AiO Remote by Hewlett Packard

24 03 2014

Printing documents seems to be old-fashioned in the modern era of digital communication. But occasionally printouts of documents are necessary. I for example use it for if I have to look on two or more documents to compare the contents which is pretty uncomfortable on an iPad because of the One-Window-Technique.

AirPrint

Apple is known for simple and user-friendly solutions.
In cooperation with Hewlett Packard the company developed the AirPrint technology.

AirPrint is a feature which is implemented in Apple products starting with OS X Lion and iOS 4.2 in November 2010, for printing using a wireless LAN, either directly to any AirPrint compatible printers (such as HP’s entire ePrint range, Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, Gestetner, Hewlett-Packard, Infotec , Lanier, Lenovo, Lexmark, Ricoh, Samsung, Savin, Xerox and more) or to non-compatible printers through a MS Windows, Apple Mac OS X, or GNU/Linux PC. AirPrint does not require printer-specific drivers.

The current list of AirPrint compatible printers (at the time more than 1000) can be found on

Apple Support HT 4356

Manufacturers supporting AirPrint with their printer products are

Brother, Canon, Dell, EPSON, Fuji Xerox, Gestetner,
Hewlett Packard with 95 Printers
Infotec, Kyocera, Lanier, Lenovo, Lexmark, NRG, NTT, Oki Data, Olivetti, RICOH, Samsung, Savin, Sharp, TA Triumph-Adler/UTAX, Toshiba, Xerox, Zink

A number of software solutions allow for non AirPrint printers to be used with iOS devices. For such printers, AirPrint support can be achieved by configuring such support on an intermediary system already having such printers configured for local printing, shared on the same network. Since AirPrint is driverless, such a configuration compensates for the lack of native AirPrint support by using the drivers on the intermediary system instead.

Note
The simplest solution for all platforms is to create a new Bonjour Service that tricks iOS clients into believing they’re talking to an AirPrint device.
Presto by Collobos Software Inc. is an example for such a desktop application which allows printing from iOS devices to every printer connected to the same network.

Bonjour is Apple’s implementation of Zero-configuration networking (Zeroconf), a group of technologies that includes service discovery, address assignment, and hostname resolution. Bonjour locates devices such as printers, other computers, and the services that those devices offer on a local network using multicast Domain Name System (mDNS) service records. Bonjour comes built-in with Apple’s OS X and iOS operating systems. Bonjour can also be installed onto computers running Microsoft Windows.

AirPrint in details …

My home configuration consists of an Apple Airport Extreme Router and an HP Photosmart 6510 which is AirPrint capable. That means the printer has just to be connected to the power supply. In a further step the connection to the WiFi network is established via the iPhone-like control panel by entering the networks password.

After connecting the printer to the WiFi network it appears in the print menu of every printing-capable app. No installation of drivers, no cables, no additional software which usually comes from an installation CD and is nothing more than ad of the manufacturer.

AiO Remote app by HP …

There are two ways to connect an iOS device to a HP printer:

  • 1 HP wireless direct allows you to connect your iPad directly to your printer wirelessly, without a wireless router. The printer must be equipped with HP wireless direct, and HP wireless direct must be turned on to connect to any iOS device.
  • 2 When connecting to the printer over a WiFi network, you are connecting to the printer using a wireless router. The printer might be wirelessly to the router or with an Ethernet cable. A connection is established after entering the WiFi password.
  • The features …

    • 1 Take a photo and automatically transform it into a PDF.
    • 2 Scan pages placed on the device by using the control buttons on the printer’s display or controls displayed in the app. Save scanned documents in the app specific folder on your iOS device or in the cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Evernote, Photostream, or many other cloud storages like iDriveSync via WebDAV).
    • 3 Copy documents using the control buttons on the printer’s display or the controls shown in the app.
    • 4 Show printer details like settings, comnections, supply levels, and print reports like network configuration, wireless test report, or print quality report.
    • 5 Automatic upload of new documents to iCloud and syncing documents across all your iOS devices.
    • 6 As already mentioned AiO Remote can be connected to different cloud storages. So it’s also possible to download documents from there. They can be printed, saved locally, sent by mail, or transferred to other cloud storages.
      Unfortunately Apple’s iWork file formats are not supported.
    • 7 Optional usage of the HP ePrint Service which allows to send print jobs to an E-Mail address registered on the HP ePrint website. If the registration process is finished your printer gets an E-Mail address from HP. Print jobs can be sent to this address and the printout is done if the printer is turned on. So you can print documents from anywhere by sending an E-Mail to your printers E-Mail address. All these print jobs can be managed using the HP ePrint app or the HP ePrint website.
      The HP ePrint service can also be used to print documents on nearby HP ePrint centers e.g. hotels. Nearby centers are shown within the app if Apple’s location services are turned on.

