses to use anything but a Mac and a tech guy who does everything on his Linux machine.

Features of Documents …

The developers description …

  • READ
    - View Office Documents
    - Read and Annotate PDF files
    - Search Inside Documents
    - Edit Text Files
    - Read Books and Articles
  • MANAGE
    - Manage your files
    - Copy Documents from Mac or PC – Sync with iCIoud, Dropbox, Google Drive and other cloud storages
    - Share Files with Your Friends
    - Protect Everything with a Password
  • SAVE
    - Store Email Attachments
    - Download Documents from the Web
    - Save Web Pages to Read them Later
  • ENJOY
    - View Photos from your Trip
    - Watch Movies while on a plane
    - Listen to Your Favorite Music

20131126-140533.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Documents and iWork …

Of you use Apple’s iWork Suite and activated iCloud to sync your documents across all of your devices it might be useful to add an additional security layer for important documents. Why? Well, if you accidentally delete an iWork document on one of your devices it will we deleted from all of your devices.

Apple’s document management in iCloud doesn’t support the recovery of deleted documents.

So it’s worth saving documents at an additional place. You can do it by using the ‘Send a copy’ command within iWork and send a copy to an additional cloud storage which is accessible via WebDAV e.g. Box net, iDriveSync, etc. In many cases users prefer a Dropbox account (because the majority of apps support Dropbox) but there is still no chance to access Dropbox via WebDAV.

20131126-140746.jpg

The alternative is the usage of the ‘Open in another app’ command within the iWork Suite and choose ‘Documents’ as the destination application. If doing so Apple’s operating system moves a copy of your document to the app specific folder of Documents. An unwanted deletion of an iWork document then doesn’t affect the copy which has been saved in the documents folder of Documents. For the reverse way, from Documents to iWork, you also can use the ‘Open in’ command from within Documents.

Additionally you can activate syncing within Documents so that the copies of your iWork documents are synced with your preferred cloud storage.

Keep in mind that all documents saved in the app specific folder of Documents are only accessible on the device which contains the copy. You have to activate iCloud for Documents to automatically sync data of Documents with the app related part of your iCloud account.

Highlights …

Some impressions of the UI and my personal highlights …

  • Drag + Drop
    Drag + Drop to move files between folders
  • iOS Data Protection
    iOS encrypts all files when Passcode Lock in device settings is enabled and device os locked.
  • Office Documents Search
    Full text indexing of MS Office, iWork, HTML files
  • Zip
    Zip selectable files
  • E-Mail
    E-Mail selectable files (in contrast to iOS no limitation of the number of files)
  • Websites
    With the integrated browser websites can be saved in PDFs or HTML format
  • SMB support
    Easily connect to Windows PCs

Summary …

Documents by Readdle is an app with a perfect UI following Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines. The developer is continuously improving it’s apps.
Another noteworthy app of the company is Scanner Pro also operating on a high quality level with a perfect UI. Apple’s iWork Suite, Documents, and Scanner Pro together build a powerful extension of features on an iPad and an iPhone.

Related links …

Every app is an i(s)Land

Scanning documents

Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines

WebDAV Basics

Thanks for stopping by.





Apple’s Focusing

27 01 2014

Focusing on a few products is characteristic for successful companies. This doesn’t necessarily mean that other companies following a different strategy are unsuccessful. But focusing on a few products, trying to bring features and services together in a unique environment, and developing new products which seamlessly fit into this environment is the strategy of the most valuable and innovative company in the world, it’s Apple.

Steve Jobs said …

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.
(WWDC 1997)

See this video with another famous quote about focus and simplicity (38 sec)

The actual offer of the company still follows this principle. The brands focus is on providing a superior customer experience by offering solutions from a single source.

  • Hardware
  • Operating systems
  • Software
  • Services
  • Stores

To be successful project to project over a long period, a company has to develop habits that instill a passion for quality in all corners of the organization. This can be achieved by following these rules:

  • 1 Set up clear expectations
    It’s the job of leaders to be clear about the company’s nonnegotiable core values. They are the riverbanks that help guide all employees as they refine and improve on performance and excellence.
  • 2 Collect and analyze data
    Collecting data is more common than ever, particularly with the advent of Web analytics. The metrics to be tracked go above and beyond either web or financial information as well as direct contact to customers.
  • 3 Invest in capacities
    A company stretched thin on resources will never be able to overdeliver, and quality depends somewhat on the ability to exceed expectations. An infrastructure has to be created that anticipates revenue.
  • 4 Celebrate victories
    When a company surveys customers on the quality of service, make sure that everyone, from the top down, knows of the results and receives recognition for the things that are going well.

This all builds the DNA of a successful company. CEOs and all employees in the headquarter as well as in stores must be integrated in the process of engagement.

The product line …

A product line up has to reflect the companies care values and the clearly defined targets. This is why Apple’s product line up is restricted to a handful number of hard- and software products targeted at a perfect user experience. If you look at the Apple Store there are many other products of sought out vendors available to give other companies the chance to participate in the companies success. That attracts others to at least boost the business. An outstanding example is the App Store with more than 1m apps (as of Jan 2014) and more than 200k registered app developers. They all breath life into Apple’s hardware offer. As you can see even Apple’s software offer is restricted to a handful products which just top the user experience off.

Here is a mind map showing the complete product line up of Apple.

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Please tap on these single images to see parts of the map.

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

The ecosystem …

Analyzing all main products, extracting them, and re-organizing them we get the components of Apple’s ecosystem.

This concept covers

  • Customer relationships
    Apple Store
    Apple Care
    Genius Bar
  • Completeness
    iPhone and iPad for mobile computing
    Macs for professional tasks
    AirPort router for Internet connection
    Apple TV, iTunes, and Airplay for entertainment
  • Simplicity
    Focusing on essential features and seamless usage as the main target of the design philosophy.

There are two operating systems and specs of all hardware components are an integrated part of the development. Keeping hardware and software development together results in the highest possible performance and user experience. Success then is forced by an outstanding design.

Summary …

It’s not the junk market Apple is interested in. Steve Jobs, returning to Apple in 1996, defined the direction with a focus on an entire user experience. Tim Cook is following this strategy and there is no need to move into diversity because this business concept works perfect and competitors are on the way to copy this strategy. There is Samsung working on an own operating system, Microsoft with the XBox and it’s Surface computer, and Google with it’s mobile device Nexus. It’s the only way to stop fragmentation and increase the user experience.

Related links …

Apple’s Strategy and Ad

Designed by Apple in California

Apple’s Ecosystem

Two Ecosystems

Thanks for surfing by.





zBase vs Tap Forms

15 10 2013

FileMaker discontinues it’s product Bento as reported by Macworld in late July 2013 because of focussing on their main products. If I’m right withdrawing an app by a big company is a unique event in the App Store’s history and pretty bad news for users of Bento 4 on mobile devices.

On my point of view it’s a consequence of bad success caused by ignoring indispensable features for databases on iOS devices. For example you cannot create your own database without using the desktop companion application. Establishing a connection to a cloud storage for importing or backing up data is not possible.

So all the missing key features of databases for mobiles maybe the real cause for withdrawing Bento 4 from the market. All along developers fail if a precise analysis of user requirements doesn’t take place.

It’s out of question that databases on mobiles are the most efficient way to manage large amount of data.

The strong benefit of a database is the synopsis of otherwise widely spread information. Apple’s App Store offers a lot of apps suitable for productive operations but all the informations saved by these apps are cut into pieces saved in app-specific folders. Database management tools summarize all the different types of information in just one app.

About zBase …

This post is about a newcomer in the market of mobile database management. It’s zBase by SourceGear, LLC, USA.

Eric Sink, one of the owners of SourceGear sent me an E-Mail in July 2013 in which he presented the new product (version 1.0.1).

Eric
zBase is a very new product, but we think it is a strong offering for small business users. Your feedback or suggestions would be much appreciated.

So I gave it a try.

The app is universal (runs on iPhone and iPad and fits in with the iPad’s form factor) and free but only if it runs in the so-called Demo Mode.

