Editors’ Choice

28 03 2017

What a misleading cachet in many cases.

Here’s a short note to Phil Schiller @Apple.com:

Dear Phil,
you should choose your editors carefully.

The app I’m talking about is just one of many examples and let me think that “Editors’ Choice” is a sign you can acquire by purchase.

F1 is expensive, full of bugs, useless on the Apple Watch, promised great features which are definitely embryonic and it’s without any helpful support.

Thanks for reading and
be careful when you see “Editors’ Choice”.

Good bye, Formula One Digital Media Ltd.





Be creative

23 01 2017

Make the most out of your iThing.

Why should such a powerful device like an iPhone with 3D Touch technology solely be used for going Google+, Twitter, or Facebook?

Apple’s App Store offers lots of useful apps with a great UI and features you need to be creative.

Here’s my app portfolio for writing articles on WordPress, the world’s biggest blogging platform.

ByWord
a simple text editor for writing down ideas everywhere and every time

Inspiration
a tool for creating mind maps and concept maps which can summarize details of tech related topics true to the motto “An image is worth a thousand words”

WordPress
the official app for text formatting, adding images and videos, and publishing articles

Tap Forms
a database app for managing more detailed information about blog articles 

Here’s an app review of Inspiration:

Inspiration

If you’re interested in reviews of the other apps just enter their names into the SEARCH field of my website.

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





iTranslate

30 12 2016

If you are urgently looking for a translation you should try out iTranslate for  Watch.

All that glitters is not gold especially when it comes to automated translations.

I don’t have experiences in other languages than German and Thai but translations from English into these two languages are most often horrible. Microsoft’s automated translations of their knowledge base articles are good examples for the lack in quality.

So use iTranslate just in the free version if you like to look up some word translations on your Apple Watch or iPhone. The app is quite good but it again shows the sheer impossibility of acceptable automated translations.

Btw, as long as the grammar of languages isn’t changed into processor-friendly rules we won’t see acceptable translations done by machines. Sadly.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose your language
  2. Use Scribble or Voice input
  3. Wait for response of iPhone
  4. See and hear the translation

Thanks for surfing by.





myTracks

4 07 2016

Posted from 51.06553 7.00345
the location of Minini, my favorite Italian coffee shop after finishing outdoor walks.

The app myTracks turns your iPhone into a fully functional GPS logger. Tracks can be displayed on different maps.

With the Apple Watch App you can start and stop the GPS recording, add waypoints to highlight important locations, and display information about the current GPS recording. This includes the starting time, distance traveled, current, minimum and maximum elevation and the current map.


In addition to the waypoints you can take photos from within myTracks, which are added to the GPS track. GPS tracks are stored only on your iPhone. That means, there is no need to register or Iogin to any network service. Optionally you can sync tracks and photos via iCIoud between all your devices.

Note
The image shows my first tracking with the app including a photo taken with an iPhone 6S Plus. The UI is self-explaining, no need to learn anything before starting your move.

App Store myTracks The GPS Logger

Developer website

Thanks for dropping by.
and
Thanks to the developer Dr Dirk Stichling.





About Encryption

29 12 2014

Would you like to be able to use QR-Codes in order to let people quickly get some sensitive information, but also want to be able to restrict the number of people with access to the data? And what about iWork documents containing personal data? Is there a way to securely manage them?

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If you use an app like Qrafter by Kerem Erkan you may have the idea to use password-protected QR-Codes for sending sensitive data e.g. via mail or a messaging app like iMessage.

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The idea seems to be fascinating but let’s face the facts with an answer of the developer Kerem I got via E-Mail:

The encryption is 48-bit, meaning it is weak for any sensitive information. More secure encryption methods take too much data and QR Codes do not have such capacity. You should not use QR Code encryption for anything sensitive.

For the sake of security, it’s hard to beat the old-school, in-person hand off. It’s not the most sexy of options in the digital age, but surely there’s something titillating about a top-secret document hand off. Bring your briefcase and make it like a spy movie. Or don’t.

