Apple TV games must support Siri Remote unless they rhyme with Hitar Gero

I missed this a few days ago (9to5Mac), but it turns out Guitar Hero finally showed up on the Apple TV App Store. Announced during the new Apple TV reveal, I wondered how Activision would get the thing working when Apple about-faced on a rule allowing devs to require an external controller for their games. The thought of Guitar Hero on the Siri Remote (which, frankly, isn’t much cop for gaming full-stop) baffled.

The answer is Apple’s seemingly subtly changed its rule that all games must support Siri Remote, by adding in white ink on white paper “unless you happen to be a massive company that already had a huge IP in development that wouldn’t work solely with the Siri Remote, OBV“.

It’s the right decision, of course. Apple blocking Guitar Hero from Apple TV would be stupid. But it’s maddening that other developers are not afforded the same flexibility.

November 16, 2015. Read more in: Apple, Gaming

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Why Slide Over on the iPad needs work

The concept of multiple-app multitasking is something that’s very much stuck in people’s minds as the ‘proper’ way to do computing. It never used to be like this. A computer would run an app. If you were fortunate to have relatively powerful hardware, you could switch between several apps. But computers became increasingly powerful, the interfaces became more complex, and displays got bigger. Now, you can pepper your screen with tiny windows from a dozen apps, flicking your eyes between them.

People argue this is great, because it enables you to be productive, but it also reduces your focus. And focus is one of the things I really liked on first getting an iPad. The device became whatever app was running. And when I started using the iPad for creative tasks, I wasn’t repeatedly distracted by something wanting my attention. (This has been eroded somewhat by notification systems, but they can easily be silenced.)

Apple has subsequently brought this system ‘back to the Mac’, with its full-screen mode, but only now has the idea of using apps side-by-side headed in the other direction. With iOS 9’s Slide Over feature, a temporary overlay can be dragged in and then dismissed, enabling you to quickly get back to your original app. Split View gives you a full two-up view, which is far more flexible than how iPads were yet still retains a sense of focus, for example enabling you to simultaneously view a writing app and reference material, but not 50 other apps as well.

Slide Over’s more of an oddball. It’s designed for temporary access to something, without entirely removing attention and focus from the original app you were using. But it’s the interface that troubles me. Drag in from the right and the Slide Over column appears. Compatible apps appear to be listed randomly. There’s no search. You therefore have to scroll through the list to find whatever you want, in a manner alien to almost everything else Apple offers.

On launching an app, everything works fine (well, mostly), and when you bring back Slide Over again, the app will be ready and waiting. Close the app by dragging downwards and you’re back into randomsville, with the exception of apps you’ve previously used, which are listed from the bottom of the column upwards, in order of previous use.

I imagine Apple’s thinking is Slide Over should only be used with a very small number of apps, and the previous three are visible when you view their icons in the scrolly column. That’ll be enough for some people, but not anyone who uses a wider range of products. Even now, I have 32 compatible apps in the list. What happens when many dozens of apps are compatible? First-use of Slide Over will be atrocious. Finding anything will be a massive pain. Here’s hoping iOS 9.1 or a subsequent update brings some kind of search or filtering for Slide Over, otherwise it’ll never reach its full potential, and forever be merely a feature stymied by your inability to perform a basic search.

October 8, 2015. Read more in: Apple

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How I got back Slide Over on my iPad Air

I’m generally loathe to provide tips on weird iOS wobbles, because too many of them feel like voodoo. But after a week of Slide Over failing on my iPad Air, I managed to get it back, and I figured my method might help other people.

Slide Over is a new feature in iOS 9. On iPads other than the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, and the upcoming iPad Pro, it’s the only means of getting two apps on the same screen, without jailbreaking. The way it works is through you pulling a narrow column across a portion of the screen by dragging inwards from the right-hand edge, in line with the Home button. You then select an app, use it, and dismiss it by dragging rightwards.

Only that stopped working for me pretty quickly. No matter how I dragged, Slide Over refused to make an appearance. All I ever managed to see was the little left-facing arrow temporarily display on the screen edge, noting precisely where I should be dragging from, if my fingers had the audacity to be in slightly the wrong place.

I reasoned that Slide Over must have gotten stuck somehow. Perhaps this isn’t what happened, but it seems logical enough. One thing I did know for sure is Slide Over failed shortly after I installed and tried to use updates for a selection of newly compatible apps. So I went into the App Switcher and swiped up on every single app, in that way that sets knowledgeable tech people’s teeth on edge, given that this is something you should never have to do on iOS.

I restarted the iPad. No dice. And the apps were all back in the App Switcher anyway. So I nuked them all over again, with much gusto, opened Notes, and tried dragging from the right. I saw a ‘glitch’ of Slide Over, continued dragging, and there it was, like it had never been away.

It’s hard to know what went wrong and whether it’ll stop working again, nor whether this fix is anything but luck. (Certainly, one other person I know with this problem tried quitting all the apps and restarting, and hasn’t yet gotten Slide Over back *.) I also wonder whether a specific app was to blame, such as Pixelmator. That’s a superb iPad app — highly recommended — but it’s also extremely resource-hungry. On my iPad Air, it sometimes fails to launch, due to heavy RAM requirements. On that basis, it wouldn’t surprise me if the combination of underlying demands plus Pixelmator plus Slide Over just proved too much for the feature. But I don’t really fancy testing the theory by messing up my iPad again, when I need it to write about iPad things.

Still, now I can at least get back to complaining about Slide Over’s shortcomings, rather than it not working.

* UPDATE: I heard again from the person who the fix didn’t work for. Turns out one of the Slide Over-compatible apps had a broken download and dimmed icon but still, for some reason, appeared in Slide Over. After logging out, restarting, and logging in, the app was gone. Slide Over then worked. Clearly, there’s an issue with Slide Over getting ‘stuck’ when iOS finds things it cannot properly deal with.