All features which require server access are disabled, including syncing across devices (zBase is built on Zumero, a database sync platform for mobile apps), user authentication, user management, and encryption of data.

20130803-165121.jpg

At the time even a migration of already -in demo-mode- stored data to a full version with Zumero platform subscription is not supported!

Shock!

After reviewing more than a 100 apps I crafted some shock-absorbing policies for myself and simply ask:

Is this the right strategy to get new customers or convert others to this new product?

I mentioned this problem in an E-Mail and argued that I already pay for an upgraded iCloud account. So why should I subscribe for an additional storage at Zumero’s platform?
My favorite app Tap Forms uses iCloud and syncing it’s SQLite database is a seamless and flawless task.

After a one week trial with zBase my favorite app still remains TapForms by Tap Zapp Software Inc., Canada because zBase is still in a developing phase with too many flaws and missing features.

It might be not fair to compare a new app with an app continuously upgraded over years since the launch of the first iPad in 2010.

But from the users side it’s good to know the pros and cons.

Both apps are based on an SQLite database engine and claim to serve businesses. So zBase has to face up to the comparison.

Here is a mind map with a description of all features of zBase.

20130803-183554.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

To compare zBase with Tap Forms HD here is the mind map visualizing all features of Tap Forms.

20130803-121935.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Comparison …

Tap Forms sets the standard for databases on mobile devices. So I created a mind map summarizing the key features of databases on tablets and smartphones. All the other database tools have to compete with these features.

This gallery shows zoomed parts of the mind map.

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Because of the different design concepts regarding external storage and data view it’s hard to compare zBase with the key features visualized in this mind map.

The app zBase comes along with a table named ‘Mobile Database Comparison’ which compates zBase, Tap Forms, Bento, and HanDBase. I took off Bento (discontinued after Sep 30, 2013) and HanDBase (no experience with this from my side), reduced the list to some relevant points, added missing information about Tap Forms.

Feature Tap Forms zBase
iCloud Y N
Import CSV Y *
Export CSV Y Y
Full text search Y Y
Filter Y *
Single view Y N
Calculated fields Y N
Attachments Y N
Desktop app Y N
Charts N Y
Monthly costs N Y
Forms Designer N N
Encryption Y Y
Usability + -

Regarding usability let me explain why Tap Forms gets a positive and zBase a negative rating.

20130803-201729.jpg

This is just one example for low-level usability but it’s basically valid for nearly all features of zBase. Releasing apps in an early stage of development is always a risk. Users generally should use these apps just for a field test. Nobody can be sure that indispensable updates will follow in a narrow timeframe.

Some impressions of the UI …

20130803-122939.jpg

Different philosophies …

Entering data is one task when working with databases.
Retrieving information, navigating through a table are the more frequent applications. I compared many database apps and found two different philosophies. Microsoft Access for Windows basically offers two views on the data:

Datasheet View
Records are shown in rows and columns like in a spreadsheet

This view is used by zBase.

20130803-115957.jpg

Form View
Each record is shown in a form which can be created up to the needs
Different kinds of navigators can be used to go through the data:
Combo box, List box, GoTo record control

This view is used by Tap Forms. The form itself can only be modified by using different colors or fonts for field names and content and by setting the order of fields. Fields are always positioned one below the other and cannot be positioned in a free-floating layout.
A useful feature of Tap Forms is the choice of field content shown in the navigation list (up to 5 fields). Additionally there are GoTo controls for navigating through records (first, next, previous, last) available in the iPad version.

20130803-120242.jpg

The benefits …

  • Adjust the column width
    Long-press on the field name (column header). When you release the long-press, the column header will become highlighted with a different color. This signifies that the pinch gesture will now resize the width of that column instead of the row height.
  • Change the height of rows
    Use the pinch gesture.
  • Sort by a field
    In the datasheet view, if you tap on the field name (the column header), it will sort the records by that field.
  • Show statistics about the fields in a table
    Sum, average, min, max
  • Help text well-worded and understandable

Only available with a subscription …

  • Prevent a column from being changed by non-Admin users
  • Prevent a table from being changed by non-Admin users
  • Permanent syncing between devices

The main disadvantages …

  • No backup of databases
    Complete backups of the device via iTunes or iCloud is by far no appropriate solution.
    When backing up databases by exporting tables as CSV files all contents in fields with type ‘image’ get lost.
  • No import options like 1st line contains field names, encoding, delimiter, and formats of date and time
    This limits the usage of the import function in an unacceptable way and it took additional rework on all of my many sample files. None of them used the unusual comma for separating fields.
    The company promised to fix this flaw.
  • Search
    Quoting the developer as a reply to my mail:
    There are several ways this could be going wrong. The current search is a keyword search. It matches whole words. So, if a data value is “send more beer to the king”, and you search on the word “beer”, it will match. Also, the search feature currently only searches field of type ‘text’ (not ‘web’), so if your URLs were in a field of type ‘web’, the search would not find them. We will work to make this feature friendlier. I agree that the behavior you are seeing is not very intuitive.
  • Colors/Fonts cannot be set for fields
    This is useful to separate important from less important contents.
  • Fields cannot be locked to prevent unwanted changes
  • Filtering data is not supported by a selection of a field name or an operator.
    The expression has to be entered manually.
  • Formatting of fields (e.g. a field with type ‘real’ showing 2 decimal places (currency) ) must be done by entering an appropriate single character (c) in a format dialog
  • User management is only available with a fee-based account
  • Help text not outlined, full-text search not available, and help not available in dialogs for creating fields

Application stability …

I recognized some crashes of the app while tapping on controls.
An app crash also occurred after importing 65,000 records from a CSV file.
I informed the company about these issues.

Summary …

At the time zBase -in contrast to the developer’s announcement- is far away from being a business oriented database application for mobiles.
Some good ideas go along with a definitely not acceptable support of data entry (e.g. using a single determined character to set the field format).

In some cases with simple tables and less fields a datasheet view might meet the requirements. In many other cases it’s not a suitable solution especially if a table contains a field of type ‘image’.

If you compare the features of Tap Forms with those of zBase there is much work for the developers to bridge the gap.

Last but not least the pricing will not be accepted by private users. It might be accepted by business users but there is no desktop companion available. I’m in serious doubt about the success of this application in the mobile app market.

Related links …

About the companies …

SourceGear LLC, USA

Tap Zapp Software Inc, Canada

TapForms Blog

About the desktop companion of Tap Forms …

Tap Forms for Mac

About the usage of databases …

DBMS on iOS devices (1)

DBMS on iOS devices (2)

DBMS on iOS devices (3)

DBMS on iOS devices (4)

DBMS on iOS devices (5)

Importing Data

Form Access To Tap Forms

Databases and Mind Maps

Thanks a lot for visiting my blog.





Office 365 for Mobiles

9 10 2013

After a long time of silence and not really useful offers Microsoft released it’s product Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers on June 18, 2013. Microsoft’s description starts with this hint:

Please note: An office 365 subscription is required to use this app.

Users who first want to try out the features of this app and to check whether it’s more powerful than Apple’s iWork suite first have to subscribe to Office 365. Beside many other faults Microsoft made when trying to get a foothold in the mobile market here is the next ‘MSID’.

Traction -everybody knows this from race cars- is vital to success. Launching without sufficient traction seems to be an ongoing fault of Microsoft. Instead of showing the world that the mobile Office suite is an awesome app compared to Apple’s iWork suite the company first collects money even from users who don’t want or need a subscription of Office 365 for about 100$ per year with additional 20 GB space on SkyDrive, licenses for up to 5 PCs or Macs and 5 mobile devices (other than devices already running with Windows Mobile), and permanent updating to the latest versions of the Office Suite.

The offer is worth buying for users of Microsoft products.
But for consumers and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) users, Office 365′s appeal has been somewhat less clear. Millions use older versions of Office running on their home computers, and for the majority of tasks, these aging editions are still adequate. Unless one needs to sync content across devices via SkyDrive, or have access to documents while on-the-go, many of the newest versions’ enhancements simply won’t warrant an upgrade.

