In this episode of "Stupid Siri Tricks," I make my iOS devices control a remote Mac. How remote? Well, it should work anywhere on the planet (or off, if you happen to be on the International Space Station) with Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection. If you can take a note with Siri, you can make your Mac do your bidding from wherever you may be.
I was inspired to do this after watching a video by Niles Mitchell in which he uses a 512K Mac with the original Mac Speak application to issue a command to Siri, which then set a chain of events into motion resulting in some files being moved from that ancient Mac to Dropbox.
It occurred to me that he was using the Notes application and iCloud to accomplish all of this. Essentially, you tell Siri to "Write a note", after which you dictate a note and it is synced to all of your devices through iCloud. The lightbulb went on, so I wrote a quick little application in AppleScript to wait for certain notes to appear and then perform actions on the Mac.
One of the more useful things I could think of was the ability to shut down my Mac or at least put it to sleep if I forgot to do so before going on a trip, so I set up my application to look for "Shut down" or "Go to sleep" notes to perform either of those actions. Perhaps I want to do a remote restart? All I have to do is tell Siri "Restart my mac" and it happens. I also built in the ability to see what apps are currently running on my Mac and return them to my iPhone or iPad in another note. The possibilities are endless...
To use this little "Siri Listener" app, just copy the code below and paste it into a blank AppleScript Editor page. Save the code in case you want to add your own customizations at some point, and then Export as an Application, making sure that you check the boxes for "Stay open after run handler" and "Run-only". To make sure your Siri Listener is always available for your commands, make sure you set it to run at startup.
Make sure that you know how to use Siri to take notes. Just press the home button on your favorite iOS device, wait for the Siri prompt, and then say "Write a note". Siri responds with some sort of question about what you want the note to say, after which you can speak the appropriate command.
Note that I wasn't thinking clearly when I wrote my initial script -- I actually have to say "What apps are running question mark" to get the note in the proper format for Siri Listener to act upon. I'm probably going to change it to something more generic like "List my mac apps" to avoid the punctuation.
I was really wishing that the Photo Booth app was scriptable, as it would be possible to have the Mac's camera take a picture and then attach it to a Note for you to view. I can also see that the Siri Listener idea could be the perfect tool for playing pranks on unsuspecting co-workers, but of course you wouldn't do that...
Have fun! And if you come up with some fun and/or productive uses for the Siri Listener, let me know in the comments. Want more Siri tips? There's a book for that.
Talking to Siri: Remote-controlling your Mac by voice with Siri Listener originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Wed, 27 Mar 2013 20:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
The BBC has updated their BBC News iOS app to version 2.0. The much needed update fixes a number of annoying bug issues, including an issue where readers would sometimes see duplicate stories next to each other. As for the new features of BBC News 2.0, the app now has a number of UI tweaks to make discovering and viewing news easier. Users will see larger images with stories and now have the ability to pull the news feed down to refresh it - a welcome change since users are used to refreshing feeds in other apps in a similar manner.
The 2.0 update also sees a new portrait mode for the iPad app in the ability to edit, organize, or remove news categories. The full release notes are below:
- A new portrait view for iPad to allow you to view more stories. We've also added an edit button so you can add, remove or re-order categories of stories to suit your interests
- Changes to the iPhone home screen to include larger images with stories
- Pull down to refresh the home screen or stories so you're always up to date with the latest news
- Better integration for sharing with Facebook and Twitter
- Much improved integration with VoiceOver
BBC News for iOS is a free download.
Bloomberg West profiles Ed Summers, who, as head of accessibility at international software company SAS, “has made it his mission to help other visually impaired people unlock the power of the iPad.” Summers is traveling around the United States to teach educators how to maximize the device’s built-in accessibility features in their classrooms. Bloomberg notes that tablets are growing in popularity among educators, and Summers says iPad is “opening up a whole world” for visually impaired students. “We’re working to make sure that students and professionals of all abilities can succeed in the classroom and the 21st-century knowledge economy,” Summers says.
