Updating iOS on an ancient iPad 2 from 4.3

Recently faced an issue when trying to update an old iPad 2 from its original 4.3 OS. Back in those days even OTAs were not supported and iTunes was the only way to update. Since Apple has switched off validation for iOS versions older than 9, the iPad was going into an “Error 9” unusable state and there seems to be a lot of frustrated users out there who seem to be trying to update to iOS 9 from 4.X.X and failing to do so.

Some Googling turned up a suggestion to update to the beta version of iOS 9, and voila it worked. Unfortunately, you most likely need a developer account to actually download the iOS 9.3 beta file as the public beta is unlikely to work with iOS 4.3. Nonetheless, if you manage to get hold of the iOS 9.X beta version then definitely give it a shot.

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iOS 9 on the original iPad mini & iPhone 5s

I updated to iOS 9 on my iPad mini and iPhone 5s within the first week of launch, and been using it for nearly 2 weeks now. The update was a lot easier this time due to the space optimisations and I managed to do an OTA update on the iPhone unlike last time.

iOS 9 comes with its share of tweaks and optimisations that are supposed to improve performance on older devices, but I haven’t noticed much difference in terms of performance on either device which is in line with the observations of others. That said a few games like Limbo that were crashing on startup on my iPad mini (even after device restarts) seem to be at least working now.

While the iPhone 5s gets pretty much all the new features introduced in iOS 9 barring the ones that require special hardware, the iPad mini is left out of practically all the marquee features like content blocking, Siri-Spotlight search improvements and all of the split screen features. That said the iPad keyboard is improved and sports the cut-copy-paste & undo-redo buttons and also supports the two finger cursor navigation gesture. iOS 9 also brings back the 4×4 grid of icons in folders on the iPad, so it is not a total lost cause.

Battery life also seems to be in the same ballpark, though the iPhone seems to be exhibiting a slight improvement in the last few days. Of course that is hardly sufficient to last me a full day even with the new Low Power Mode. The additional details in the battery usage section of settings is also quite useful as it shows the screen on time and overall active time for each item as well.

I also noticed that iPhone only apps when run on the iPad no longer show the top status bar as a part of the app, but leave it on the top of the screen. This is possibly a result of the split screen multitasking capabilities introduced in iOS 9.

A gotcha to keep in mind on the iPhone is the Wifi assist feature (something that’s been on Android for a while) that’s on by default and tries to use the mobile network when the wifi is poor. This can easily burn through your data plan and is best left turned off on limited data plans.

There are also some features like app slicing that are currently disabled due to glitches, but should improve the storage situation on all devices. This is one of the features I’m really looking forward to on my 16 GB iPhone.

Overall, the experience has been quite good though the iPad mini is beginning to show its age. Pretty evident why Apple pulled the device off the market earlier this year. This year also marks a complete 64 bit transition for Apple’s entire device lineup starting from the iPod Touch to the iPad and Apple TV.

Thoughts on the Sep 2015 Apple event

Looks like Apple is revamping their event calendar and spacing out the events a bit more reasonable with one at the start and one towards the end. It was also a pretty busy event with ton of new launches and quite a few items that were skipped altogether – most notably the Mac OS X update. Of course the gist most of the announcements made in the event were known beforehand, but there were some surprises nonetheless.

The long rumoured iPad Pro finally made its debut and pretty much validated the strategy that Microsoft had pioneered with their Surface Pro series – you need a screen larger than 10″, split screen multitasking and a keyboard to make tablets more productive. And then of course there was the Apple Pencil which was again expected given the need for precision & flexibility when drawing. The 2 biggest takeaways was first, Microsoft demoing Office in the session that pretty much sums up the vastly different approach taken in the Satya Nadella era, and second the near doubling of quoted performance of the iPad Pro over the Air 2. This definitely makes the writing clearer on the wall for Intel, as the iPad Air 2 was nearly half as fast as the Core M processors and this should bring the performance in the same ballpark. In fact, in the last few years, Apple has probably been the biggest factor behind Intel’s innovations given the dearth of competition from AMD.