    Document management …

    I summarized some features of the configuration by taking screenshots.

    1 AiO Remote home screen if the printer is turned on

    20131219-093914.jpg

    2 Multipage scanning with a special feature, rearranging pages with Drag+Drop

    20131219-094056.jpg

    3 Saving the scanned document to a cloud storage or mailing it

    20131219-094156.jpg

    Non-AirPrint capable printers …

    When people are evaluating mobile printing solutions, one of the options is to buy a new printer. If you already use a non-AirPrint capable printer it cannot receive print jobs from your iOS device. Presto (former name FingerPrint) by Collobos Software Inc. addresses this problem. The application finds your classical printers automatically and makes them available to your iOS devices if both, printer and iPhone or iPad, are in the same WiFi network.

    How to …
    Consider a network with an attached printer and an iOS-Device in the same network. Install Presto on a Mac or a PC connected to this network. For your iOS-Device no further action is needed that means no special app has to be installed.
    Presto finds all network attached printers automatically and they can be selected on the iOS-Device with the SELECT PRINTER dialog within every app which supports printing.

    See this video for a short description of Presto by Collobos.

    Summary …

    AiO Remote is a continuously updated app from a reliable developer with outstanding features. UI and UX are perfect and the iCloud integration lets you take photos of documents with your iPhone which already arrived when you come home and use your iPad for further actions.

    Related links …

    HP Mobile Printing

    HP ePrint Center

    Thanks for stopping by.





iCloud Backup fails

28 01 2013

The last backup could not be completed.

This message may occur if you back up your iOS-Device on iCloud.
It’s unrewarding like many other error messages shown on any devices.

I get this message every time I delete the last iCloud backup for my iPad or iPhone going to Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options: Delete Backup
It never occurred on any later incremental backup regardless of whether it was started manually or automatically.

At the time you cannot find any support document on Apple’s support website explicitly mentioning this error message.

Apple iCloud: Troubleshooting creating backups

Apple never publishes support documents about not fully investigated issues.

For the protection of our customers, Apple does not disclose, discuss, or confirm security issues until a full investigation has occurred and any necessary patches or releases are available.

So it is not fully investigated and there are many potential reasons for failing backups.
If the involved hard- and software works normally and there is enough free space in iCloud it’s usually a problem of accessing one or more files on the device or on Apple’s servers.

As iCloud backup is an incremental backup access problems are rather likely especially for temporary files created by iOS apps. This problem is well-known also on Windows PCs (Office leaves a temporary beginning with ~).

An incremental backup is one that provides a backup of files that have changed or are new since the last incremental backup; it is one that backs up only the data that changed since the last backup. When a full recovery is needed the restoration process would need the last full backup plus all the incremental backups until the point-in-time of the restoration. Incremental backups consume minimum storage space and are quicker to perform than differential backups.

A test from Jan, 2013 …

The test environment

  • Backup of data of all apps configured
  • iPad and iPhone both connected to power supply
  • Backup size: iPhone 1.9 GB / iPad 2.7 GB
  • Backup started simultaneously on both devices

The results …

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On both devices the error message was displayed.
After repeating ‘Back Up Now’ the error was still displayed on both devices.
After rebooting both devices and repeating both backups one after another both backups were completed successfully.

Note
While backing up iPhone showed a reminder, got 2 new mails and one phone call.
Nevertheless the backup was completed successfully.

Solutions from forums around the world …

  • Do not include data stored in the Camera Roll
    Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options – switch the slider to off
  • Restore the device from an iTunes backup and start the iCloud backup
  • Exclude data of ALL apps and back up
    Add data of apps back one by one and back up manually to find out the offending app
    Note
    This process may last until Apple presents its new device!

Best practice …

Do not believe all these statements in the forums.
They are all not really verified and based on special prerequisites and therefore not necessarily valid.

I start a manual backup every month since the release of iOS 5 after deleting the backup via Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options: Delete Backup. The following procedure works since more than one year.

