OCZ files for bankruptcy

Kristian Vättö for Anandtech:

OCZ has just issued a press release announcing their filing for bankruptcy, which was expected since Nasdaq had halted the trading of OCZ stock earlier today. OCZ has had financial issues for quite a long time and it was just a matter of time before the inevitable happened. While OCZ did try to change its course by reforming their product portfolio when Ryan Petersen, the former CEO of OCZ, stepped down, it seems that the efforts weren’t enough to make the business profitable.

Such a shame. I’ve owned several OCZ products over the years and have always been a fan.

Multiple Vaults in 1Password 4 for Mac

An often-overlooked feature of 1Password 4 for Mac is Multiple Vaults:

Each vault can be assigned a custom icon, colour, and password. It even has its own sync settings, which means you can sync your primary vault with iCloud, for example, and a work/team vault with a shared Dropbox folder.

I’ve recently started a new job and use this function on my work Mac, it’s just great. Keeping my work-related passwords separate from my personal ones means I can keep everything compartmentalised, ensuring I don’t litter my own 1Password vault with server logins and intranet sites that I really don’t need outside of work.

It’s by no means completely fluid and is only applicable on 1Password for Mac, but it works very well indeed.

Feed Wrangler service down

Mike Evans reports that the Feed Wrangler service has been down for over 24 hours:

FeedWrangler has disappeared. For over 24 hours there have been no RSS feed updates and the feedwrangler.net website has been dead. This isn’t the first time there has been an outage since many of us migrated from defunct Google Reader last July. But the disturbing thing about this breakdown, apart from the long period, is that there is absolutely no news. Twitter isn’t broken and FeedWrangler developer David Smith has been ominously silent for over four days.

I sure hope everything’s ok. Feed Wrangler is very much a one-man operation so to not hear anything from it or David could indicate something more concerning than just a service outage.

Update: He’s ok!

Why does the iPad 2 still exist?

The iPad 2One of the big surprises at Apple’s recent iPad event wasn’t the announcement of the all-new iPad Air, it was Apple’s decision to keep the iPad 2 going. This sparked a variety of interesting discussions on various tech sites and podcasts, with each one trying to figure out Apple’s decision for this.

There’s likely a number of factors contributing to the longevity of the iPad 2, not just one.

Education

Apple is no stranger to offering a cut-price product for the sole purpose of being picked up by the education market en-masse, currently they offer a 21.5″ i3 iMac that is available exclusively to educational markets at just $1,099.

While a price difference of $200 when compared to the standard entry-level iMac may not seem like much, and the specs are inferior in many ways (the base iMac offers a 2.7GHz i5 with 8GB RAM, whereas the EDU iMac uses a 3.3GHz i3 and only 4GB RAM), when you’re buying them in their hundreds or thousands, that small saving adds up.

The same principal applies to the iPad 2. At $399, it’s cheaper than the iPad Air by $100 and offers the same alternative to the full-size iPad as the iPad mini does to the new iPad mini with retina display. For interactive textbooks created using iBooks Author or, indeed, any reading material that students require, the iPad 2 is more than powerful enough to meet those needs whilst offering a large screen size when compared to the iPad mini.

This does beg the question: Why not simply use the iPad mini? The iPad mini has only been out for just over a year, having been released on 23rd October 2012, meaning it has probably not yet been approved for purchase by some educational boards and institutions. While I expect many institutions will no doubt be looking towards the iPad mini in the future, and a Chicago school board already has, purchases on this scale take time to process and usually become part of multi-year contracts.

By keeping the iPad 2 around, Apple is still able to fulfil all of those orders and, at the same time, these educational boards that are ordering iPad 2s aren’t being told they need to start over.

Backwards Compatibility

The iPad 2, along with the iPhone 4S, now represent the only products Apple still sells that feature the ageing 30-pin dock connector. In the medical and scientific sectors, there are many devices and accessories designed for the 30-pin dock connector that may or may not function with the Lightning adapter.

Apple's Lightning Adapter doesn't support all features of the 30-pin dock connector

From the Apple Store, the description of the Lightning to 30-pin Adapter reads as follows:

This adaptor lets you connect devices with a Lightning connector to many of your 30-pin accessories.* Supports analogue audio output, USB audio, as well as syncing and charging. Video output not supported.

The biggest issue with the Lightning adapter is the lack of video output, meaning that many AV systems reliant on the 30-pin dock connector will simply cease working. The 30-pin dock connector supports both composite and component video output, something Lightning does not. In developing countries and/or education where the iPad is becoming something of an indispensable tool, the lack of analog video output will be a big deal.

While the many schools in developed countries will have easy access to LCD TVs and projectors, many developing countries will still use older CRT displays or early LCD TVs that only support composite or component. If you don’t think this is a big deal, it’s why the Raspberry Pi still includes both HDMI and Composite video outputs to make them as accessible as possible.

Custom Accessories

Back at the launch of iPhone OS 3.0, Apple introduced a number of abilities that developers could take advantage of to directly communicate with hardware attached to the iPhone’s dock connector. From Apple’s PR library:

Another key developer feature in the iPhone OS 3.0 beta software is the ability for apps to interface with hardware accessories, creating a whole new element of control for iPhone and iPod touch accessory developers as well as a new ecosystem of solutions for customers. Developers will also be able to use Apple’s new Maps API to integrate Google Mobile Maps services within their apps which will offer Google Map tiles, current location, custom annotations and geocoding. The iPhone OS 3.0 beta software includes the Apple Push Notification service which provides developers with a mechanism to alert users with sounds, text or a badge.