Even for new customers, Office 365 might not appeal. People who use Office on only one machine, and who aren’t concerned about immediate upgrades, could also save money by buying the standalone version of Office 2013.

Microsoft wants to stimulate upgrades, and would rather that customers opt for subscriptions, which provide a perpetual revenue stream. I think the contrary will be the case. All those interested have no chance to evaluate the product without paying in advance.

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Microsoft accents that Office Mobile is a lightweight version of its desktop equivalent, not meant for in-depth content creation so much as document review, collaboration, and annotation. The new product certainly enhances capabilities of iOS devices, but much of what it offers was either already available out of the box (e.g. DocsToGo by DataViz), or through a series of workarounds. Most of the available iOS apps already allow users to view most types of Office file formats and mobile device management companies already offer iOS users the ability to access and annotate SharePoint files.

Office for mobiles goes beyond and simplifies these earlier solutions, of course, adding not only true document editing capabilities but also useful syncing features, such as the ability to begin working on a document on a PC, leave and seamlessly resume work on a mobile device with a UI fit in with the form factor of a smartphone and a tablet.

The features of Office 365 mobile …

General …

Microsoft Office Mobile is the official Office companion optimized for the iPhone. You can access, view and edit your Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents from virtually anywhere. Documents look like the originals, thanks to support for charts, animations, SmartArt graphics and shapes. When you make quick edits or add comments to a document, the formatting and content remain intact.

Details …

  • Cloud
    With your phone, you can access Office documents that are stored on SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro, or SharePoint.
  • Recent Documents
    Office Mobile is cloud connected.
    The documents you’ve recently viewed on your computer are readily available on your phone in the recent documents panel.
  • E-Mail Attachments
    You can view and edit Office documents attached to email messages.
  • Optimized for phone
    Word, Excel and PowerPoint have been optimized for the small screen of your phone.
  • Resume Reading
    When opening a Word document from SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro on your phone, it automatically resumes at the place where you left off reading, even if you last viewed the document on your PC or tablet.
  • Presentation Views
    The Slide Navigator view in PowerPoint lets you browse slides faster, while speaker notes help you practice your presentation.
  • Edit
    You can make quick edits to Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.
  • Documents Remain Intact
    Formatting and content remain intact when you edit Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents on your phone.
  • Edit While Offline
    Your device doesn’t have to be continuously connected to the network to work on an Office document that is stored online.
    You can view and edit recently used documents even while you’re offline. Your changes will be saved online when your device reconnects to the network or to WiFi.
  • Create
    You can create new Word and Excel documents on your phone.
  • Comments
    You can review comments that have been made in Word and Excel documents on your phone and add your own comments.
  • Share
    When you’re done with your edits or comments, simply send the document in E-Mail or save it to SkyDrive or SharePoint.

Requirements …

  • An Office 365 subscription is required to use this app.
  • Compatible with iPhone 4, 4S, and 5, iPod Touch 5th Generation. Requires iOS 6.1 or later.
  • Microsoft Office 2013 on a PC is needed for features like recent documents and resume reading.
  • Office 365 account and setup necessary. Data connection required. Storage limits and carrier fees apply.

All this already was offered by Apple when launching iCloud in October 12, 2011. As of April 2013, Apple’s service has 320 million users! With the launch of iOS 7 in 2013 iWork for iCloud will be presented. This service enables you to edit all iWork documents by just using a browser.

See this mind map summarizing the comparison of Office 365 and Apple’s iWork suite.

20131001-185358.jpg

Feel free to download this mind map.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

An alternative …

When it comes to compatibility issues between Microsoft Office and Apple iWork documents it might be useful to install an app which is capable to manage and edit Microsoft file formats (usually Excel, Word, and Powerpoint documents). But there is still no need to subscribe for Office 365.

CloudOn …

CloudOn, Inc., USA
CloudOn is ready to work when and where you are. It puts Microsoft Office® on your favorite devices (iOS and Android) and provides access to the files you already store in the cloud with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive. And, with the ability to better create, manage and share your work all from a single workspace it’s a can’t-live-without-it productivity solution you and your team can depend on.

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The features of CloudOn …

With cloud on you can manage Microsoft Excel, Word, and Powerpoint documents by using the original version of Microsoft Office on your touchscreen.

CloudOn works with the original version of Microsoft Office which is not adapted for touchscreens. So it’s no real alternative except for simple editing or just displaying of a document and annotating it.

There are some other apps available in Apple’s App Store like DocsToGo by DataViz Inc., USA with a lot of experience on developing apps for Apple’s mobiles. All these apps are much more cheaper than an Office 365 subscription and do what they should do. DocsToGo connects to Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, and GoogleDrive. Unfortunately connections cannot be established via FTP and WebDAV.

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Summary …

People who work frequently with Microsoft products but nevertheless use Apple’s iPad as the mobile device should use Microsoft’s Office 365 but only if there is an iPad version available for this product. When writing the article at the end of July 2013 Office 365 was only available for the iPhone or by using the 2x-Zoom on an iPad which is definitely not a suitable solution.

CloudOn uses Microsoft’s original controls, not adapted for touchscreens and is only a good choice for simple editing but not for creating more complex documents.

DocsToGo would be my suggestion if the user’s environment is primarily built up with other Microsoft products. It helps to avoid compatibility issues which occur when saving Apple’s iWork documents in Microsoft Office formats.

Related links …

CloudOn

Microsoft Office 365

Roadtest on beyondmobileltd

DocsToGo by DataViz Inc.

Apple iWork

Thanks a lot for visiting my blog.





Fingerprint Technology

12 09 2013

Many publishing media predicted that Apple would introduce the fingerprint scanner for it’s model iPhone 5S presented on Apple’s Keynote on September 10, 2013. Rumors were based on a patent application in 2012 and leaked images posted in publishing media around the world.

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General information …

A friction ridge is a raised portion of the epidermis on fingers consisting of one or more connected ridge units of friction ridge skin.

These epidermal ridges serve to amplify vibrations triggered, for example, when fingertips brush across an uneven surface, better transmitting the signals to sensory nerves involved in fine texture perception. These ridges may also assist in gripping rough surfaces and may improve surface contact in wet conditions.

The flexibility of friction ridge skin means that no two finger prints are ever exactly alike in every detail.

Identification …

Fingerprint identification, known as dactyloscopy is the process of comparing two impressions of friction ridge skin impressions from human fingers to determine whether these impressions could have come from the same individual.

Since the early 20th century, fingerprint detection and analysis has been one of the most common and important forms of crime scene forensic investigation. More crimes have been solved with fingerprint evidence than for any other reason.

The procedure for capturing a fingerprint using a sensor consists of rolling or touching with the finger onto a sensing area, which according to the physical principle in use (optical, ultrasonic, capacitive, or thermal) captures the difference between valleys and ridges.

The electronic scan is the more modern way to take prints.

All the possible methods can be grouped into two major families:

  • Solid-State fingerprint readers
  • Optical fingerprint readers.

When a finger touches or rolls onto a surface, the elastic skin deforms. The quantity and direction of the pressure applied by the user, the skin conditions and the projection of an irregular 3D object (the finger) onto a 2D flat plane introduce distortions, noise and inconsistencies in the captured fingerprint image.

These problems result in inconsistent, irreproducible and non-uniform irregularities in the image.

During each acquisition, therefore, the results of the imaging are different and uncontrollable. The representation of the same fingerprint changes every time the finger is placed on the sensor plate, increasing the complexity of any attempt to match fingerprints, impairing the system performance and consequently, limiting the widespread use of this biometric technology.

In order to overcome these problems, as of 2010, non-contact or touchless 3D fingerprint scanners have been developed. Acquiring detailed 3D information, 3D fingerprint scanners take a digital approach to the analog process of pressing or rolling the finger. By modelling the distance between neighboring points, the fingerprint can be imaged at a resolution high enough to record all the necessary details. It’s done by sophisticated software which digitizes analogous information.

Features of a fingerprint …

In biometrics and forensic science, minutiae are major features of a fingerprint, using which comparisons of one print with another can be made.

The major Minutia features of fingerprint ridges are

  • ridge ending
  • bifurcation
  • short ridge (or dot).

