Dictate iPhone to Mac

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As you may know if you’ve read through this blog, I use a Mac Mini as a part of my entertainment system.  I mostly control it using a Logitech MX Air mouse (think Wii remote for your mac).  Even though I have both a wired and wireless keyboard close by, most times, I’m content to just start up the virtual keyboard to enter short searches into Netflix or Amazon Prime.  Lazy?  Perhaps.  But they didn’t make couches for pro-active & efficient go-getters.

I’d seen those commercials for things like Apple TV and other such devices where you can just speak into your remote and ask to search for specific movies & TV shows.  I’ve also played around with dictation on my laptop, but to my dismay, I discovered that my Mac Mini doesn’t have a built-in microphone.  So I started looking online for either a wireless microphone or an app that would allow me to dictate through my iPhone.  I ended up discovering that wireless mics are bulky & expensive, and the one iPhone app that did what I wanted (Air Dictate) was no longer available on the App Store, so I set out to create a cheap hacky alternative.

I realized that I already had the tools at my disposal to make this happen, and it consists of these components:

  1. IFTTT‘s SMS & Dropbox channels
  2. A Dropbox folder
  3. An iPhone/iPad with Siri (or the Messages iPhone app)
  4. A Folder Action
  5. A Contact named something like “Mac Mini” with IFTTT’s SMS number

I will describe what I did here so you can do this too.  The end result will allow you to activate Siri on your phone and say something like:

Tell my Mac Mini Breaking Bad hashtag paste

and “Breaking Bad” will be pasted wherever the cursor currently is on your screen.

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Today’s Apple Feedback: Siri on the iPhone 6S is an Unreliable Mess

My old iPhone 4S had some issues, but for the most part, Siri was fairly reliable, aside from occasional mitigable issues and somewhat common misinterpretations of what I’d said.  I’m one of those who holds onto a phone longer than the typical Apple fanatic (and yes, I’m still an Apple consumer, albeit these days, grudgingly). It came time this year for me to do my usual “every second model” upgrade to the iPhone 6S. I’ve had a number of months to run it through it’s paces, and I must say, Siri on my old iPhone 4S was way more reliable, especially when it comes to making calls – by a long shot. I’ve googled multiple issues and been on a bunch of Apple Support calls to rectify as-yet unrectified issues that are a constant daily nuisance. This morning, after having spent time talking with Apple support yesterday evening, I finally organized all the issues I’ve had going on in one place. I submitted the worst of these issues in Today’s Apple Feedback form:

Multiple issues: Apple, how did you mess Siri up so badly on the iPhone 6s (iOS 9.3.4)?

I’ve called support multiple times about these frequent/constant issues:

1. Randomly cannot initiate Siri when headphones connected.
2. Reproducibly cannot activate Siri via Apple Headphones (tried 2 pairs, 1 new) or the home button when the phone is in a pocket of my bag against my leather wallet. Holding the wallet away from the phone allows Siri to be initiated. Then:
3. Upon removing phone from bag, Siri will initiate but cannot hear me. Unplugging & replugging headphones is a workaround. Then:
4. Siri frequently responds to “Call my mom, home” with “Which phone number for [me]” the 1st 2 times I try – third time calls my mom.
5. Siri frequently initiates (multiple times per day) from a fraction of a second home button press.

I never had these issues with my 4S.

And that’s not even all the issues…

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Spoken Reminders When You Leave the House on Mondays

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As you may know if you follow this blog, I’m obsessed with various ways of triggering notifications & reminders at just the right times. This morning, my WeMo motion sensor went off as I went out the front door.  I have a rule set for Monday mornings to send me a notification reminding me to take out the trash. However, I tend to have my phone set on vibrate *most* of the time. I didn’t notice the buzz of my phone.  I happened to see the reminder after I was already half way to the bus stop.  The bus was due very soon and I judged that I didn’t have time to turn back and put out the bin.  I thought about this limitation of reminder notifications as I rode the bus to work and came up with a way to mitigate this issue.  I love little puzzles like this!  Of course, I have a reminder go off the night before, but I usually will lazily put it off, thinking I’ll just put it out in the morning, which I tend to forget.  Besides, figuring out tech solutions is fun.  Here was my thought process…

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Today’s Apple Feedback:Enormous Netflix Controls

I bought a new Mac Mini in February of 2016 because my old 2010 Mac Mini had various growing issues with streaming video, like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Everything streams much more smoothly now, but there’s one minor annoyance with streaming Netflix content. The controls are so large that they effectively obscure up to half of the window and certain elements run off the top of the reasonably sized window.  Hence, today’s Apple feedback:

Netflix controls do not render correctly in Safari in Mac OS X 10.11.3

Netflix controls displayed during playback do not render properly. They are so big, that they extend past the top of the window. Firefox does not do this on the same computer (a brand new Mac Mini purchased 2/2016).