The startup, founded by Stanford CS grad & former Google coding intern Joseph Huang, offered a way to let smartphones find their location indoors to an accuracy of less than 10 feet (2.5 m) using the ambient WiFi signals in the environment.
This isn't Apple's first foray with WiFi localization; the original, GPS-less iPhone used Skyhook's technology to provide more granular location info than could be gleaned from cellphone towers. But it is a big step towards interior location info for Apple's apps and OS, which is competitively important; Google Maps already includes interior floorplans for thousands of buildings, and allows crowdsourced contributions of public spaces.
The "SLAM" in WiFiSLAM refers to simultaneous location and mapping, a technique that autonomous robots use to build an environmental map while also keeping track of their location in space; in this case, rather than a robot, it's a phone doing the mapping. You can see Huang's own description of the tech in the (long) video below; the description of how SLAM works is at about the 30 minute mark.
Investors in WiFiSLAM included Google developer advocate Don Dodge (seen here in a TechCrunch interview) and Earthlink founder Sky Dayton. The company was offering an SDK for mobile developers to incorporate indoor location into their apps, but at this point the main site and the secondary footprint.io site are both offline.
It's safe to assume that the third party SDK is going to go away, and we'll see the WiFiSLAM technology appearing either in Apple's iOS apps or in the operating system itself. In one of Apple's previous high-profile mobile tech acquisitions, Siri took 18 months to go from independent product to part of iOS.
WSJ: Apple acquires WiFiSLAM indoor location tech startup originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Sat, 23 Mar 2013 23:07:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Apple's new two-step verification process has already been put to the test, thanks to a (now apparently offline) exploit that allows anyone with your email address and birthday to reset your Apple ID. The Verge confirmed the exploit after the site was made aware of a tutorial posted on a Chinese-language hacking site. The hack involves pasting a modified URL while answering the question about the account's date of birth info.
The Verge did further exploration on the hack and found that accounts that were told they needed to wait three days to enable the two-step verification are also vulnerable to the exploit. The only way to change it for those in the waiting period is for people to change their birthdays in their Apple profile.
Apple's password reset tool is in maintenance status right now, which means there's no way to use the exploit. Chances are it will remain offline until Apple gets this hole patched.
Apple maintains its Product Security page, including a contact email, to allow users, researchers or media organizations to notify the company of emergent security issues and concerns.
Update: Apple has confirmed the exploit to The Verge and says it is working on a fix.
Exploit (now offline) allowed bogus reset of Apple ID passwords (updated) originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Fri, 22 Mar 2013 17:22:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Dunno is an odd little free app that allows you to take a note about something and have Dunno "research" the topic for you. After typing in a few words, perhaps about a car model or a book or author, or maybe something esoteric like the meaning of life, Dunno performs a search in the background. The idea is you might hear something at a dinner, but not want to research it during while socially engaged with others. Dunno allows you to mark results as well, saving the best of what it finds (although not in an archive format).
In this Origin Stories I speak with Ryan Bruels of Dunno about how his team came up with the app, and why.
Apple is beefing up the security of its Apple ID by adding two-factor authentication to the account login process. Customers concerned about unauthorized access to their Apple ID can login to their account at Apple's My Apple ID webpage and turn on the feature as described below
- Go to My Apple ID (appleid.apple.com)
- Click the "Manage your Apple ID" button to login to your Apple ID
- Enter your Apple ID and password and click "Sign In"
- Select "Password and Security" in the left hand column
- Type in the answers to your account security questions if you are prompted to answer them.
- You will see Two-Step Verification at the top of the page. Click on "Get Started" and follow the on-screen instructions.
If you have two-factor verification enabled, you will be required to enter both your password and a 4-digit code to verify your identity. According to Apple's support page, you will need this information whenever you sign in to My Apple ID to manage your account, make an iTunes, App Store, or iBookstore purchase from a new device or get Apple ID-related support from Apple. You can read more about the security feature on Apple's support website, and check out Glenn Fleishman's thorough pros and cons rundown on TidBITS.