20130910-152724.jpg

The ridge ending is the point at which a ridge terminates. Bifurcations are points at which a single ridge splits into two ridges. Short ridges (or dots) are ridges which are significantly shorter than the average ridge length on the fingerprint. Minutiae and patterns are very important in the analysis of fingerprints since no two fingers have been shown to be identical.

The software …

Pattern based algorithms compare the basic fingerprint patterns (arch, whorl, and loop) between a previously stored template and a candidate fingerprint. This requires that the images be aligned in the same orientation. To do this, the algorithm finds a central point in the fingerprint image and centers on that. In a pattern-based algorithm, the template contains the type, size, and orientation of patterns within the aligned fingerprint image. The candidate fingerprint image is graphically compared with the template to determine the degree to which they match.

The importance …

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. They are often categorized as physiological versus behavioral characteristics. Physiological characteristics are related to the shape of the body. Examples include, but are not limited to fingerprint, face recognition, DNA, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina etc. Behavioral characteristics are related to the behavior of a person, including but not limited to: typing rhythm, gait, and voice. Some researchers have coined the term behaviometrics to describe the latter class of biometrics.

Since biometric identifiers are unique to individuals, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token and knowledge-based methods.

Performance …

The following are used as performance metrics for biometric systems.

  • FAR or FMR
    false acceptance rate or false match rate

    It’s the probability that the system incorrectly matches the input pattern to a non-matching template in the database. It measures the percent of invalid inputs which are incorrectly accepted. In case of similarity scale, if the person is imposter in real, but the matching score is higher than the threshold, then he is treated as genuine that increase the FAR and hence performance also depends upon the selection of threshold value.
  • FRR or FNMR
    false rejection rate or false non-match rate

    It’s the probability that the system fails to detect a match between the input pattern and a matching template in the database. It measures the percent of valid inputs which are incorrectly rejected.
  • ROC
    receiver operating characteristic or relative operating characteristic

    The ROC plot is a visual characterization of the trade-off between the FAR and the FRR. In general, the matching algorithm performs a decision based on a threshold which determines how close to a template the input needs to be for it to be considered a match. If the threshold is reduced, there will be fewer false non-matches but more false accepts. Correspondingly, a higher threshold will reduce the FAR but increase the FRR. A common variation is the Detection error trade-off (DET), which is obtained using normal deviate scales on both axes. This more linear graph illuminates the differences for higher performances (rarer errors).
  • EER or CER
    equal error rate or crossover error rate

    It’s the rate at which both accept and reject errors are equal. The value of the EER can be easily obtained from the ROC curve. The EER is a quick way to compare the accuracy of devices with different ROC curves. In general, the device with the lowest EER is most accurate.
  • FTE or FER
    failure to enroll rate

    It’s the rate at which attempts to create a template from an input is unsuccessful. This is most commonly caused by low quality inputs.
  • FTC
    failure to capture rate

    Within automatic systems, the probability that the system fails to detect a biometric input when presented correctly.

From theory to reality …

Are you ready to unlock your iOS device by using the fingerprint technology?

Honestly said, I was not when I saw all the rumors and read all the articles about the reliability of this technology. That’s why I published a bet on Google+.

Is it really a unique biometrical identifier?

It might be but that’s not the first question which has to be answered. It’s the question whether the detection method and the underlying software keeps the assumed uniqueness under all conditions like temperature, degree of contamination, age, etc.

Scientists say …

No completely accurate method exists. Current methods only can tell us with a degree of certainty if two fingerprint images match.

Access can be denied because of the following reasons …

  • 1 Displacement
  • 2 Rotation
  • 3 Partial overlap
  • 4 Non-linear distortion
  • 5 Variable pressure
  • 6 Skin condition
  • 7 Noise and feature extraction errors

So it’s indispensable to offer an alternative access method which usually is a more old-fashioned but also more secure way to get access.

Since 2011, Atrix smartphones from Motorola have included a fingerprint scanner in the power/lock button. But the devices also require users to set a recovery PIN, which highlights how enterprising attackers might simply attempt to crack that, instead of trying to fool with fingerprints.

The Informationweek
A fingerprint reader, could definitely make life more convenient by freeing users to not have to enter the four-digit passcode or a complex alphanumeric passphrase.

That’s because entering a passcode or passphrase on a smartphone is a usability chore. Blame small screen size and the absence of tactile feedback, which make it all too easy to “fat-finger” a virtual keyboard, especially when entering long passphrases.

Fingerprint scans, obviously, could eliminate the need to enter a complex password, arguably without compromising access security. One crucial related success factor, however, will be speed. If the average user employs a four-digit iPhone passcode and can enter it in less than a second, then the new biometric feature will need to be faster. Otherwise, the majority of users will stick with a faster option, which for many continues to involve no passcode at all.

From a hardware standpoint, making a fingerprint scanner small enough and fast enough to meet that requirement will be a challenge. Notably, less expensive fingerprint scanners tend to involve swiping a sensor, which serves the dual purpose of also keeping the sensor clean. Apple’s description of the feature describes a user “touching the home button with their thumb,” and such technology is trickier to package in an iPhone form factor. “Full-finger scanners are more expensive as they must have the necessary resolution to scan your entire finger in one go,” noted ExtremeTech, “and they also have a tendency to get crudded up, because you’re not constantly cleaning them with a swiping action.”

Furthermore, the technology — unless packaged in dedicated, standalone devices like the eyeball and fingerprint scanners used in some airports — remains unproven. “Fingerprint scanning, eyeball scanning, voice and face recognition are all at least a decade away from being reliable enough to use as authentication methods” in non-dedicated, mass-produced devices, says SMS authentication pioneer Andy Kemshall, technical director at SecurEnvoy, via email. “The technology simply isn’t sophisticated enough.”

The solid state technology, younger than the optical one, has the undoubted advantage of allowing a greater miniaturization of the scanner, and this makes it more well-suited for the integration into small devices like smartphones and tablets.

  • Sensing area
    Manufacturing large and pure silicon chips is difficult and rather expensive; therefore, the solid state sensors nowadays available in the market are characterized by a small area.
  • Robustness and lifetime
    The silicon surface is in direct contact with the finger, or sometimes protected by a very thin coating, makes the solid state scanners rather weak with respect to mechanical damages or (in the case of capacitive sensor) to electrostatic charges. For a solid state scanner the cost of the sensing elements is dominant. The lifetime of a solid state scanner is usually shorter than optical’s.
  • Maintenance
    Solid state scanners need a more frequent cleaning, to remove from the sensor surface deposits of grease or dirt left from the fingers which highly deteriorate the quality of the acquired images.

Apple’s solution …

Apple purchased the company AuthenTec, Melbourne, Florida, in 2012. This company is specialized on fingerprint technology and so the essential know-how to use the technology in iOS devices was transferred to Apple.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on July 18, 2013, published one of the first AuthenTec patent applications assigned to Apple, with the property describing an advanced method of fingerprint identification that can be implemented into a mobile device.

20130911-071755.jpg

Apple is the first company to bring a well-functioning fingerprint sensor (Touch ID)) to a smartphone.

Motorola Mobility implemented one such sensor into the back of its 2011 flagship the Motorola Atrix, which allowed users to swipe their fingers across it to unlock the device. The crucial issue though was that the sensor itself seemed awfully finicky and wouldn’t always correctly accept a user’s finger inputs. That little stumbling block ultimately meant that the fingerprint sensor wound up being more hassle than it was worth in most cases.

The home button of the iPhone 5S is now made of sapphire glass to reduce the potential for damaging one of the 5S’ most notable features, and it’s bounded by a steel detection ring that determines when your finger is on the home button and fires up the Touch ID sensor. Touch ID is also capable of keeping tabs of multiple different fingerprints. This is quite useful if the device is e.g. used by family members.