Devices such as the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor or The iBGStar Blood Glucose Meter still exist and are available for sale today; still using the 30-pin dock connector. Doctors working in remote areas with access to no advanced medical equipment use these types of devices to provide healthcare to those who would, otherwise, not receive it.

After Apple opened up access to direct access of the dock connector for apps, devices like this were able to exist

Even closer to home, many practitioners use these types of accessories that can connect to the 30-pin dock connector to provide diagnostic information regarding patients, helping doctors provide effective treatment.

While Apple can’t continue to offer the iPad 2 indefinitely and, at some point, there will no longer be a 30-pin dock connector device available, the company is prolonging it as long as it can so that developers and consumers can effectively move towards alternatives as and when needed. It’s little wonder that Apple is often touting the wireless capabilities of their devices, with Bluetooth 4.0 LE being an effective replacement for the dock connector to remove the physical attachment of devices.

It’s still better than the competition

Marco Arment raises a good point on this:

Rather than asking how Apple can keep selling the relatively ancient iPad 2 at just 20% less than its original price, maybe we should be asking why all tablets aren’t expected to be fully useful for over three years after their launch.

If Apple is selling enough of these to consumers to warrant keeping it around for another cycle, what does that say about the rest of the market? The iPad 2 certainly isn’t cheap, it’s more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 at $359, yet it is still enough of a performer that people are eschewing cheaper Android tablets for it.

EARBUDi Review

EARBUDi

Finding a good set of headphones for running has been something I’ve had little success with over the years, having tried everything from Apple earbuds to Bluetooth headphones. I’ve never found a set that I was really happy with, either having to compromise on losing the inline controls for volume and changing tracks, or on comfort.

Despite all of the different sets of headphones I’ve tried over the years, I always end up back with the Apple offering as they offer a decent trade-off between comfort, cost and features.

With my iPhone 5, I’ve switched to Apple’s redesigned earbuds and found them an even better fit and better sounding, but have noticed that it takes far less movement for them to end up falling out of my ear, proving extremely annoying when attempting to run for any distance. Since I knew I would usually end up wasting money on various sets of headphones before eventually returning to, and putting up with, Apple’s, I decided to see if there was anything I could do.

I stumbled across the EARBUDi clips on Amazon, a set of ear loops designed to turn Apple’s new earbuds into a set of sports headphones, providing additional security and support to stop them falling out. At less than $10/£7, I decided to give them a go.

The clips are, basically, just the loops you’d find on a set of sports headphones but, instead of finding an actual headphone, each loop has a small plastic clip that the Apple earbuds clip in to.

The clip is on a ball joint, allowing for a good degree of adjustability and, although the loops themselves aren’t adjustable, they should fit just about anyone’s ears.

I’ve been running with them a number of times now and they work exactly as I’d hoped, keeping the headphones in place, even if I accidentally catch the cable. Now, I get to keep my inline controls for music control and am not buying yet another set of headphones.

The Amazon reviews were favourable, though a number of reviewers claimed that they broke far too easily. Looking at them, the only way they could break is if you’re pulling at the loop when you’re trying to remove the earbuds, likely breaking the plastic ball joint. I’d put that down to user negligence rather than poor design as these feel quite sturdy and the earbuds are kept in place very well.

If you’re a runner who often uses an iPod or iPhone for music and are looking for a set of headphones, try these (provided you have the new Apple earbuds) instead.

You can purchase the EARBUDi clips from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

Mavericks Mail and Gmail don’t play nice

Joe Kissel at TidBITS covers the issues with Mail in Mavericks and Gmail:

Apple Mail in OS X 10.9 Mavericks treats Gmail accounts differently than any previous version of Mail did. Although some of the changes are quite clever and useful, the implementation is not without flaws. Your mileage may vary, of course, but based on my own experiences and those of hundreds of people who have commented online, Mail’s behavior with Gmail accounts — especially at first — leaves a lot to be desired. Here’s what I’ve observed and what you can (and can’t) do about it.

A pretty annoying bug, but Gmail has never really worked that brilliantly with Apple Mail, thanks in large to how Google implements Gmail over IMAP. I completely agree with Marco Arment’s view on this, however:

Gmail is a highly proprietary, constantly changing, email-like product. It is not standard IMAP email, and it will never work flawlessly in standard IMAP clients. (It never has.) Google has always supported IMAP reluctantly and poorly, and that won’t change — in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if they removed IMAP support in the next few years.

Gmail’s primary, most important, and best-supported client will always be its web interface, with its own native mobile apps following. Everything else — especially standard IMAP clients — is a less-profitable nuisance to Google, not showing ads and holding back feature development by not being under Google’s complete control.

I’ve supported many clients who use a combination of Gmail / Google Apps and Apple Mail. The vast majority usually end up using the Gmail web interface or an alternative app, such as Airmail, simply because Apple Mail and Gmail just don’t get on. Is this the fault of Apple? Google? I put the blame almost squarely at Google’s door with their wacky IMAP implementation that tries to shoehorn Gmail’s features into a system that just isn’t designed for it.

If you’re using Gmail almost exclusively via IMAP then you’re just not using Gmail properly, which begs the question: why are you using Gmail in the first place? If the answer to that is “because it was free” then it might be time to switch.