Don’t send your sensitive documents over email. It may seem private, but even if you’re using an email account that uploads attachments over a more secure HTTPS connection, like GMail, you have no control over your recipient’s server, and they may download your attachment from an unencrypted HTTP connection. Now say they did that from a public Wi-Fi network. Things just got very un-secure.

Some basics …

If you want your data to be NSA-resistant all files must be encrypted on your device before being transferred to the cloud. Your password should never be stored on your device or, if it’s stored there should never leave it. So no unauthorized user, not even employees of your provider, could ever access your data. Client-side encryption is the keyword.

Since encryption occurs before files leave your device it effectively wraps a protective wall around your data in the cloud. Employees then have very limited access to your data. They can only see how many files you have stored and how much storage space they occupy. The files themselves, as well as all metadata (folder names, file names, comments, preview images, etc.), are encrypted. The following chart illustrates three typical encryption schemes. The scheme in the middle is what is used by most cloud storage providers.

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What matters most when encrypting data is not the particular encryption algorithm (e.g. AES), but how it is used. Basically, there are three encryption schemes:

  • 1 None
    No encryption is used. Your data is sent to the storage in plain view, visible to anyone who has access to your network connection as well as to the storage provider. This is a little bit like sending someone a postcard: everyone involved in handling the postcard can read it.
  • 2 Encrypted connection (e.g. SSL)
    In this scheme, a secure channel is established between your computer and the storage provider before data is uploaded. That way, no one can eavesdrop on the transfer. However, the provider sees all your data. Often storage providers implement additional measures like creating corporate policies that disallow their employees to view your data. Another additional measure is using encrypted disks to store your data, so someone breaking into the data center and stealing the hard drives won’t be able to read it. However, it is still visible to the provider and its employees. This approach has the advantage that the provider can process your data for you, such as for creating a search index. Also, it is technically easy to make the data available in the web browser or through an API. The problem with this approach is that your privacy is limited. The storage provider can, for example, be forced to provide your data to a government agency. What’s more, employees will be able to read your data even if prohibited by company policies. It is also much more likely that bugs or other errors could result in data leaks. This is the most widespread approach implemented by cloud storage providers.
  • 3 Client-side encryption
    This approach is inherently more secure than the others. Apart from Box and Wuala, there are only a few other cloud storage providers following this scheme, mostly backup services. All data is encrypted locally on your device before it is uploaded. No one not explicitly authorized by you can see your data. Since not even the storage provider can see your data, they cannot be forced to hand it over to government agencies. The employees are also not able to read your data. As a side effect, it is impossible to recover your password in case you forget it. You can test your cloud storage provider’s security by checking whether they offer password recovery or password reset. If yes, then it does not employ client-side encryption. With client-side encryption, security is embedded deeply in the design of the storage.

    One of the main challenges with client-side encryption is key management. If you only want to back up, a single master key is enough. However, if you want to be able to share data selectively, your cloud storage must feature a sophisticated key management scheme.

With this in mind here is a more secure method to store sensitive data permanently or to exchange information with others.

Use a secure cloud storage, e.g. WUALA or BOX or an encryption software like BOXCRYPTOR and send the information as an encrypted file, a simple text message, a PDF file, or an iWork document.

Say you and your tech-savvy recipient set up a shared folder. Anything you put in that folder would travel encrypted from your folder to the provider’s servers to your recipient’s folder. That’s it.

Boxcryptor …

You use a cloud storage with standard, that means no, additional sevcurity?
Don’t worry. There is a solution for all well-known clouds including all other clouds which support the WebDAV protocol. It’s an application developed by the German company Secomba GmbH.

This video explains how Boxcryptor works.


(2:36 min)

Boxcryptor creates a virtual drive on your device that allows you to encrypt your files locally before uploading them to your cloud or clouds of choice. It encrypts individual files – and does not create containers.

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Any file dropped into an encrypted folder within the Boxcryptor drive will get automatically encrypted before it is synced to the cloud. To protect your files, Boxcryptor uses the AES-256 and RSA encryption algorithms.