Mikey Campbell (AppleInsider)
(2 days before Apple’s announcement)

There stands a variety of ways to accomplish biometric fingerprint readings, including the stereotypical “swiping” motion made famous in movies, as well as methods using optical, thermal, pressure and capacitive measurements, among others. AuthenTec, which Apple purchased in 2012 for $356 million, uses a few different capture methods in its products, though the tech most likely to be used in the iPhone doesn’t involve swiping. Typical methods of swipe authentication, usually direct capacitance, involve a thin “strip” sensor that captures and stitches together multiple images of a fingerprint as a user sweeps their finger across the sensing plate. With direct capacitance, an electrical field is applied to the sensor, which detects ridges and valleys — the skin structures that form fingerprint whorls — by measuring variations in capacitance at the sensor plate. Lower capacitance denotes skin that is farther from the sensor, or valleys, while higher capacitance is associated with ridges.

A more accurate and robust method of capture is called radio frequency field sensing, or AC capacitance. Like direct capacitive sensing, this technique also measures capacitance of a sort, but the similarities end there. Instead of measuring the effect on an electrical field, a low frequency RF signal is inserted into the finger and received by the sensor. In this case, RF signal strength captured by the pixel traces are measured and the corresponding data is translated to form an image of the print.

Benefits of RF field/AC capacitance sensing include static non-swipe readings, resistance to dust and capability for the sensor to operate even when covered by layers of protective material. These types of sensors are usually larger in size to allow for a wider capture area.

Mike, you said,

It remains wholly unknown if Apple has incorporated this particular fingerprint technology into the next-gen iPhone …

but you hit the nail right on the head. You are definitely an AppleInsider.

Summary …

We now have the fingerprint sensor in Apple’s iPhone 5S, the flagship of the company. The technology is quite complicated but the engineers of AuthenTec and Apple solved all the problems and Apple is rehabilitated as an innovative company. And it’s not only the fingerprint sensor that can be seen as a breakthrough but also the 64 Bit processor architecture, and, and, and.

Regarding security everyone should know that the fingerprint is stored on the device only in a digitized format and does not go the way into iCloud when backing up a device. Authorities like “Nothing Secure Any longer” may knock on Apple’s door but the fingerprint remains a secret of the A7 processor.

20140210-134437.jpg

Feel free to download this map summarizing essential points from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Where’s the beef?

The technology is quite complicated and we heard scientists saying the technology isn’t reliable. But Apple implemented it.

Are Apple’s and AuthenTec’s technicians magicians?

Well, I cannot assess this issue. But as a programmer I know that the software digitizing the scanner’s more or less precise information can be excellent or a bit more fault-tolerant. So the system works seamlessly but is not qualified to take a UNIQUE impression of the fingerprint.
It just works (the companies slogan when introducing Mac OS X in 2007) if the number of measured points is low but it goes along with a decreased quality and it’s likely that uniqueness gets lost.

Related links …

Touch ID Security

Using Touch ID

Apple Patent, acquired from AutheTec

Motorola Fingerprint Scanner

Solid State Fingerprint Sensor National Institute of Standard and Technology, USA

Handbook of Fingerprint Recognition Konda Jayashree, University of Nevada, Reno

Fingerprint Recognition Andrew Ackermann, University of California, Los Angeles

If you visited my site with your mobile device, I promise not to abuse your fingerprint you left behind on my website when using your touchscreen.

Thanks for dropping by.





Apple Wireless Network

11 08 2013

Apple AirPort Extreme is Apple’s router for Internet access. It’s directly connected to a modem and provides wired as well as wireless access for computers, mobile devices like an iPhone or an iPad, printers, and media devices.
Apple offers three different routers (Airport Express, AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule) which can be connected to either a DSL or a Cable modem.

A complete wireless network build with solely Apple products follows the the company’s strategy to provide users with a perfect experience regarding design, setup, and reducing features to those which are necessary. KISS is the motto.

KISS
KISS = Keep it simple, stupid
A design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960 that states that most systems work best if they are kept simple. Unnecessary complexity should be avoided.
Variations of this phrase are:
Keep it simple sir, Keep it simple and straightforward, Keep it short and simple, Keep it simple or be stupid

The hardware …

See this mind map which summarizes all properties of Apple’s hardware for wireless networking with mobile devices. As you can see Apple built it’s own ecosystem where components perfectly work together.

Remark
The router hardware was replaced by new versions on June 10, 2013 on occasion of Apple’s WWDC.

Here are the main features of Apple’s routers summarized in a mind map.

20130603-090815.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Please visit

The Apple group on Biggerplate

to see and download all mind maps related to Apple.

This more realistic view shows the kernel with a modem and the router as well as some examples of wirelessly connected hardware components for interactive usage.

20130809-060731.jpg

The integration of all you need for a perfect user experience goes along with limitations when using non-Apple hardware. It’s Apple’s strategy to say NO to some features other vendors offer and to say YES to a seamless integration of its hardware with its custom-built software.

Professionals may argue that performance, configuration options, and price is not what should be expected. On the other hand the running system convinces users who see the technology as as a serving and not an experimental environment. So do I after many years with other configurations not following the motto ‘It just works’ or ‘Buy, connect, and use it’ for the tasks you want to use it for.

A complete configuration …

Follow these steps in the order specified.

Step 1 Connect the modem to the multimedia connector with a coaxial cable.

Modem
A modem (modulator-demodulator) is a device used to connect a computer or router to a telephone/cable line to allow the computer to connect to the Internet. It modulates a carrier signal to encode digital information, and also demodulates such a signal to decode the transmitted information. The goal is to produce a signal that can be transmitted easily and decoded to reproduce the original digital data.

Step 2 Connect the modem to the power supply.

Wait until the LEDs indicate a functioning connection to your ISP. It may take up to 30 min.

Step 3 Connect the APE to the modem with an Ethernet cable.

Ethernet cable
Ethernet cabling is standardized. If you go to a store you may find a variety of “categories” of cabling. These categories tell you the quality of the cabling. The quality determines, essentially, how much the cable can handle. Recommendation: Cat 6 – works for 10/100/1000Mb.

Step 4 Connect the APE to the power supply.

Here we go.
The configuration with any iOS device and the helper apps Settings and AirPort Utility starts.

Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad and tap on WiFi.
The APE already is sending signals so that your device suggests the set up of a WiFi network.

20130220-181647.jpg

Tap on the right-pointing arrow to set up an AirPort basestation.
Enter a name for your network and set a password. Other users like your neighbors, if not too far away, will see this name as an additional WiFi network. Use a strong password for joining this network.

20130220-182613.jpg

Tap on Next and that’s all.
Your new WiFi network will connect all your devices with the internet after entering the password you set for your network.

20130220-185605.jpg

The utility app …

For controlling the network Apple offers an app called ‘Airport Utility’ which is available for iOS devices, Macs, and Windows PCs.
The slideshow shows the usage of this app when configuring a wireless network with an Airport Extreme router connected to a cable modem.

The most important configuration options can be controlled with the app for iOS devices. For some less important options like adjusting the signal strength Airport Utility for computers must be used.

The benefits …

Apple’s ZEROCONF technique minimizes your efforts to install a usable internet access.

Zero configuration networking (zeroconf)
is a set of techniques that automatically creates a usable Internet Protocol (IP) network without manual operator intervention or special configuration servers.
Zero configuration networking allows devices such as computers and printers to connect to a network automatically. Without zeroconf, a network administrator must set up services, such as Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and Domain Name System (DNS), or configure each computer’s network settings manually, which may be difficult and time-consuming.

Apple does not permit the AirPort Extreme to engage in channel bonding on the 2.4GHz frequency band. This is a very neighbor-friendly policy, because only three channels in this band—channels 1, 6, and 11—don’t overlap. A router engaging in 2.4GHz channel bonding can hog more than its share of bandwidth and will likely interfere with other 2.4GHz routers operating nearby.

The AirPort Utility also makes it very easy to update the router’s firmware. The AirPort Extreme is so much easier to set up than any other router of the many competitors.
The reason is that if you stay in Apple’s ecosystem you will benefit from all the efforts Apple did for an easy-to-use experience.

The performance on 802.11n standard transmission technique is high.
The APE is powerful even if thick walls hamper propagation of electromagnetic waves.