Reboot the device and start a backup manually while the device is connected to the power supply and locked. If the backup fails repeat it. If it fails one more time repeat it.
Don’t worry. Retaking a backup will only last some minutes unless there is already stored data of former attempts.

Note
When you back up the device shows an estimated time to finish.
You should know that these minutes are measured in DAMs (Dynamical Apple Minutes).
An Apple Minute may last an old fashioned minute or two or just 30 seconds.

Attachments …

Reducing space of backups

  • Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options: Exclude data of apps you do not need any longer.
  • Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options: Delete Backup
    Current backup sizes: iPhone 1.6 GB/iPad 3.2 GB
    Backup sizes after deletion: iPhone 1.2 GB/iPad 2.5 GB
    Deleting the complete backup for my 2 devices saved 1.1 GB

Rebooting an iOS-Device

Press Sleep/Wake button and Home button simultaneously.
Keep holding the buttons until the Apple logo appears.
Release the buttons.





The cloudy iCloud

8 01 2013

Some years ago, the word cloud mostly related to the clouds in the sky, now it immediately makes me think of Data Clouds. Although a recent study totally contradicts this saying that most people think it is run on actual clouds in the sky. Most businesses manage their data in the cloud, because it’s an easy way to collaborate and all the information is accessible anywhere and anytime from any platform. Private users use cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and SkyDrive to easily share or backup pictures, music and documents. Although these solutions are easy and often reliable, how much of your private data do you really want to entrust to big corporations?

When it comes to privacy, there is a very fine line of knowing what these companies are doing with your data and whose hands are actually on it. Security breaches have been very common and they aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes it’s not the question of will someone steal your data, it’s when will they steal your data.

iCloud is one of the largest improvements ever made to increase usability and productivity of electronic devices.

But …

Are my backups and synced data secure on iCloud?

What this blog contains …

  • The simple answer
  • Some details about iCloud-Security
  • The good news
  • The worse news
  • The Apple ID
  • Summary
  • An example how it should be
  • Attachments
    Encryption techniques
    Recommendations
    Managing data with iWork

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The simple answer …

The simple answer is that your data is at least as safe as it is when stored on any remote server, if not more so. All data is transferred to computers and mobile devices using secure sockets layer via WebDAV, IMAP or HTTP. All data (except E-Mail and Notes) are stored and encrypted on Apple’s servers. Secure authentication tokens are created on mobile devices to retrieve information without constantly transmitting a password.

Some details about iCloud-Security …

(quoted from Apple’s Terms and Conditions for iCloud)

Access to Your Account and Content
Apple reserves the right to take steps Apple believes are reasonably necessary or appropriate to enforce and/or verify compliance with any part of this Agreement. You acknowledge and agree that Apple may, without liability to you, access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Account information and Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or a third party, as Apple believes is reasonably necessary or appropriate, if legally required to do so or if we have a good faith belief that such access, use, disclosure, or preservation is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process or request; (b) enforce this Agreement, including investigation of any potential violation thereof; (c) detect, prevent or otherwise address security, fraud or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property or safety of Apple, its users, a third party, or the public as required or permitted by law.

This means that Apple employees have the technical ability to read your data.

There may be procedural, technical, or policy controls to make this unlikely, but the capability is there. That means that if Apple’s cloud ever gets compromised by a sophisticated attacker, the attacker could potentially access all your data. In other words, any data breach or accident on Apple’s part could potentially expose your data. This may not be too likely but even respected companies like Google have been breached. A breach or other exposure of the iCloud servers is not unthinkable.

E-Mails and Notes are not stored in encrypted form, while on Apple’s servers. This might be dangerous as E-Mails often contains sensitive information (e.g., account passwords, reset links, etc.).

When Government comes knocking Apple will not be transparent about requests for access to your data and not telling users when their data has been disclosed to the government.

The risks are not limited to government requests.
If you get sued, or end up in a contentious divorce, the opposing party’s lawyers could subpoena your data from Apple, and Apple would be required to disclose it to them, if they are relevant to the case. But who knows it before investigating the contents?

The good news …

Data is encrypted using SSL while it is transferred (in transit) between your computer and the iCloud servers. Also, data is encrypted while it is stored on the iCloud servers (at rest).

The worse news …

iCloud uses server-side encryption, not client-side encryption. When sending data to the cloud, it gets encrypted on your machine with SSL, then decrypted at the iCloud servers, then re-encrypted using an encryption key that only Apple knows for storage.