Boxcryptor is free for one device and one cloud provider. You cannot use two iOS devices to manage encrypted files as long as both devices are linked to Boxcryptor. If you want to share encrypted files with others you can do that without a subscription.

A workaround …

You cannot turn off iCloud for individual iWork documents. So, creating a new document with sensitive data is a risk because the content automatically finds its way into iCloud.
Even if you turn off iCloud for documents but still use iCloud for backing up your device, your documents will be stored in iCloud and Apple has the key to decrypt them.

Here is a workaround which lets you manage encrypted iWork documents using Boxcryptor.

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This is definitely not a comfortable way but the only option to keep sensitive information away from unauthorized people. Even if government comes knocking there is no chance to decrypt your data regardless of the provider keeping your files. I would understand if you say “I hear the message well but lack faith’s constant trust.”.

Summary …

Sad to say that effective encryption is still not a standard feature of using cloud storages. Even Apple doesn’t use client-side encryption and so you should be careful when creating documents with sensitive data. Even if you deactivate syncing via iCloud your documents will find their way into the cloud when your iPad or iPhone initiates the next backup to iCloud.

Related links …

About QR-Codes

Mystic signs of progress

About encryption

Notes on encryption

About clouds

The cloudy iCloud

Risky free clouds

iOS cloud clients

Box for iOS

Thanks for flying with iNotes4You.





Mindscope

30 11 2014

Apple’s iPad is the perfect device for summarizing and visualizing what’s going on in your brain.

Most of the apps available at the App Store are designed for special tasks like note taking, mind mapping, concept mapping, etc. But there are also innovative ideas combining different purposes in just one app.

For technical products Three-In-One, or let’s say X-InOne, is a synonym for a set of three/X features implemented in just one product. Three-In-One concepts are well-known from printers. For printing, copying, and scanning documents there is just one device which does it all.

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An example is the brandnew app Mindscope by John Goering.

It promises to be

Part mind-mapping tool, part outliner, part todo manager.
A multi-level magnet board for your brain.

The basic idea of John is to organize information in layers each attached to a text snippet.

Create a text snippet.
Tap on it to move into the next layer
(fortunately not the next layer of your touch screen but a software controlled stoarage)
Enter further information.
Go back by using the pinch gesture or tapping on the layer menu at the top of the screen.

If you installed the app the welcome screen presents several videos about the usage.

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In advance …

The app isn’t ready yet. It’s brandnew and if you are interested in using this tool you should be patient until John adds some necessary features users expect when using the tool for note taking and mind/concept mapping.

Not all readers are familiar with all the abbreviations used in the IT world. UI means the User Interface and describes the layout of an app seen by a user. Developers should follow some standards published by Apple in The iOS Human Interface Guidelines.

UX means the User Experience and describes what users feel when they use the app the first time and extensively later on. The iPad is made for apps simplifying daily tasks. If UI and UX isn’t perfect it’s likely that an app carves out a miserable existence or is deleted after a short time.

Both UI and UX are in some way subjective criteria. So take a look on the screenshots of Mindscope and build your own very personal opinion.

The UI was developed by an engaged team in Berlin, Germany, and for me it looks perfect. I’m convinced that we soon will see a high quality product with the well-known label ‘Made in Germany’. So there seems to be no reason to not purchase the additional features via an In-App-Purchase and getting all the projected refinements of future updates.

Features …

An image is more than a 1000 words. So please look at my collages to see how the app works.

Using the app is easier than any other app I used before. Although it should be mentioned that features are limited. It’s the task of John to keep it as simple as it is now after necessary features are added. Jaakko did it with his app Mindly and I hope John will do it as well.

An application …

Using the app Inspiration I created a short summary of how to sell an iOS device. To get familiar with Mindscope I transferred the information to a board in Mindscope.

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What we can see is that there might be problems of acceptance because Mindscope doesn’t support colors, shapes, and images. The only way to highlight essentials is to use a bold text possibly with a larger size.