Interference …

In physics, interference is a phenomenon in which two waves superimpose to form a resultant wave of greater or lower amplitude. Interference usually refers to the interaction of waves that are correlated or coherent with each other, either because they come from the same source or because they have the same or nearly the same frequency like electromagnetic waves sent from WiFi networks.

20130603-194224.jpg

If you get problems with interference or the performance of your network is slow which may be caused by interference follow these guidelines:

Apple about potential sources of interference

Macworld, Troubleshooting Airport Interference

The Airport Utility …

Apple’s ZEROCONF technique minimizes your efforts to install a usable internet access.

Zero configuration networking (zeroconf)
is a set of techniques that automatically creates a usable Internet Protocol (IP) network without manual operator intervention or special configuration servers.
Zero configuration networking allows devices such as computers and printers to connect to a network automatically. Without zeroconf, a network administrator must set up services, such as Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and Domain Name System (DNS), or configure each computer’s network settings manually, which may be difficult and time-consuming.

Look at the details to get a deeper understanding of what happened when configuring the network.
To see the details of your own WiFi network go to Settings – WiFi and tap on the right-pointing blue arrow of you network. Go to the bottom and tap on ‘Manage network’. This will open the Airport Utility. Airport Utility can be used to individualize the configuration.

Regarding to my blog Network (1) from April 20 you will now understand the configuration details set by the APE:

  • DHCP ON
    the APE acts as a DHCP server and assigns private IP addresses (10.0.1.x) to all devices joining the WiFi network after entering the password.
  • NAT ON
    the APE does the network address translation that means, NAT converts your private LAN IPs into a external WAN IP
  • Security
    the APE encrypts all WiFi network traffic with WPA2
    (Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) is a security communication protocol developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance to secure wireless computer networks)

This slideshow shows all settings displayed in Apple’s app AirPort Utility:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In addition to the automatic configuration I entered the following settings:

  • Reservations for IP addresses
    the APE reserves an IP address for all devices. Reservations are useful if you want that the DHCP feature of your APE assigns a fixed IP to your devices. Otherwise DHCP is free to assign any free IP address in the range 10.0.1.2 – 10.0.1.200 every time you join your network.
  • 5 GHz network
    The APE works in the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency band. The iPad is able to connect on the 5 GHz band and I named this (second) network as ‘Apple Airport 5 GHz’.
    If you have interference problems with other WiFi networks you may vary the channel or move over to the 5 GHz network.
  • With the help of Airport Utility for PCs I additionally limited the signal power to 50% which is enough to get connected in all rooms and hampers other WiFi capable devices outside my home to detect my network.

The result is a working internet connection checked by the app Fing which is available at Apple’s App Store.

20130221-053306.jpg

The disadvantages …

The AirPort Extreme has only one USB 2.0 port, so it can share either a printer or a storage device over your network. This is in the line with Apple’s strategy that printers should be connected via AirPrint. I miss the support of USB 3.0.

Apple’s design decisions help its product blend into a home’s décor and so the old version of AirPort Extreme was designed to rest flat while the new version was redesigned in June 2013 due to an improved output power. It’s still an eyecatcher.

20130612-091620.jpg

Related links …

Airport Extreme Tec Specs

Airport Extreme User Guide

Airport Extreme Easy Setup

Setting up your wireless network

Cisco, 20 Myths of Wi-Fi Interference

Thanks for visiting my blog.
Wireless as well as wired connections are welcome.





E-Family

2 08 2013

In the Stone Age computer text was punched into paper cards with keypunch machines. The text was carried as a physical box of these thin cardboard cards, and read into a card reader.
The first text editors were Line Editors oriented to teleprinter- or typewriter- style terminals without a display. On some line editors, the cursor could be moved by commands! Line editors drastically improved text editing.

In 1982 the Personal Editor was developed for PC DOS, the IBM operating system for their first personal computers like IBM PC, XT, or AT.

20130526-104312.jpg

Limitations in Personal Editor led to the development and release of the E-Editor (E.exe) in 1984, a much faster editor that supported very long files and included a substantially enhanced user interface.

The story of the E-Family began and has not yet ended.

Simple editors are still in vogue because

  • the application loads within a blink
  • there is no need to learn how to use it
  • the file format (txt) is readable by all machines and applications
  • most of the simple editors sync automatically across iOS devices

and

are a perfect way to quickly write down a basic idea for further platform-independent usage with all other apps like an E-Mail client, a grown-up word processor like Apple’s Pages, or a mind mapping tool like iThoughts. Formatting can be done later.

For Apple’s iOS devices I reviewed three apps supporting barrier-free text editing for users aged from 4-104.

The encoding has traditionally been either ASCII, one of its many derivatives such as ISO/IEC 646 etc., or sometimes EBCDIC. Unicode-based encodings such as UTF-8 and UTF-16 are gradually replacing the older ASCII derivatives limited to 7 or 8 bit codes.

The comparison …

The competitors are

  • PlainText by Hog Bay Software, USA
  • Byword by Metaclassy Lda, Portugal
  • WordEver by Oksana Opalenyk, Russia

See these screenshots to get an impression of the different UIs.

20130526-104418.jpg

Here is a comparison of two of the simple text editors for the iPhone and the iPad.

I excluded WordEver from this comparison as it is a non-universal app and expensive.
(An app that is marked as Universal in the Apple’s App Store is an app that runs on both devices, the iPhone and the iPad and you just have to pay once.)
A great disadvantage of WordEver is the keyboard which was redesigned in May 2013.
I had massive problems to use it on an iPhone because it doesn’t follow the standards and it is a bit smaller than Apple’s built-in keyboard. Every time you move from WordEver to any other app you have to change your mind when using the standard keyboard. Swiping up on the WordEver keyboard writes the capital letter while swiping up on the standard keyboard writes German umlauts or nothing on an English keyboard. After a short time it’s considerably nerving.
For me it’s an absolute NO-GO to use different keyboards on the the same device except there are some useful keys added to the standard layout.
Refer to these screenshots to get an impression of WordEver’s UI.

20130526-120246.jpg

This concept map shows the main differences of the two remaining competitors, PlainText and Byword.

20130527-085437.jpg

Feature description of PlainText …

This app can be compared with Microsofts dinosaur app EDITOR or IBMs E-Family of simple editors.

I myself use PlainText for writing down ideas for blogs. There are no further functionalities available (except full screen display) not even formatting and so you have to completely focus on the contents.
Saving of text is automatically and frequently done by PlainText in a folder called PlainText on Dropbox. The folder can be changed by Unlinking from Dropbox and linking again.

It’s all automatic (except writing the text, unfortunately).

20130223-181039.jpg

This app is also suitable for teaching children in writing text.

Learning targets could be …

  • using the on-screen keyboard
  • learning orthography by turning off the iOS setting ‘Check spelling
    (Settings – General – Keyboard – Check Spellings)
  • learning collaboration by using the same Dropbox account on two or more devices
    The pupils should recognize that relevant functionalities for collaboration are missing, e.g. who edited existing text and what part of the text was changed.
  • developing a mind map with preferable extensions to a more powerful text editor

Solving conflicts …

Text editors are generally not multi-user capable.
In the case of using iCloud or Dropbox for saving the text files problems usually do not occur as just one user has access to the storage and he normally won’t work on the same file at a time on two devices.

But if you stop working on one device while the text file is still open and then continue working on the same file on another device conflicts may appear. Both apps, Plaintext and Byword, solve these conflicts by creating device specific versions of a file. PlainText adds the device’s name to the text file and so no content gets lost. The user can decide with which version he wants to continue his work.

Search …

PlainText provides a Search function. After entering the search term all files containing the search term are listed. Unfortunately hits within a file are not highlighted.

Summary …

WordEver is expensive and not universal. Additionally the iPhone keyboard layout is too small and not standard. If you use WordEver you have to switch between Apple’s keyboard layout and that of WordEver. On my point if view that’s a disadvantage as it decreases the usability.

If you use Markdown language to format your text you cannot take it over to other apps not supporting this feature e.g. Apple’s Pages or apps which are Microsoft Office like. Additionally markdown is far away from what is a standard since many years: WHYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).