The Apple ID …

The security of your data on iCloud is only as good as the passphrase on your Apple ID.
Therefore, if you want your data to be secure, you need to choose a long and strong passphrase. Unfortunately, there are some aspects of the current systems that tend to nudge users towards choosing short, weak passphrases.

    The OS refuses to store this passphrase in the keychain, requiring you to type it in frequently. If you use an iOS-Device, you will frequently need to type in your Apple ID passphrase (e.g., every time you install or update an app). Because entering a long and strong passphrase is a major pain on an iPhone, many users may end up choosing a short, poor passphrase just for convenience sake — which unfortunately leaves their iCloud data poorly secured. So, the current design may tend to encourage many users to use a weak password, leaving their data at risk.

Summary …

iCloud’s security practices are largely in line with mainstream practice in this area. iCloud appears to have a reasonable and professionally designed security architecture. While there are some security risks, for most people, iCloud’s security is likely to be good enough, and the convenience benefits of iCloud will likely outweigh any risks for most folks.

However, storing your data in the cloud does increase the risk. For some particularly sensitive users (health records, financial institutions, lawyers, etc.) it might be prudent to avoid storing the most sensitive data in the cloud.

An example how it should be …

The solution are apps which already store their data encrypted on your device and use the highest level of iOS Protection classes that is ‘Accessible only when Unlocked’ (disadvantage: syncing won’t start happening immediately when your phone is turned on) and ‘Non-migratable’ (disadvantage: if you migrate all of your device settings and data to a different device you will have to re-enter the password).
These data will be, let me say DOUBLE-ENCRYPTED, when transferred to iCloud and stored there. They cannot be accessed with server-side keys only.
An example is 1Password (AgileBits) for managing passwords, bank accounts and beyond.

20121217-160953.jpg

Interested people even with less technical understanding should read these articles about security design basics …

AgileBits Cloud Storage Security

Lost iPhone and Safe Passwords

Attachments …

Encryption techniques …

Full-strength, randomly generated, user-managed key
This is the most secure setting. Access to the full server data gives the attacker no useful information. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult to use. Enabling a new device requires coordination with an existing device. If users lose all of their devices, e.g. if they only have one device and it breaks, there’s no way to recover.

Password-derived key
The data is encrypted with a key derived from the user’s password. This is not as secure as the previous setting, since most user passwords are not nearly as strong as full-strength crypto keys. However, as my colleague Brian Warner is exploring, it may be possible to still make it quite expensive to break into a single user’s dataset, and prohibitively expensive to go fishing for data across many user accounts. Usability is significantly increased: a user can set up a new device simply by typing in their password. However, the crypto conundrum remains: lose your password, lose your data.

Server-side security (applied to Apple’s iCloud)
Users don’t manage keys, and servers technically have access to the user data. A number of techniques can be used to meaningfully restrict the chance of a leak (e.g. disk encryption or other type of encryption where the server holds the key somewhere.) Security against insider attackers is not nearly as high as with the two previous solutions. This is, of course, how almost every service on the Internet works today. It is the only model that maps to user intuition, where a user can forget their password, lose their devices, and still recover. Apple holds the (encryption) key!

Turn off apps which should not sync their data using iCloud or which should not include their data into iCloud backups. To do this go to

Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – Your device

and deactivate all apps which data you do not want to be handled by iCloud services.
Do something similar with data of Apple’s pre-installed apps
(Mail, Calendars, Contacts, Reminders, Safari, Notes, Photo stream).
But if you do so you will loose all the benefits coming with iCloud.

Recommendations …

Consider three vulnerabilities …

  • Access in accordance with Terms and Conditions of the cloud provider
  • Stealing of the device
  • Hacking of your device
  • Hacking of the cloud storage

To keep your data secure there is no simple workaround.
But you can do your best with theses settings and keeping your sensitive data away from apps not supporting encryption.

  • Use a strong password for you Apple ID even if it is not convenient
  • Use an Unlock Code for your device
  • Use the Auto-Lock option for time-based automatic locking
  • Use unlock codes for lockable apps managing sensitive data
  • Do not use cloud storages for saving data managed by apps not supporting encryption already on your device

If your thoughts are still in turbulence …
Keep your devices under lock in Fort Knox, switch them off and lock the door with your one and only key. Don’t loose the key!