Honestly said, the creation of the board shown above was a nightmare and here are just some of the reasons why:

  • The size of a board is limited to the screen size of the iPad. The content cannot be extended or moved around.
  • Boards cannot be zoomed.
  • Boards do not adapt their position relative to the keyboard coming up when you create a new object.
  • The shape coming up when multiple objects are selected often doesn’t surround the actual selection.
  • The press and long-press gesture often opens a new board and transfers the content of a text snippet into this board.

English is not my native language and so it’s quite difficult to describe what happened during the creation process but we should keep in mind that we are talking about a 1.0 version.

Anyway I’m not sure if developers should release apps where basic features are missing or the UX in some cases is near to annoy users. It’s getting harder and harder to compete with apps already available and constantly improved over years and so the release date for a new app should be considered carefully.

Missing features …

Developers like Jaakko Rantanen (developer of Mindly) who first released his app in December 2013 and launched powerful updates in January, April, and July 2014, skyrocketing ratings and sales did it right. Talk to your customers and delight with useful new features.

If John is only approximately on the level of Jaakko we will see a competitive offer which will have it’s place in the category of useful productivity apps.

The cons as of August 26, 2014 …

  • Syncing between iOS devices not supported
  • Images cannot be assigned to topics
  • Text colors are not supported
  • Proprietary file format available only on the device
    Files cannot be sent to cloud storages or by mail
  • Topics cannot be organized in folders
  • Shapes for topics are not available
    This is a quite important con because shapes are an indispensable option to use visualizations of complex topics.
  • The UNDO control is missing
    Sorry, but that’s an absolute No-Go.
  • No word wrap
    At the time the app is more suited for shorter text snippets.

Not listed are a couple of useful small parts in the program code which make users happy, e.g. aligning objects, duplicating objects, and, and, and.

IMG_3219.PNG

The developer tries to avoid on-screen controls which is definitely the right approach to let the user focus on content.

Remarks (October 23) …

To get an overview of the changes after my article was written please have a look at the Version History of the app in the App Store. Some useful features have been added but I still think that, after 2 months of being in the market it’s a no-go that there is still no UNDO feature.

Remarks (November 15)

Never give up. The sorely missed UNDO command was released in Mindscope 1.3 along with some other tweaks which can be looked up in the version history of the app in Apple’s App Store.

The app still has the subtitle ‘Mindscope – the Mind Mapping Out…’ although many features even of simple mind mapping tools are missing.

Summary …

The app looks quite promising. The next months will give us the answer whether it moves into the smiling sky of iOS apps or drops into no-man’s-land.

The app promises to be a tool for mind mapping, planning projects, taking meeting notes, creating flowcharts, tracking todos, and presenting information. This is a quite exaggerated announcement. To compete with a specialized app or a Three-In-One app like MagicalPad it needs tons of further improvements.

John, keep on following the KISS principle. This is what users expect from modern apps for the Apple’s mobile flagship for teaching, learning, and organizing.

Related links …

The developer’s website …

Mindscope

Mind mapping …

iThoughts

Mindly

Mind/Concept mapping …

Inspiration

Three In One

Mind Maps + Concept maps

Others …

Note taking

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





CloudOn

28 09 2014

To work on Microsoft Office files (Excel, Word, Powerpoint) you can either use an app like DocsToGo, a subscription of Office 365 (connected with Microsoft’s cloud service SkyDrive) or a free app called CloudOn by CloudOn Inc., first released in October 2011.

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CloudOn can be connected not only to SkyDrive but also to your Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Hightail accounts, and send or share files with colleagues and contacts via email directly from within the app. Some features like AirPrint are only available through the Pro version of CloudOn with an introductory offer of $2.99/month or $29.99/year.

The features …

CloudOn works with Microsoft Office documents stored on the above mentioned cloud storages. New files can be created and existing files can be edited. Microsoft’s proprietary file format is kept in either case. •So there is 100% compatibility with Office files and you do not have to worry that they will break or compatibility issues will occur.