So my preferred app is still PlainText although there are limitations in the file management. It’s surprisingly simple and near to a text processing multi-user environment.

Related links …

Back to the roots

Thanks for dropping by.
It’s a pleasure to see you visiting my site.





Long-Haul Flight

27 07 2013

If you want to share multiple files or transfer them from an iOS device to an Android device you will get problems. On one hand there are the different philosophies brought into both operating systems. Apple follows a strict platform lock-in while Android is a more open platform. On the other hand it’s hard to find out an iOS app which supports sharing of multiple files and better yet complete folders in an easy-to-use way.

So our long haul flight of documents from the creator to the recipient has to bridge two different worlds (and additionally some slight variances between Apple and Android users).

Here is a solution in case you are registered user on
iDriveSync
one of the most powerful cloud storages with 10 GB free space and an iOS client app which does the tasks described above in a perfect way.

The steps …

My example is about sharing an iWork document as well as two photos.
The folder on iDriveSync in my example is simply called SHARE.

To save the iWork document on iDriveSync you have to use the command ‘Copy to WebDAV’ from within the iWork app (here it’s Keynote, the app for creating presentations). Your iDriveSync storage can be accessed via Server Address http://dav.idrivesync.com/ and your password.

Photos can be transferred to the cloud storage directly from with the iDriveSync client by accessing images saved with Apple’s Photo app.

20130520-114305.jpg

  • 1 Open iDriveSync.
  • 2 Tap on the icon Option and select Upload and then on Select From Gallery.
  • 3 Transfer the photos you want to share into the folder SHARE.
  • 4 Mark the files, photos and presentation.
  • 5 Share them by using E-Mail Link and enter the E-Mail address of the recipient.

20130520-114511.jpg

The recipient will see the following website when following the link:

20130520-114601.jpg

iDriveSync’s sharing site allows downloads of files as well as displays of slideshows.

Sharing with other iOS cloud clients …

Cloud Sharing
Google Sharing of just one file at a time
Dropbox Sharing of just one file at a time or a complete folder
SkyDrive Sharing of complete folders
Wuala Sharing of complete folders
SugarSync Sharing of multiple files
Box Sharing of multiple files

Summary …

I compared the iDriveSync client app with many other file management apps like USB Drive, Documents, FileBrowser, GoodReader, AirSharing, and more.
None of these apps allowed sharing of multiple files and none of these apps was as easy to use as iDriveSync.

iDriveSync is easy-go-use, generates plain and understandable notifications for recipients and presents a plain website with just a couple of useful controls. Box does it all in the same way with a client app designed with a perfect UI but without end-to-end encryption.

Here are the WebDAV addresses of both competitors:

https://dav.idrivesync.com

https://www.box.net/dav

Related Links …

iDriveSync brings Private Key Encryption

iOS Cloud Clients

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.
Hope to see you again soon.





iOS Cloud Clients

21 07 2013

Using cloud storages is a daily task for many of us.
And that’s not something new. Think about all the E-Mail traffic which moves from cloud to cloud or the online banking where we can save templates for transactions since years.

What’s new is that we are much more actively engaged in cloud computing when it comes to

  • saving lots of pictures and sharing them
  • work on documents exclusively saved in the cloud
  • syncing and backing up mobile devices
  • collaborate on files

Nearly all cloud providers offer applications for computers and mobile devices for managing the data.

Although big companies are engaged in cloud computing the offered client apps are still not yet fully developed.
If we talk about a Post PC era companies need to enable the era to take place. As users are increasingly sophisticated in their needs embryonic software will not have a chance. The time is over where a mobile devices are just seen as a gadgets.

So let’s have a look on the features of so-called Client Apps with which we can access our free or paid cloud account directly in two directions, from and to the device.

I want to discuss offers from Google, Dropbox, iDriveSync, Box, SugarSync, SkyDrive, and Wuala.

Note
Keep in mind that this article is just about clients for Apple’s mobiles and when it comes to a rating it’s solely the offered client app for iOS which is taken into account.

These apps, I call them native apps, are designed for solely accessing to cloud storage. Another category of apps also provides access to clouds e.g. Documents by Readdle. These apps are usually called File Management apps.

It’s obvious that all the above mentioned providers offer client apps for computers for syncing data in the cloud with data on a local harddrive.

The maximum demands …

What should we expect from client software on iOS devices?

  • encryption while data in transit to and from the cloud
  • encryption while data at rest on the cloud
  • create files and folders
  • delete files and folders
  • move files to other folders
  • rename files and folders
  • send files by mail
  • send file by link (share)
  • multi-selection for file operations (delete, copy, move)
  • copy link (for further use)
  • share files by retrieving a link to files/folders
  • menu for recently accessed files
  • powerful full-text search within folders with highlighted search pattern matches
    (searching for just file names is nice to have but normally useless)
  • options for sorting files and folders by name and date changed ascending and descending
  • availability of the ‘Open in’ command to directly transfer a file to an appropriate application
  • preview for all well-known file formats
  • supported file formats
    txt, csv, image file formats like jpg, png, etc
    Office file formats like
    docx/xlsx/ppt (Microsoft), numbers/pages/key (Apple)

UI impressions …

See these screenshots to get an impression of the different user interfaces.

The comparison …

Here is a mind map showing whether main functionalities of client apps for Apple’s mobiles are available or not (red).

Note
App updates released after mid of July might change feature descriptions.

20130719-085235.jpg

You can download the map in different formats

Map as a PDF

Map in ITMZ file format (iThoughts)

Map in MMAP file format (MindManager)

Map in XMIND file format (XMind)

Visit

The Apple group on Biggerplate

to see and download more mind maps related to Apple, products for Apple devices like database clients or mind mapping tools, and background information about the company.

Summary …

From my point of view the winner is Box with overall excellent features. Just a full text search is not available. Furthermore Box offers 10 GB free space. With the offered WebDAV access Apple’s iWork suite can directly connect to Box’s cloud storage.

If there is a need for more security iDriveSync with it’s client-side encryption is recommended. That means, solely you have the key to decrypt.
Even if government comes knocking at iDriveSync’s door there is no way to decrypt your data (says the company).

iDrivesync brings Encryption

There seems to be no need for native clients as they mostly do not meet the above mentioned requirements. Anyway it’s recommended to install clients for those providers you registered with, because it cannot be excluded that apps for file management are flawed. In this case it’s useful to access the storage with the help of a native app of your provider.

To increase usability the additional installation of one or more file management apps is indispensable.
See my blog

Apps for File Management

for further information.

To see a comparison between Google Drive and Dropbox from the desktop view see

Dropbox vs Google Drive

Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.





The Maldives

24 06 2013

The Maldives, officially the Republic of the Maldives, is a group of 1,192 islands in the Indian Ocean about 250 miles south-west of India.

It’s definitely one of the most gorgeous places on this planet.

For sure, on the Maldives there are also people using iOS devices. But that would be no particularity and not an interesting topic for an article on this blog except we would discuss the problems of using gestures on a touchscreen with extremely clammy fingers.

Both, the Maldives and the iOS Filesystem are composed of islands.

Apple’s publication ‘About the iOS File System’
Every App Is an Island
An iOS app’s interactions with the file system are limited mostly to the directories inside the app’s sandbox. During installation of a new app, the installer code creates a home directory for the app, places the app in that directory, and creates several other key directories. These directories constitute the app’s primary view of the file system.

The ‘Open in’ command within an iOS app is the Dhoni which takes you from one i(s)land to another.

Dhoni
is a multi-purpose sail boat with a motor or lateen sails that is used in the Maldives. It is handcrafted and its use within the multi-island nation has been very important.

iLand
is the location of an app on your iPhone or iPad. It’s also handcrafted and if there would be no Dhoni for carrying data from one app to another an iOS device would totally loose it’s usability.
See my post The iOS Filesystem

20130419-112633.jpg

The population of the Maldives inhabits 192 islands. So 1,000 islands are free for placing one bug on each island. If the Maldivian government permits each bug and flaw may take it’s app along.