Managing data with iWork …

The most powerful setting is using the iCloud service for syncing iWork-Documents across your devices. It’s simple and automatic and predestined for frequent usage of different devices.

But keep in mind that these documents should not contain sensitive data as they are NOT DOUBLE-ENCRYPTED like those of the app 1Password mentioned above.

As an alternative manage sensitive data e.g. in NUMBERS and exclude this application from iCloud syncing and iCloud backup. To back up the data use iTunes with a strong backup password.

Note
Another solution would be to store iWork documents highly encrypted via WebDAV on a cloud storage which does not use server-side encryption. At the time Apple does not support this feature.

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DBMS on iOS-Devices (2)

5 01 2013

In part (2) about databases I will introduce an SQLite – based app from Apple’s App Store. I found it by posting a question to the ‘MacTalk Australia’ – Forum (Thanks to Biallystock).

On my point of view the following requirements are indispensable to obtain acceptance from users even with a lower state of knowledge:

  • Creating tables directly on the iOS-Device
    (without the need of a computer)
  • Availability of field type ‘media’ to insert images, PDFs and other document types
    (iWork-Documents would be highly appreciated)
  • Importing CSV-Files for simple analysis
  • Creating simple queries
  • Printing reports
  • Self explaining user interface
  • Support for easy and fast entry of data
    (date picker, customizable pick lists, etc.)
  • Creating relations between tables
    (for connecting records of a subtable to a main table)
  • Included templates and the possibility of customizing them
  • Automatic or on demand syncing across iOS-Devices via iCloud or other storage providers like Dropbox, Box, etc.
  • Direct syncing between iOS-Devices in the same WLAN
  • Backing up all data and settings for a complete restore on another device
  • Security features like Passcode lock for the app and encryption of the database
  • Stability of the app and maintained data integrity after crashing

According to my present knowledge Tap Forms HD from Tap Zapp Software Inc., Canada is the only app that meets these requirements. I looked on the version 3.0.4 (44) from Dec 2012.

To show you the features, I created a new database on an iPad 3rd Gen and synced it with an installation on iPhone 4S via iCloud (implemented feature of Tap Forms).

I have chosen a semi-professional document management system, which clears up the mysterious business of table design and table linking.

The definition of goals …

To avoid distribution of data to different locations we use the database which contains all the information needed to browse through essential informations based on documents.

Let’s work with two tables.

The set of basic informations is stored in a master record in the master table.
Corresponding documents are stored in a document record of the documents table. One master record may refer to a couple of documents stored in the documents table.

Documents are the feed for our database.
Follow these steps to machine the food and bring it to the empty belly.

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The food is served so we can now start to design the storehouse, sorry, the database.

For those who are not acquainted with database design and technical terms I will do my best to keep it simple. Beginners are invited to read the first part of my blog from 2012-01-03.

Step 1 … Creating the document table

The document table contains the files attached to records of the basic table.
By way of example:
We have two documents referring to the purchase of an Apple iPad, the invoice and the Apple Care Protection Plan.
In other cases it could also be the sales contract for a car and invoices of repair services or insurance policies.
You also can define a table for customers (use Apple’s CONTACTS app only for what is it designed for) with additional informations like Last Contact, Reminders (using field type ALERT for alerts like those of Apple’s Calendar or Reminders app), Invoices, Offers, etc..

20121220-091417.jpg

Step 2 … Creating the master table

The master table is the outline for main informations enclosed in documents.
Possibly there are documents of different kinds, so we will implement a further breakdown e.g. (insurances, devices, …). This will later on enable us to select records.

20121220-203914.jpg

Using a powerful special field type called Pick List

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Step 3 … Entering the data

The image shows the data entered for Name=Apple Topic=Device with 5 attached PDF documents as there are invoices and a confirmation for an Apple Care Protection Plan.
As you can see the app follows Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines when using symbols. This makes it easy to use.

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Step 4 … Searching for data

Databases contain a lot of entries so it is indispensable to have a highly efficient functionality for searching records. In the example below a SEARCH on devices has been configured and saved for later use. In the search area (top left) you can enter ad-hoc search terms or refer to saved searches. In the latter case Search Rules like ‘Field contains, is less than, is greater than or equal to, …’ can be defined.

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Step 5 … Syncing and backing up

After a short time an intensively used database contains many relevant informations.
So backing up the data is indispensable.

