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Benjamin Oakes

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Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Liaison. Previously, I was a Developer at Continuity and Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

Filtering for the iOS category. Clear

iOS 9.3 brings multi-user mode to iPads

by Ben

Multi-user mode is targeted toward schools, first beta is out today.

Source: iOS 9.3 brings multi-user mode to iPads, along with more features and fixes



Multi user mode only works in an educational setting apparently, but even so, this is good news for school districts that have invested in iPads.


iMessage deactivation problems earn Apple a federal lawsuit

by Ben

iMessage deactivation problems earn Apple a federal lawsuit | Ars Technica.

I got a new phone over the summer, and it took me a while to realize that it couldn’t receive some text messages.  It seemed to randomly fail; sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t.  Eventually I found out that iPhone users couldn’t text me if they had texted me before. The problem was that I no longer had an iPhone; I had switched to Android.  Apple’s iMessage was intercepting my texts because I didn’t know to turn off iMessage on my old phone before wiping and selling it. That was an unexpected pain when switching from an iPhone to a competitor’s phone.

I found an Apple knowledgebase article about the issue, which instructed me to call Apple support.  To my surprise, the only option for support was to pay a pretty hefty service fee — which was thankfully waived after I explained the iMessage bug.  Apple explained that it was a known issue, and they then instructed me to contact everyone I knew who had texted me from their iPhone to tell them to delete all the threads that I had been a part of.  (I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that.)  They also said that my contacts could also turn off iMessage entirely to avoid the problem for me and any other contacts that might switch from an iPhone (e.g. my wife) — which I recommended to everyone I talked to.

Those were incredibly awkward conversations to have, particularly because several iPhone users seemed to think that I was contacting them because of a text messaging bug in Android.  (Keep in mind that most non-technical users don’t know the difference between an iMessage text message and an SMS text message.)  I’m sure that a few still think that Android is buggy and are now afraid to switch away from Apple products in fear that they won’t receive any text messages.  It’s not hard to think of a few reasons that Apple would take years to fix this problem.

To be clear, iMessage was a problem for me even when I used an iPhone daily.  The service has had a surprising number of issues that have prevented users from receiving messages, though most of those were fixed in a relatively-timely manner.  For example, I had serveral problems with multi-person threads.  Ironically, I wouldn’t receive any messages from the other iPhone users on the thread, but the Android users would get messages just fine.  The iMessages went into oblivion, and I would just get a confusing half of a conversation from the Android user who was obviously responding to something that had been said.  That happened multiple times over a period of months; it wasn’t just a couple of forgivable, short service disruptions.

It’s still my recommendation to turn iMessage off, especially if you have free text messages as a part of your phone service.  All it takes is a trip to “Settings.”

iOS 8 wish-list: pre-WWDC edition

by Ben

iOS 8 changes we’d like to see: The OS and Home screen | Macworld.

iOS 8 wish-list: What we'd love to see at WWDC 2014! | iMore.

Why Apple should relax its App Store rules | Macworld.

Just a collection of posts I read leading up to the start of Apple’s WWDC tomorrow.

I previously posted my own list of feature requests back in March. All the posts above were definitely written by people who have used iOS for a while. Since even Macworld is asking for some of the same changes as me, who knows, maybe some of them will happen (especially some form of better inter-app communication). But then again, many of the changes have been on wish-lists for years, so it’s hard to say. Regardless, 80% or more of the requested features already exist in Android. With that in mind, I feel it’s becoming harder and harder to justify the higher price of iOS devices. Back in 2008-2011, the benefits were much clearer. Makes one wonder what the mobile space will look like 5 years out…

New features in iOS 8

by Ben

iOS 8 to gain at least five new first-party apps | ZDNet.

iOS 8: Apple works to further push iCloud as the future of the file system.

Like Jason O’Grady, I have a list of iOS features on my wishlist that could keep me on the platform past iOS 7.1.

Apple made changes in iOS 7 which addressed my earlier criticisms, namely:

Maybe iOS 8 will address some of my concerns with iOS as well. I’ve divided my list into categories:




Very unlikely:

Unfortunately, most of my wishlist is unlikely to be addressed in iOS 8. Although I’ve been invested in iOS since 2008 (back at version 2), my impression is that the only way to get what’s on my wishlist would be to switch to another platform. I’m curious to see what iOS 8 brings in June.

Self-hosted “Read It Later” App: Poche

by Ben

“Read Later” Apps Compared: Pocket vs. Instapaper vs. Readability.

I used to use Instapaper often, but was turned off by the price for mobile apps and (former?) incompatibility with Android.  Their web app isn’t very mobile friendly either.  Over time, I started using Instapaper less and less… Pocket seemed like a nice alternative, but I couldn’t really bring myself to switch.

Looking for a self-hosted alternative to other “read later” apps?  I’ve been pretty happy with Poche (PHP, demo) so far.  I even deleted my Instapaper account and switched to using Poche instead. It’s nice and lightweight, with a responsive design that works on phones, tablets, and desktops.

I haven’t gotten an offline version working (there’s an Android app though, and an export to ePub feature seems likely).  My only complaint so far? A lot of the user community only seems to discuss Poche in French (“poche” means “pocket” in French) — certainly something I’m not accustomed to in a largely Anglophone open source community.

Update: Poche linked back from their blog. Thanks!

Is an iPad Mini or a Nexus 7 Better for a Geek?

by Ben

Some people have recently asked me about switching from an iPad to a Nexus 7. Did I have to give anything up? Am I still happy with the choice?

My conclusion: Nexus 7 is the better choice for geeks over an iPad. Of course, I think it’s a good choice for non-geeks too. :)

I like my Nexus 7 a lot. In most ways, it seems comparable to an iPad Mini (I had an iPad 2). There are some gotchas, especially if you’ve already invested in the iOS ecosystem. In my case, I felt the difference in price ($429 for a 32GB iPad Mini vs $249 for a 32GB Nexus 7) and features I wanted made up for that. Having used both, I would definitely still choose the Nexus 7 over an iPad. Whether it makes sense for you will depend on your use case. I’ve also read that Android devices are quickly becoming the better choice for anyone under 35 or so. I don’t know if that’s true, but my argument fits in with that pattern.

The Nexus 7 isn’t perfect. Most of the reviews (e.g., CNET’s) are pretty spot on, but these are some observations I’ve had that you might not hear elsewhere. They’re coming from a geek’s perspective with about 2 months worth of Android usage. I’ve been using iOS since 2008.



I hope this list helps out another geek who’s considering making the switch, especially if you’re the kind of person who cares about the types of things I noted. Like I said, I’ve been happy with my choice so far.