The time will come when bugs will leave this world because they cannot bite the users any longer. Apple and the developers then may organize the repatriation of the recovered apps.

Here are the new inhabitants of the Maldives, apps, bugs, and flaws:

0001 Notability
Hyperlinks are not supported

0002 Instashare
PDF file format not supported

0003 Dropbox client
No options for sorting files
Sort order is fixed to ascending by file name
No renaming of folders
No WebDAV support

0004 Tap Forms database application
Print out of records just for one record at a time

0005 HP Printer Control
Downloading a PDF from my bank to print it out the app tells me that password protected PDFs cannot be handled.
(Printing via SAFARI worked without errors)
So what’s the sense of preventing the printout?

This reminds me of just renaming an EXE file to a ZIP file to let the file pass through a firewall. Isn’t it horse hockey?

0006 iOS
Missing apps in the ‘Open in’ menu
A bug Apple is not talking about. For me a big problem as it is not possible to import a CSV file into my Bento database installation on the iPhone.
On an iPad it works.

0007 SAFARI, CHROME, …
You cannot scroll down to the end of the site with one tap

0008 WordPress.com
In blogs on WirdPress.com you cannot go the top of a site when tapping on iPad’s or iPhone’s status bar.

0009 Apple’s Photos
Saving photos from an app in the camera roll doesn’t keep the file name.
It’s turned into Apple’s file naming system (IMG_number) and further on nothing points to the content of any image.

0010 Bento
The only way to import data is via a CSV file as an E-Mail attachment.
It seems that FileMaker Inc. hasn’t heard anything about clouds.
Or do I have to by their MAC version of FileMaker server as well?

0011 Customer Center
(German Telekom)
The list of bills is ordered ascending without an option for changing this.
So you always have to scroll down to see the latest bill.
Consider your banking app would show you your very first account settlement first!

0012 Dropbox
Dropbox doesn’t offer a full text search within files like Google Drive.

0013 Google Drive
Google Drive offers a full text search which is an awesome feature.
After entering the search term the app lists all files containing the term.
But it does not highlight the references. So it makes me feel giddy to look for the term in a longer text.

0013 App Store
Developers describe their updates and you can read about changed or updated features before downloading the new version. All this you have to keep in mind because nearly no developers shows the history of updates in his app. If a new gesture is added you won’t remember the announcement and therefore cannot use the new feature.

Oh Lord, sometimes I think developers are just coding but forget that their users own a brain, not a harddisk where all the information is accumulated.
There is more than just coding to be successful and to meet the requirements of users.

0014 Photostream
You cannot transfer photos from the Photostream directly to the camera roll without creating a new album. Does anybody have an idea why?

0015 Google+ app
If you drag down e.g. within a community the information is refreshed.
If you drag down within an article the article is closed.
The same gesture for completely different actions.

0016 Twitter
If you try to follow the recommendations of Twitter to use 2-Step-Verification you have to enter your mobile phone number. With all well-known formats you get an error message here in Germany. Thanks Twitter for offering security in just some countries.


Pain hits my wrist. So I move over to #999.

0998 Apple’s Keynote
When inserting media into presentations you have access to the camera roll but not to the photostream. So you must transfer a photo from photostream to a new or an existing album.

0999 Foxit PDF (Foxit Corporation)
If you want to sync documents e.g. with your dropbox account you have to pay for it once! I never saw this in any other software.

Latest bug

1000 Google+ for iOS
Great new notification bar but the app crashes in many not really replicable circumstances. This didn’t happen in the former version.

The list is not complete yet.
And I’m sorry I cannot do the job without your help.
Please complete the list by writing comments.

Statements of a CEO …

Let me add parts of an interview with Oleg Lola, CEO of MobiDev Corporation.

Q: Hello Oleg! What is your opinion on the definition of a “bad” application?

A: Hi! Well, a bad app is one that does not satisfy the end users’ needs. That’s the definition for me as a developer. Any software must have a direct purpose, a precise task that it performs. …
So if the app lacks these, and it cannot perform its intended task, cannot meet the needs of audience, it’s a bad application.

Q: Are there any other peculiarities that make software “bad”, unpopular and inconvenient?

A: Yes, I can say a bad app is also one that doesn’t fully meet the needs. For example, a well-working app that doesn’t have a proper UI, or lacks some functionality. This causes inconvenience for users, who are very likely to abandon this app, and try to find a better one. I can also name support as a criterion; if the users have questions about the app, they must receive feedback; and software owner has to consider the reviews and improve the application. …
Speed and security are also very important. It’s unallowable to leave a chance for security breach and leaks of corporate data, e-mails, contacts, or any personal information. A good app not only has to bring benefits – it has to cause no harm. Bad software is created without the discussion of these issues between the software owner and developers.

Q: What about any minor problems, bugs?

A: Problems like these are usually eliminated through quality assurance. Bugs may also lead to dissatisfaction of end users, blocking them from using the app. That’s bad. But the major bugs are usually disclosed during the QA process, before the deployment.

Q: And what are the main problems an app can face after deployment?

A: The majority of problems after deployment are connected with compatibility of devices and platform versions. I mean Android. It has plenty of devices, smartphones and tablets. If the app doesn’t use the standard UI elements, for example, there might be problems on certain devices. That’s bad. …
iOS is a winner here: developers have to consider the differences between iPhone and iPad; and the platform versions – they check if the app works properly on the earlier versions. …

Other problems may include updates. For example, occurs some change in Facebook, some function is added, or some is removed. This may influence the app that has integrated Facebook sharing. This has to be tracked and updated in case of necessity. … Updates are vital for good apps.

Q: What are the main mistakes of developers that result in such a questionable outcome?

A: This may sound trivial, but good software developers are people inclined to creative work, in some way like composers and poets. Custom software works are often highly individual. No developer would knowingly put bugs into the app. The main mistakes are usually connected with inattention. A lot here depends on the developer’s experience. On one hand, an app must be done to be close to perfection. On the other hand, developers can mistake, and do mistake, you cannot predict and consider just everything. …
And here we come to quality assurance.

Q: You mean that the app that hasn’t undergone proper QA, has all the chances of being dubbed a bad one?

A: Correct. Developers and QA specialists both vitally shape the app. But while developers create the app, QA specialists must wish to destroy it. That’s the opposite activities that work for the quality of the app. QA tests the capabilities of the application, find its limits. The better are the attempts to destroy the app, the more problems are found and eliminated. …
Testing is an obligatory stage of our software development. …
Don’t cut down QA for the sake of sparing costs. QA is the essential way to make sure you will get the high-quality software you want.

Unfortunately all these statements are valid only for roughly 1% of the apps available at Apple’s App Store. And you recognize it after purchasing.
So on my point of view Apple cannot necessarily be proud of it’s overloaded software offer.

Again I want to quote a comment of my friend Michael Wilde published on Google+. Michael is an expert with more than 30 years experience in application development.

I have worked with well marketed apps. They look great and well organized at first use. But when one digs deeper into the app; there are sometimes basic , functions missing. I expect them to be apart of the app; push every screen and device button. The basic function just does not exist. I wouldn’t buy a used – automobile because it looked nice from the outside and had a great stereo system. The same goes for applications on any platform. Don’t be fooled by , applications that have “great stereo systems”. In other words, don’t purchase applications because they look nice and have a couple of “neat” functions. Make sure the app does exactly what you expect. Even at the basic functionality level. This article points this out very well.
The “stitched together apps” are guilty of this. Big or small, there is always always, a push to get a product on the shelf. Sometimes promises are made for needed or corrected functionality will appear in version 1.2.xx.xx. In other words, it wasn’t put together correctly the FIRST TIME.

Summary …

There is no chance to completely avoid the occurrence of bugs in applications.
But as a customer I can expect:

A valuable system analysis before coding begins
Intensive tests before applications are released
A friendly support taking care of customers
A consistent further development

This should be the basic code of practice for all developers who want to earn their living with app development. For big companies it should go without saying but an embryonic developed final inspection is regrettably the reality.

To read the document

The iOS Human Interface Guidelines (by Apple Inc.)

should be a MUST for all developers.

Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.








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