29 November 2014

OS X force quit - fail

I'm happy to be corrected on this, but today I had an app that misbehaved on Yosemite, and the Force Quit... command didn't interrupt the misbehaving application nor the operating system. The force quit dialogs sat behind the errant app, and couldn't solve the problem.

Maybe I'm naive, (I doubt it) but an operating system should give the user control to manage every running app on the system. OS X does not. (Windows is better, but not as good as it should be).

22 November 2014

Exchange email applications for Android

Over the last few days I've done a quick review of a number of Microsoft Exchange email clients for Android. I like to keep work and private life separate, and in Lollipop this has become harder when using the default Gmail and Email applications. After an upgrade, my corporate Exchange account was combined into the Gmail application, and that isn't what I wanted.

So I did a short review of the following apps from the Play Store:

  1. AcquaMail
  2. MailWise
  3. Accompli
  4. CloudMagic
  5. Nine
(I also did a review of BlueMail, which is not an Exchange client, but worth mentioning - see below)

These are all good applications - lots of work has gone into them, and I could live with any of them. Clearly though, I wanted to work out what was best for me.

The application I think I will purchase?  Nine, but it wasn't easy.

Your use-case may differ. This is not about the "better app"; it's about what works best for me.


  • clean interface, nice to look at
  • threaded email conversations
  • rich text HTML body
  • rich text signature
  • works offline
  • two widgets - one that shows recent emails, the other that shows unread count and starts the app
  • can compose and "send" while offline and it will send when back online
  • cons
    • I missed the neat integration in CloudMagic with Evernote and Todoist


no rich text - dealbreaker
  • clean interface, nice to look at
  • would do the job for me except for the "Cons" below
  • had very neat integration with Evernote, Todoist, Trello and a number of other useful apps
  • Cons
    • no rich text
    • doesn't work offline
    • no threading
    • didn't always sync fast enough for me
    • a bit slow to display inbox because it goes to a cloud service


  • did the job
  • nice rich text in email and signature
  • cons
    • interface was not my cup of tea
    • wasn't obvious how to get to subfolders
    • no threading


no rich text - deal breaker
  • good interface and showed cc/bcc without any extra clicks
  • has threading


No rich text - dealbreaker
  • Nice interface
  • threading
  • cons
    • no rich text
    • I didn't like the way it handled an email with no body text but had an attachment - wasn't obvious that there was an attachment


While I'm at it, I should mention I tried BlueMail before I realised it didn't do Exchange - however, I was impressed with how it worked with my Google Apps account. It's quite a good Gmail client, and it has some features that help you turn emails into sort-of to-do tasks. Well worth a look!

20 November 2014

Android 5.0 Lollipop - early issues

I've had the over-the-air update to Android 5.0 Lollipop for 36 hours, and I have a few observations:

  • Skype stopped working until uninstalled and reinstalled
  • My Nexus 5 lost its APN settings (carrier is virtual mobile network operator TPG, which resells Optus in Australia)
  • No obvious effect on battery life
  • In two apps a dialogue box has stopped working - I can't connect in FinchVPN, and I can't install the latest beta of Waze. In each case, the relevant button doesn't work and I have to click cancel.
  • Some things take more clicks - e.g. changing the wifi network manually or getting into Settings
  • Notifications on the lock screen are pretty cool, but you need to change the notification settings for apps that tended to sit in the Notifications area in 4.4.4, such as Skype or Lightflow
  • Do Not Disturb is a nice touch but not completely intuitive to set up
  • I had read reports that there would be a single app for mail that did both Gmail and Exchange - that's not correct. 
  • Messenger is much better for SMS than Hangouts
  • Bluetooth settings now have not only Phone Audio and Media Auto, but also Contact Sharing, which reduces a dialog when connecting in a car.
  • There are plenty of bugs, such as the button bug above, and sometimes checkboxes don't respond, such as when changing the profiles of a paired Bluetooth device

I'd say it's worth upgrading, but don't do it on the morning of a day that you really need your phone to work completely as expected!

08 November 2014

Long term review of the MacBook Air mid 2013

Although I have used Macintoshes professionally since System 6, I by choice use Windows computers since Windows 7 - working in enterprises means that I need to use Windows apps, and I don't need cross-platform-aggro. Having said that, I have a 2013 MacBook Air and a 2013 MacMini (with an aftermarket SSD and aftermarket 8 GB RAM - the Mini is unusable if you don't do this).

Even on Yosemite I don’t really like the Finder. It's ok, and I can live with it, but as an operating system shell it has a few faults. Windows 7 does too (don't mention Windows 8 or 8.1 - but the Windows 10 technical preview might one day be as ok as Windows 7).

So, I have a MacBook Air 13" mid 2013 model. I really, really like it. It's, given the present state of the art, the best laptop out there for my use case.

I don't use Boot Camp. I boot into OS X 10.10, but have Parallels 10, so I can use Foxit Phantom PDF Standard and Microsoft Office 2010 (2013 really annoys me). I use Foxit because OS X Preview bloats file sizes badly, and Foxit has a bunch of other abilities.

The battery life of the Air is a standout. I can easily take it out for a full day's work of 8-10 hours without worrying about the battery. As of November 2014 I can see that battery life is waning by maybe 10-20%, so a refurb will definitely be required at the 2 year mark.

The screen is very nice, the size of the whole machine is just right for a portable computer, and the weight is great for a machine of this power and battery life. The power brick isn't huge, it has Intel 5000 graphics and a backlit keyboard. Time Machine works well to back up the whole disk including the Parallels files. WiFi is reliable and works on 2.4 and 5 GHz. Recharging is surprisingly fast. The speakers are fine for watching YouTube or listening to internet radio in a hotel room.

An AUD$20 DisplayPort to DVI cable means I can use a second screen with just about any monitor. It also works fine with my 27" Thunderbolt Display and a DisplayPort to HDMI adapter - all very easy to use.

Some foibles of OS X annoy me, but they aren't the MacBook Air's fault. I really like Chrome shortcuts on the desktop in Windows, which aren't available on OS X.

I won't bore you with comments about everything about the MacBook Air mid 2013 - it's a laptop that has all the things that come along with laptops.

My conclusion - after 16 months with the MacBook Air mid 2013? It's the best laptop I've used or owned.

(c) 2014 Andrew Calvin, Sydney Australia