The fact that there was no other iPad update, unless you count the passing mention of the iPad mini 4, shows the speed at which the tablet market has matured and reached a good enough state. Arguably, the iPad 2 was at a good enough state in terms of hardware power and is still being supported with iOS 9. The iPad Pro is Apple’s attempt to grow the tablet market beyond home users and into the enterprise segment. That will definitely take a good deal of time given that most enterprises are Microsoft strongholds and the cost factor will prevent them from outright replacing PCs. Also, whatever the demos may want you to believe, most enterprise workers do not get to do such fancy stuff with their devices.

Health seems to have become the main usage focus for the Apple Watch given the proportion of time given for fitness and health related aspects. This is also probably one of the scenarios where the performance of the Watch will not be constrained as a first generation hardware. The partnership with Hermes also emphasised the luxury status of the Watch, and unless the pricing changes over the years (unusual for new launches), price will remain one of the major roadblocks to its adoption. The second generation of the Watch is likely to improve the internals significantly, and we are likely to have a white iPhone moment in the future with a round Apple Watch.

Then there was the Apple TV that at last gave us a glimpse of Steve Jobs famous “I finally cracked it” quote. Technology was definitely not one of the factors that had held back the Apple TV from being launched in the last couple of years, as the real battle is with the content providers rather than any of the other apps. In fact, it will probably be a while before people outside the US or some of the typical Apple strongholds will get much in form of regional content on the Apple TV. There was also no mention of HomeKit in the entire session, and this likely means that while the hardware is probably present in the new TV, the ecosystem has some way to go. The Apple TV also affirms the A8s new role as the venerable A5s long term replacement given that the iPod Touch and iPad Mini 4 upgrade to A8.

Last but not the least, the iPhone 6s\6s+ updates were also along expected lines and oddly enough relegated to the end of the show. Force Touch or rather 3D Touch definitely opens up a new dimension of interaction, but the real innovation will be when we have touchscreens that are able to simulate the feel of different surfaces. The camera improvements were also pretty much mandatory given the older 8 MP sensors inability to shoot 4K videos. The unusual part of the new devices was the increase in weight of both models by almost 10% and an almost imperceptible increase in size. Then there were a bunch of touted features that have been seen before in other phones on the Android and Windows side of the fence like moving photos (HTC Zoe) and using the display as a flash (LG).

Overall, the product launches rounded off a very busy year for Apple, but there was a sense of deja vu with many of the showcased features which other companies have previously demonstrated to about 80% of their potential. It is however, the last 20% of spit, polish and sweat that typically separates the Apple experiences from the rest.

Taking photos of X-ray slides at home

Well, I broke my left arm last week and as expected got some X-rays done. Hospitals and clinics have their well lit setups for viewing the X-ray slides. Ideally you would want to take photos from these setups, but it may not always be possible to do so. In such cases there are a few options for you to snap the slide at home:

  1. Use a flashlight app on an iPad\tablet to get a full white screen set at full brightness and use this to light up the slide. I used this technique for my slide pictured above. You may not get full coverage, but it is good enough if you know which section of the slide you need to click.
  2. The next option is to use a laptop screen with a white wallpaper or a blank text editor to get a white background. You will need to hold the slide in place with this technique, but it should give you greater coverage.
  3. The last option would be to use the largest screen at home, i.e., the TV. It may not be easy to get a fully white screen on the TV unless you can connect your tablet\smartphone\laptop to it and mirror the white background, but this is probably the only screen large enough to cover the slide completely.