Apple adds two-factor authentication to your Apple ID originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Fri, 22 Mar 2013 08:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
According to a report on 9to5 Mac, Apple has begun training support personnel in advance of rolling out two-step authentication for iCloud and Apple ID. This is a significant step towards enhanced security for Apple accounts as it requires both a trusted device and an extra security code in addition to a password. Other cloud providers currently providing two-step authentication include Dropbox and Google.
Apple's relatively weak security for its online services came under the spotlight last year when tech writer Mat Honan suffered a hack attack that compromised his iCloud account. It appears that 9to5 Mac may have jumped the gun in terms of posting this information, as the My Apple ID website referenced heavily in their post displays placeholders instead of actual text and links (see image at the top of this post).
The way the system will work is that whenever you log in to manage your Apple ID on My Apple ID or make a purchase via iTunes, the App Store or iBookstore from a new device, you'll be asked to enter your password and a four-digit verification code. Without entering both the password and verification code correctly, account access is denied.
Apple will also provide a 14-digit Recovery Key that they recommend printing and keeping in a safe place. This allows Apple ID users to regain access to their accounts if they lose their devices or forget their password. One other good feature -- you'll no longer need to create or remember any security questions.
Two-step verification will initially be available in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, with additional countries added over time.
Apple on the verge of rolling out two-step verification for iCloud, Apple ID originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Thu, 21 Mar 2013 15:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
So, you've got your iPhone with you, but you're stuck in the middle of the Indian Ocean or
on top of Everest? [Turns out that you can make iPhone calls from Everest. -Ed.]
Fear no more -- the SatSleeve from Thuraya will magically transform your iPhone into a satellite phone. The sleeve, with an expected price of US$499, piggybacks on an iPhone 4, 4S or 5 to expand calling capabilities far beyond the normal reach of cell service.
Thuraya has years of experience developing and providing satellite phone service, which covers most of the places a conventional/terrestrial phone signal doesn't go (ships, wilderness, mountaintops, disaster areas). The company's two satellites are in geosynchronous orbit within transmission range of its headquarters/downlink site in Dubai, and its satellite coverage footprint encompasses Europe, Asia and much of Africa and the Pacific (but not the Western Hemisphere). Like the company's XT satphone, the SatSleeve is manufactured by another OEM but sold by Thuraya to cell carriers.
With satellite phone service, normally you'd get a standalone satellite phone (or maritime satphone) with its own phone number. For the SatSleeve, however, Thuraya has negotiated GSM roaming agreements with scores of carriers including both AT&T and T-Mobile for the US market. That provides two key advantages: roaming using GSM wherever Thuraya has an agreement, and keeping your own phone number ringing via satellite when you're off in the wilderness.
The SatSleeve was launched in Washington, DC yesterday and in a followup press event in NYC today, where sheepish company execs apologized for leaving their demo prototypes in Washington the night before. Even without hands-on hardware, the concept is simple: imagine a Mophie battery pack with a giant extensible antenna on the back, and you've got the picture. The SatSleeve includes a few features not usually found in satellite phones: high penetration alerts (meaning your phone will ring even if the antenna is down) and full walk-and-talk capability (meaning you don't have to stand in one place with your head at an odd angle to avoid disconnecting your call).
The SatSleeve separates into several parts. The satphone hardware pack contains the satellite radio, GPS, the antenna, a battery pack, a Bluetooth chip to pair with the phone, and an SOS button (complete with its own mic and speaker) to make emergency calls if the mated iPhone is lost or damaged. The phone caddy protects and covers the iPhone, and the dock/Lightning connector base (the iPhone 5 version will be shipping next month) allows the phone to charge from the sleeve's battery or via a USB micro connector. The phone pairs with the sleeve via a configuration app and Bluetooth.
The first edition of the SatSleeve doesn't work with satellite data services -- you can, however, make phone calls or send and receive SMS text messages ("Help, I'm being swallowed by a wh..."). A subsequent voice + data edition is coming later this year, and will offer "satellite broadband" of about 500 Kbps for data. Future plans include a developer kit to allow application authors to access the SatSleeve's connectivity features; you could replicate the "where's Waldo" feature of the Spot Messenger hardware, for instance.