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Notes …

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DBMS on iOS-Devices (1)

3 01 2013

As I develop applications based on Microsoft Access I am highly interested in solutions for Apple’s iOS-Devices. The strong benefit of a database is the synopsis of otherwise widely spread informations. 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. That’s a consequence of the iOS-Filesystem and it is not intended as criticism of developers.

See my blog Every app is an ‘iLand’.

iOS-Data Management is, sorry to say, a back step into the late Middle-Ages where card boxes for every requirement were state-of-the-art.

Due to the relevance of the topic this is my first blog about databases with follow-ups.

A database …

If you create structured data (e.g. contacts, where every contact consists of a set of fields (e.g. name, email-address, phone number, account, bank) with different contents and save them as a file you have a very simple database. Its just a container in which similar data are stored.
Lets call the set of fields a TABLE (Library) and the contents of one set of fields a RECORD and a subset of all records a QUERY (collection) and one or more tables and queries a DATABASE

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An improved version of a database contains many tables, stores your data securely, lets you collaborate simultaneously with other people and gives you fast information about people, stocks, insurances, words in other languages and beyond. But the pure data won’t let you do the jobs. It would be like searching in a very bulky phone book where data are not sorted.
So you need database management software (DBMS) to support your curiosity.

A Database Management System (DBMS) is a set of programs that enables you to store, modify, and extract information from a database, it also provides users with tools to add, delete, access, modify, and analyze data stored in one location. A group can access the data by using query and reporting tools that are part of the DBMS or by using application programs specifically written to access the data. DBMS’s also provide the method for maintaining the integrity of stored data, running security and users access, and recovering information if the system fails.

An extremely powerful feature of databases comes up, if you connect data in different tables. In the above mentioned example the record contains the fields ‘account’ and ‘bank’. This two fields can be connected to the database of your home bank and will show you your accounts current.

A database solves many problems with your otherwise widely spread data.
Where is the “egg-laying, milk-bearing woolly sow app” that makes it all easy to manage?

The short answer is: nowhere.

Anyway there are some apps working on databases but their usability is strongly limited and much foresight is demanded from the user to hit the apple.

After a while you will manage a lot of different data.
And every night during your slow-wave sleep questions pop up:

  • Can I switch to another app without loosing my data?
  • Does the app still run if a new iOS-Version is coming from Cupertino?
  • Are the data available on my second device?
  • Are my data locked against all the nosy nerds?

And here is the bad news:
There is only one app meeting the requirements extensively.
iOS is a new technology compared with Windows or Mac OS. Most of the developers are not yet ready to analyze the requirements of customers (thinking they bought a computer which is only a bit smaller than his brother). And its obviously a question of pricing to get on the green track.

Databases for iOS-Devices …

The best small business solution is Microsoft Access.
This is my personal experience over decades of programming and designing.
But an iOS-Version is not available. There is only one app ‘ACCESS mobile database client’ from Impathic. This app is not even capable to fetch a Microsoft Access database except via iTunes-Filesharing.

After investigating 7 apps there is only one app from a serious developer which may be taken into account. Its BENTO from FileMaker Inc., USA.

But even this app does not sync multiple devices except via BENTO for Mac.
iOS-Users do not like these solutions as they have to install a server version on a Mac, if they have one, configure it and go deeply into the details. FileMaker is not discussed here, because you cannot create your own databases on an iOS-Device. The full version and a Mac is required.

To clear it up: I never worked with the Mac version of FileMaker or Bento so I cannot give a rating for this product. What I see are some facts about Bento which are summarized here:

  • Databases are not synced across iOS-Devices
  • Fetching data from external storages only via CSV-File received by E-Mail
  • Fields like ‘media’ or ‘checkbox’ get lost when using CSV-Format
  • No support for cloud storages neither for well-known providers like Dropbox nor WebDAV-Connections
  • No import of PDFs into fields of type ‘media’ (voice recording, import from camera roll or captured media is available)

An application …

Bento is an easy to use DBMS for iOS-Devices with a plain user interface.
I your requirements don’t clash with the lacks above its the best solution available in the App Store even for normal users.

To give you an impression of BENTO I imported 5000 records from a CSV-File.