  • CREATE, REVIEW and EDIT documents
    Create, review and edit Microsoft Word documents , Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations on an iPad or an iPhone.
    •Insert charts, images, equations, SmartArt, clipart, tables, shapes and change format fonts, paragraphs, styles, themes and layout.
    •Review spelling and grammar, track changes, comments, annotations and rich markup.
    View and create charts (including pivot, bar, line, area etc), add formulas, filter etc.
  • ACCESS and MANAGE files
    •Seamlessly connect to and access Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat documents in your cloud storage provider account(s), including Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive.
    •Open documents, spreadsheets and presentations from your email accounts as well as Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive.
    •Copy, paste, delete, rename and move files across folders.
    •All files are saved automatically giving you the comfort that you won’t lose your data.
    •DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX, PDF, JPG, PNG, GIF are the file types supported by CloudOn.
  • SHARE and SEND documents
    You can work on the same doc with colleagues (understandably not simultaneously).
    •Use the FileSpace to add context to your work – view all the activity on any given doc including edits, action, and notes or if you prefer just send a link to the file by email.
  • AIR PRINT documents (feature of the Pro version)
    •Print Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets and Powerpoint Presentations.

Here is a summarization of all features created with a mind map with my favorite mind mapping tool iThoughts HD for the iPad.

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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
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

User interface …

The functionality of CloudOn is pretty straightforward, with a tidy interface that allows you to rearrange the layout of your files by tapping an icon. There are also shortcuts for creating a new document and for accessing the settings and other menu options.

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CloudOn also has an autosave feature, so if your quick burst of editing is interrupted, everything will have been saved for when you can come back to it.

The navigation features and the different ways to show files and storages are quite impressive. But navigation through folders is unfortunately not the main task of the app. It’s working inside a document.

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In contrast to Apple’s iWork suite the UI of CloudOn when working on a document is not perfectly adapted to touch screens. It just reflects what is well-known from the original versions of the Microsoft Office suite. With a “RIBBON” as the main menu bar it works like the big brother for desktops. This might be seen as an advantage by many users but others complain about the missing adoption for the iPad’s touch screen.

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This is the fully adapted keyboard of Apple’s spreadsheet application NUMBERS.

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As you can see Apple uses a fully adapted keyboard which fully supports the basic tasks done with a spreadsheet application like choosing the field type (text, number, date, term), building a sum, and using functions.

There would be a lot of features which should be added to CloudOn to facilitate typing on an iPad in Excel. CloudOn just helps a bit by adding a row at the top of the iPad keyboard with Ctrl, Alt, Shift, Tab, function, arrow, Esc, and Del keys.

Unfortunately there is a keyboard lag. A slight delay between touching the keys and the appearance of letters on screen makes the typing process feel disjointed. You might also recognize the usefulness of Apple’s autocorrect feature which is not working in CloudOn documents. It’s quite frustrating to manually correct all those minor typos.

In a group setting CloudOn’s lack of support for custom add-ons, templates, auto-correct settings, and other advanced features may limit the program’s usefulness. Still, the word processor lets you track and accept changes, show or hide markup, make and view comments, restrict editing, and compare and combine versions.
Similarly, the mobile versions of the spreadsheet and presentation apps provide most of the features you’ve come to expect in Excel and PowerPoint, respectively.

Summary …

For all the productivity apps working on Microsoft Office files this is still valid:

It’s not that it does it well,
it’s that it does it at all.

CloudOn goes far beyond the basics to provide a full set of word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation features in a familiar interface. But it’s still not adapted to touch screens.

So the usefulness is only given if there is a constraint to stay fully compatible with Microsoft’s file formats. It’s also useful if documents are just for accessing information or making smaller changes.

In general the concept of porting a desktop app to an iPad with just slight modifications is wrong and will not be accepted by the majority of users. We are living in year 4 after the launch of the first iPad and users need and want apps fully adapted to touch screens.

A further disappointing approach to manage Microsoft Office files and a certificate of poverty for Microsoft not to offer an iPad version of their Office 365 Suite.

Related links …

Office 365 for Mobiles

Thanks for dropping by.








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