Background: I used migration assistant from a 2010 Mac Mini maxed out at 10.7.5. I had to re-install the OS when the ethernet port stopped working (case ID 1057375939). I have the resolution set at 720p (in order to increase the size of the text on the screen) using a brand new Magnavox LCD TV connected directly using HDMI. I also have the size of the cursor increased. Changing text size in Safari has no effect. Screen caps:

Volume control off top of window:

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Preview Image off top of window:

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I googled this issue for hours this morning and I cannot find anyone having the same issue.  Perhaps people aren’t hooking their Macs up to newer TV’s?  Perhaps this is an issue from using migration assistant?  If anyone knows how to fix this issue with Safari’s rendering of Netflix controls, please comment!

Transfer Discountinued Apps from an Old iOS 5 Device to a New iOS 9 Device

I’ve been using an old first generation iPad (maxed out at iOS 5.1.1) for years. It crashes a lot, but it worked well enough for watching Netflix, playing some old games, email, facebook, etc.. It had some syncing issues and once in awhile, I’d have to restart it because Candy Crush would crash, but for the most part, it still works.

Well, for Christmas, I was given a new iPad Mini and I handed the old iPad down the line, but before I did, I tried installing some games and came to discover that 2 of my favorite games were no longer in the App Store.  I even hooked up to iTunes and discovered that Apple had even removed the ability to transfer discontinued apps directly:

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I googled around a bit and…

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Today’s Apple Feedback: Bad Soft-Wrap of Tabbed Lines in rtfd Files [TextEdit.app]

Finally, I figured it out!  For as far back as I can remember, I’ve had issues with pasting tab-delimited lines into .rtfd files I use for project notes. I like .rtfd format because it allows you to intersperse images & text. The problem is that even short lines with a couple tabs get wrapped way before the end of the window. Other files of mine don’t have this issue and I could not figure out the pattern. Well, today I was annoyed enough to figure it out. I don’t have a fix, but since I figured out the behavior such that the issue can be reproduced, hopefully that will be enough for Apple to issue a fix, given Today’s Apple Feedback:

I use .rtfd format in TextEdit.app so that I have images with my notes. I have the prefs set to wrap to window and I’ve had a problem w/ lines w/ tabs wrapping before the end of the window for a long time. It annoyed me enough today to figure it out. After you drag an image into the file (creating a .rtfd file), every line of a certain length (containing tabs) gets wrapped such that the apparent 1st character on the next line is the wrapped tab. This screen-cap is of some lines of text w/ a couple tabs that was originally a .rtf file. I dragged an image in and then pasted the same text below it. Look at how the soft-wrap is different above an below the image:

textedit_erroneous_wrap_at_tab_in_rtfd_files

Apparently, after you’ve added an image to a rtfd file in TextEdit.app, every tab-delimited line that’s pasted in (anywhere in the file) gets prematurely soft-wrapped. Tabbed lines pasted in before the image was inserted remain correctly wrapped.

So if you’ve had this same problem, here’s a way to work around it. Just create a new .rtf file and paste all your text (with formatting) into it.  Then, insert all your images. It’s kind of a lame work-around, so if this issue is important to you, you might be better off using another text editor. For me however, I really like all the subtle features of TextEdit.app and will endure minor eccentricities such as this one.

Disable Pesky Facebook Calendar-App Notifications

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Internet accounts accessible via System Preferences are great.  Everyone’s on board.  E.g.:

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You can create and maintain calendars in them and they all show up in your Calendar apps on your computer and on your mobile devices.  In most cases, you create events and you create alerts for those events and you get your notifications the way you want them. Except Facebook. Sure, Facebook gives you your events and your notifications… and it even shows you events you’ve been invited to: great! What’s not so great? Your friends can create alerts on their events – events you have no intention of ever going to – events halfway across the world – and those alerts trigger on all your devices as if you created the event and set up the alert notification. Other internet accounts, like Google, draw the distinction between your events and events in others’ calendars you’re subscribed to, but did not create yourself.  There are settings in your Calendar app that allow you to ignore alerts from these subscribed calendars.  You can even choose to ignore alerts from subscribed calendars in your Facebook account’s calendar sync, but it doesn’t do anything because don’t forget, facebook adds your friends’ events to your calendar as if you created them. You’re ignoring nothing. You cannot stop the Facebook calendar notifications without turning off all notifications from every calendar in your Calendar app.

So you go about your day and your calendar alert goes off. You take a quick look and get confused about a meeting without a marked location. Then you start digging and find out it’s some event half way across the country about some distant acquaintance’s pub crawl that you got mass invited to. Then you start seeing these notifications all the time! Pretty soon, you stop looking at the alerts and you miss the reminder for your meeting that you scheduled! So annoying.

Being able to see what’s going on via Facebook events in your Calendar app is convenient when you’re looking for something to do in the context of your own schedule, so you hate to delete the Facebook calendar subscription. Luckily, I found a way to stop those pesky alerts, but still be able to see Facebook events in your Calendar app.  Here’s how it works:

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