Thuraya's representatives told TUAW that the entire first batch of SatSleeves has been sold through to its carrier partners, who will in turn sell them to customers; half of the preliminary stock was snatched up by Japan's Softbank, which intends to offer them to its customers as part of an earthquake/disaster preparedness kit. (Some Softbank subscribers were without GSM coverage for as much as a year after the 2011 quake and tsunami.)
The service is definitely not cheap -- expect to pay $1.00 to $1.50 per minute for voice service, either prepaid or postpaid. If you do roaming on a GSM network or you're calling another SatSleeve user in the middle of nowhere, your pricing may jump up to $8.00 per minute. Thuraya's satellite coverage is also not available in most of the Western Hemisphere, which makes the SatSleeve a poor option for US/Atlantic operations but a great idea for Americans who primarily need satellite coverage in EMEA like energy company employees, military folk and so forth. Of course, those with a SatSleeve in the US could take advantage of GSM roaming via the service.
Even those rates could be a bargain for people who want the security of knowing that just about anywhere they are, help -- or just a dramatic last farewell after you're bitten by a black mamba -- is just a call away.
Steven Sande contributed reporting on this story.
Turn your iPhone into a satellite phone with SatSleeve originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Thu, 21 Mar 2013 14:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
TestFlight has long been known by developers as a very useful tool for testing iOS apps (even outside of Apple's distribution system), and for a while now there's also been a TestFlight SDK, which developers can insert into their app code to track various testers and their actions in the app. But today, TestFlight has introduced FlightPath, which is a separate product designed for analytics post-release. FlightPath is a real-time analytics platform: Developers can insert FlightPath code into their apps, and the service will then provide real-time information on customer usage, any crashes the app experiences and even segmented data to target the information precisely.
In other words, it sounds like TestFlight is taking its SDK to the release stage. There are a number of analytics services like this -- Google runs one; Flurry is a popular choice; and there are plenty more. But TestFlight has a lot of great experience at providing information to developers directly, so FlightPath should be a helpful tool for anyone used to using their SDK.
Currently, FlightPath is still in beta, so we don't have any information yet on how it'll all be priced out. Given how these services work, there will likely be a free option, with charges for premium services or support. Until that's all announced, you can sign up for the beta on the main site, and TUAW has been offered special priority access for the first 100 developers who sign up using this link.
Intuitive Analytics Tool Allows Developers to Customize, Analyze & Manage Data in One Click
SANTA MONICA, Calif. - March 21, 2013 - TestFlight, the leading app beta-testing platform used by more than 300,000 apps, today announced the private beta launch of FlightPath, an intuitive analytics solution for mobile app developers. FlightPath brings app data to life in an easy to understand front-page format that is fully interactive and encourages deeper data exploration due to its real-time delivery.
"Today we're launching FlightPath, a product that will help streamline mobile analytics. We built TestFlight to help developers build better apps and now FlightPath will help developers build a better business," states Ben Satterfield, co-founder of TestFlight. "Up until now, it can be a laborious and complex process for developers to use existing analytics tools to learn more about their app's usage. It usually involves digging through multiple pages and then waiting hours in order to view specific data. With FlightPath, developers can now do it all on one page, with one click."
FlightPath delivers real-time views of high-level data and instant drill downs into limitless combinations of core metrics. Developers can choose from preset segments and add to them on the fly or explore by clicking multiple data points to see how the information changes based on each attribute. Preset segments provide immediate insight including views such as "Loyal Users," "Early Adopters," or "Flight Risks."
Key features include:
· Single page UI for all analytics
· Real-time data
· One-click pivoting on any attribute
· Click any data point to create endless combinations
· Preset segments to view valuable data with no setup required
· Instantly save any custom segment
· View number of crashes by audience segment
Developers can use the same TestFlight SDK to activate FlightPath when they submit to the app store. The SDK is one line of code and takes seconds to include.
To learn more, please visit http://www.FlightPathApp.com
FlightPath from TestFlight features realtime analytics for developers originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Thu, 21 Mar 2013 14:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.