October 7, 2015. Read more in: Apple

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iOS 9 back-ups working again. Here’s the fix

I wrote recently about iCloud back-ups failing on my devices after installing iOS 9. This story is, to my mind, a big deal, but has been curiously ignored by the majority of the tech press. As I noted, it’s clearly not sexy enough, and perhaps suffers from site owners/writers not having the problem themselves.

About a week ago, I was trying to troubleshoot this problem yet again and made my now regular trip to Settings > iCloud > Backup, waiting for it to state my iPhone 6s had never been backed up. Instead, it smugly noted it had backed-up overnight. This came as something of a surprise. The iPad, by contrast, still resolutely refused to back anything up at all.

I subsequently checked in every day to see what was happening. Most nights — although not all — since, the iPhone has backed-up to iCloud. Then, out of the blue, the iPad started backing up, too. If you’re now  eager to know, here’s the fix that I used to get all this working: nothing at all.

While typing this article, I almost misspelled iCloud as ‘iClod’, but that might actually be more appropriate. It’s pretty clear there are some fairly big issues with Apple’s infrastructure right now, perhaps related to its large number of users combined with new rollouts of hardware and software. And it’s notable that things aren’t entirely fixed for me either. My iPhone 5s currently states tyne “last backup could not be completed”, which was the error I previously got from the other devices. I’m also finding apps sporadically ‘stick’ when I’m trying to update them using the App Store.

What worries me more is how many people told me they were informed by Apple to wipe their devices clean and set them up as new, specifically to deal with the problem of iCloud back-ups. Data loss is almost never a solution to a technical problem, and it certainly shouldn’t be when it’s looking increasingly likely that Apple’s servers (or a combination of them and software bugs) are to blame. Certainly, if Apple ever wants iOS to be a properly professional platform, it’s not acceptable than even a small number of users will every year or two have to abandon everything and start from scratch.

October 7, 2015. Read more in: Apple

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iOS 9 killed my iCloud back-ups. And starting fresh is not a solution

Apple reporting of late is even weirder than usual, and broadly appears to take one of three forms:

  • Apple is THE BEST and we love EVERYTHING it does
  • Apple is THE WORST and we hate EVERYTHING it does
  • Apple did something we brushed aside last year as trivial, but it’s fixed now, so we’re going to pretend we were FURIOUS at the time and that this minor change is more innovative than sliced bread, GPS and heart-rate monitors combined. (And, no, Heston, you cannot have that as a new menu item for your restaurants.)

This means we see relentless rumours, pro-Apple and anti-Apple opinions and reviews, but oddly little reporting when things go somewhat wrong for a bunch of people. That sort of thing doesn’t get enough clicks/eyeballs/ad impressions and so falls by the wayside. Hence, I suppose, why I’m writing about a problem here. And that problem is this:

With iOS 9, iCloud back-up is dead for some people.

Yeah, just imagine that as a headline. Your eyes would gloss over it, before settling on IPHONE 7 MIGHT BE MADE FROM BEES and IPHONE 6S LESS BENDY WHICH IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER. But this kind of stuff matters, because iCloud is supposed to be Apple’s future for storage, and robust enough to protect all of your data and memories.

I have three iOS devices. The second they were updated to iOS 9, iCloud stopped working. I’m sure some journo colleagues will merrily claim this is down to some tech halo of doom or other, given how often things appear to go wrong for me during updates; but this is no laughing matter, because iCloud back-up is critical. More to the point, a quick search online finds plenty of forum threads about this issue, including on some major Apple websites that have yet to report on the matter. (There are, pleasingly, exceptions.)

What actually happens varies somewhat by user, but mostly you’ll find the Storage section in Settings helpfully noting that you’ve ‘never’ backed-up, when you have. Your device’s next back-up size will be listed at a suspiciously low 0 bytes, with each app beneath listing ‘no data’. On attempting to make a back-up, it will crank on for a while, get towards the end and not complete. If Apple’s servers and software are feeling particularly mischievous, your iCloud storage will drop like a stone, even though none of the back-ups have taken. (At one point, my 50 GB of space was down to about 15 GB free, despite me, according to iOS 9, having no actual back-ups.)

People posting on forums have been offering solutions. Turning iCloud off and on again. Resetting network settings. Deleting the back-ups you have, and then attempting to back-up manually until it actually works. According to people posting on Apple’s forums, Apple support naturally notes it’s the “first we’ve heard of this” whenever people call, and depressingly goes to the old fallbacks for seemingly any iOS-related problem these days: either restore your device from a back-up (assuming you can make one—some users under iOS 9 are even having problems with iTunes), or set up your device as new.

The second of those is especially troubling. Setting up a device as new means you don’t have access to your old data. In my case, that would mean losing progress from all games, hundreds of hours of work in the likes of Korg Gadget, and more. Data loss is not an acceptable solution for what appears to be a nasty iCloud bug that Apple has yet to acknowledge. (And Apple helpfully blocked sideloading in May, which would have been a way to restore important data manually.) More to the point, people on Apple’s forums claim they’ve done these things and it makes no difference anyway.

From what I can see, the only solution to this is to wait and hope things will start working again (and, if you can, remember to make regular iTunes back-ups, like you’re living in the Stone Age). That’s some way from ‘it just works’. Perhaps if more publications would make a noise about this, there’d be more hope and less waiting. As it is, I have to wonder if a lot of people will just give up backing-up altogether, putting their data at risk, and leading to misery down the line when a device abruptly stops working.

September 29, 2015. Read more in: Apple

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