Checking invoices …

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Cons …

  • No IF-Statements in calculated fields
    (Support only for numerical calculations and String-Operations)
  • No alignment of calculated fields
  • Some crashes, however without data loss
  • No queries with conditions when building new collections
    (single select of records only)
  • Printing is not supported

Pros …

  • Perfect UI, easy to use
  • Good performance (tested with 5000 records)
  • Understandable helps
  • Easy to use design tool for forms
  • Special field types Checkbox, Choice, Rating
  • Show/Hide-Fields option
  • Permuting of columns
  • Resizing of column widths
    (‘automatic and manual adjustment)
  • Sorting for all columns

Note
All missing features in BENTO for iOS are available in the Mac-Version.

Part (2) of this topic will be posted on 2013-01-05.

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iWork and iCloud

14 12 2012

iCloud is a powerful feature provided by Apple for syncing, backing up and managing documents on Apple-Devices. If you use more than one iOS-Device you cannot believe how much benefits you will have when iCloud is turned on. It’s the highest integrated service for Internet capable devices ever provided by a company.

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Configure your device …

To use iCloud you must ensure that the following settings are made on all of your devices.

  • 1 Tap the Settings icon on the Home screen, select iCloud, then enter your Apple ID.
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  • 2 Tap on Documents and Data and switch it on. This allows apps to store documents and data in iCloud.
    (Later you can switch this feature off for individual programs e.g. a Banking app for that you don’t want to store its data in iCloud. You find this feature under iCloud – Storage an Backup – Manage storage – Your device – Backup options.)
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  • 3 In Settings scroll down to the list of apps and slide the Use iCloud switch from Off to On for all of your iWork-Apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote).
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Once iWork is configured, you can collaborate with yourself on all of your devices.

Activity indicators …

If you now open an iWork-App e.g. Numbers you will see an Arrow-Up-Symbol in the upper right corner of the documents you already created. The symbol is an indicator for ‘Uploading to iCloud’. During upload of the file you will see a progress bar.
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Look at this document status which is largely unknown and keep in mind that you cannot access those outsourced documents without an active internet connection. If you don’t have access to a WLAN it’s a good idea, to allow syncing via 3G/LTE connections (see Step 2 below ‘Configure your device’).

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Essentials …

Here are a few things to keep in mind about using iCloud.

  • If you organize your spreadsheets into folders on one device, you see the same folder organization on all your online devices set up to iCloud.
  • If you change the title of a spreadsheet on one device, the title is changed on all your online devices set up to iCloud.
  • If you save a spreadsheet to icloud.com/iwork from another device, it appears on this device only after you open Numbers while connected to the Internet.

Deleting a document …

If you delete an document, it’s deleted from iCloud and from the applications folder on all your online devices set up to iCloud. The deletion is definite. There is no trash and no accessible history of older versions which could be restored.

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Conflicts …

Normally you will not get a conflict between different versions of the same document except yuor devices are not connected to the internet while editing the documents. Look at the following issue.

On an iPhone the document ‘Checklist’ was modified while the device had no internet connection. The document shows an upward-pointing arrow. That means the file is in the queue for uploading to iCloud.
If this device connects to the internet again, the document would be uploaded.)

If the same document now is edited on an iPad with internet connection, while iPhone is still unconnected, the document will be stored on iCloud in a newer version. If iPhone reconnects to the internet the following dialog comes up:

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In the Resolve Conflict window, tap the circle next to each of the spreadsheets you want to keep.
You can select as many of the spreadsheets as you want. The Keep button reflects the number of spreadsheets selected.

If you select more than one of the spreadsheets, all of them are saved to this device. A number is appended to the spreadsheet’s filename, so that no two files have the same name. For example, if you keep two spreadsheets called ‘Checklist’ they appear as ‘Checkliste’ and ‘Checklist 2′.

All the saved spreadsheets are automatically pushed to your other online devices that are set up to use iCloud.

Deactivating iCloud for iWork …

To complete the description:

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What you should always keep in mind is that iCloud is bound to your Apple ID.
If you sell a device your iWork documents (and all other data) are still accessible in iCloud via your unique Apple ID.

Thanks for your attention.





Reducing space of iCloud-Backup

9 10 2012

Apple’s iCloud-Backup often uses more space than needed.
Follow the steps below to reduce space.

1 1.9 GB available at initial state
2 Delete iCloud-Backup
3 Create a new backup
4 2.2 GB available at final state

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I could reproduce this behaviour frequently using iPad and iPhone with iOS 6.
In all cases no settings of iCloud-Backup (activate/deactivate backup of app-data) have been changed and no apps have been used.








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