So, there you go a few simple ways to light up that slide.

iOS 7 on the iPad mini: First impressions

I managed to install iOS 7 on my iPad mini over the course of last night. Some initial thoughts on the experience so far :

  • It’s a pretty large download at around 750 MB OTA.
  • Lot of greetings in different languages once the device reboots & the setup begins.
  • It is evident that iOS 7 is designed for Retina displays from the setup screen itself with the jagged fonts & display elements, and definitely increases the chances of a Retina iPad mini release this year as some reviewers have noted.
  • The notifications finally make use of the larger display of the iPads.
  • Quite a lot of animations, and it really taxes the hardware resulting in some choppiness at times. Seems to happen the most on the revamped task manager. This is bound to be a lot worse in the iPhone 4, which has the most dated hardware of the devices getting this update, and it’s pretty clear why Apple left out many features on the iPhone 4. I doubt the iPhone 4S will fare much better than the iPad mini or iPad 2 for that matter, as it has a higher resolution screen than either coupled with slower hardware.
  • Speaking of the task manager, it is totally revamped, and totally resembles the Windows Phone task manager including a card for the home screen (which in turn was inspired by WebOS). The multi-finger gesture (4 finger+ upward swipe) to launch the task manager is still the same, but feels odd as the feature is full screen now.
  • Flickr & Vimeo are now first class citizens of iOS, just like Facebook & Twitter.
  • iPhone apps look a lot better now as they use the Retina assets and run only in the 2x mode. Definitely a big improvement on the looks front.
  • Folders seem to have no app limits anymore and open up full screen. However they show only 9 apps at a time, which results in a lot of wasted space. Should’ve been 16 IMO.
  • Auto app updates are finally here, but haven’t seen it in action yet due to the App Store behaving wonky at times possibly due to the load from the iOS 7 release – app updates seem to show up and disappear periodically.
  • The title bar clock now has am\pm in small letters, and can change its colour depending on the app. E.g. Facebook makes it blue

Below are a few screenshots of the iOS 7 on my iPad mini.

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Microsoft’s last stand?

Microsoft is desperately trying to avoid the fate they inflicted on the Mac in the 1990s with Windows 9X:

Office for iPad, launched at the same time as Windows 8/RT, would most likely have killed the market for Windows 8 and RT devices. As it was, that market was already severely diminished and below expectations. But with a viable alternative tablet, it could have been game over. And the ramifications of that decision would have impacted far more than just Windows 8/RT: The PC market could have literally collapsed, much as the video game market did in 1983. The fallout would have included PC makers going out of business/being sold, a serious and potentially permanent hit to Microsoft’s bottom line and the ouster of Steve Ballmer. I’m talking tech Armageddon here.

via A Theory about the Office on iPad Schedule | Office 2013 content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows

iPad as a glorified photo viewer

My wife and I went to the Sukho Thai foot spa at High Street Phoenix last week. They hand you an iPad to view their catalogue. Guess what form it was available as?
If you thought an interactive custom app, think again. It was just a photo slideshow. So much for the iPad coolness factor.
The 90 min spa session itself covered foot massage followed by head, neck and back massage, and was quite refreshing though.

My first Android – the Samsung Galaxy S i9003

It’s been a while since I posted manually to the blog. Hopefully, that’ll change with my new phone with the wordpress app.
I got the phone last week and have been playing around with it ever since. It’s got Froyo on it and I’ve installed a ton of apps on it already. The experience has been quite similar yet different from my iPod touch. The app availability is quite similar, but the always connected nature of the phone opens up a new bunch of use cases.
I’ve been making use of the gps quite a bit with the My Tracks asp in particular to plot the routes I take. There have been some wow moments, particularly with the Google Goggles app. The built in tethering feature is also really handy though a bit of a battery hog. I’ll be posting more on the apps later with help from appbrain.
Battery life has however been on the poor side (most likely due to my heavy use) with almost 2 charges being required per day. Then again, my iPod doesn’t do much better if I use it heavily either. I’m currently using a Vodafone prepaid connection with 3G enabled on it. Speeds are pretty decent and a great leap over the GPRS days for sure. I also appreciate the openness of the Android platform as it allows one to work across apps quite nicely. There’s also the App Inventor to create your own simple apps.
I also had plans to buy a tablet – most likely the ipad – this year. However, the Android platform looks really promising on the tablet too, and in a year or so we should be having a well populated Android market for tablets to go with some very good hardware. That said, the iPad 2 remains the best tablet for the next few months.
And last but not the least, swype rocks. I wouldn’t have dreamt of typing out this post from my phone otherwise.