Thoughts about Apple’s Airpods

Recently I finally bought myself a pair of Apple’s Airpods, which are their wireless earpods (or headset) so to speak. I’ve used the Apple earpods for years now, needing to buy a new pair every year, sometimes twice a year, because I always got stuck behind some tiny hook or even my own knees with the wire, while listening to podcasts and audiobooks during cooking, cleaning or travelling. Which in turn caused the drop of my iPhone on the cold hard floor more times than I dare to remember.

My second main use of the (wired) earpods, next to listening, was using the microphone function for recording video. And each time I accidentally moved or touched the wire, it was audible in said recording, with some creaking. Very annoying.

So after hesitating for about a year, mainly because of the price, I finally decided to treat myself to some Airpods. And here are my first experiences.


Of course the design is visually very pleasing. Starting with the clean and elegant packaging – don’t forget to get your complementary Lightning-USB wire before you throw it out, I almost didn’t notice it underneath the first layer of the box!

The Airpods come in a beautifully sleek, tiny, hightech storage box that somehow reminds me of a flattened egg.

The looks of the airpods themselves are an acquired taste I guess. If you’re always wearing earrings you could get away with it, but I still find they look a bit weird – especifially on men. Let’s hope Apple’s designers will fix that in the future. In the meantime guys could always use their gauge piercings to store their Airpods… (found on Pinterest):

Pairing to your device

Pick any Apple device, turn on bluetooth, hold the ‘egg box’ close and open it. The pairing with your device will be almost instantaneous and will offer you a very slick dialogue screen. If you close the box, the pairing will sever and the dialogue screen vanishes, also instanteously. Very fun to play with the first few minutes 🙂

Bonus: the Airpods can be paired to other devices like Android phones! Instructions on cnet teach us: To start pairing to anything new, put the AirPods in their case, then flip the lid up and press and hold the small button on the bottom rear of the charging case until the little LED light starts pulsing white. They should then show up in any Bluetooth-pairing settings on an Android phone, or computer, or TV.

Using the Airpods

Somehow the Airpods ‘know’ when you put the first one in your ear, you’ll hear a short ‘On’ signal. If you’re playing some media on your device via its speakers and you put the Airpods in your ear (provided they’re paired to that device) the playback on your device will immediately switch from speakers to the Airpods, without pause. As soon as you remove the first Airpod, your device will stop playback, very convenient I have to say. It won’t switch automatically back to speakers though, it stops playback and you’ll have to manually press Play again to continue listening on speaker.

One of the main reasons I bought the Airpods is wireless audio enhancement during video recording, thanks to the microphone function. Which of course means you can use them for phone calls, Facetime, Skype and audio recordings as well. They work perfectly, and I’m never scared they’ll fall out of my ears.

If you go to the Airpod settings on your iDevice (a subsection of your bluetooth settings) you can assign different functions to double-tapping each earbud, like start/stop playback.

Charging is easy, you stick the Airpods back into their little box, attach the wire (that came with their packaging) to any USB charger and you’re good to go.
You can add the very handy Battery widget to your iDevice’s screen to always keep track of your Airpods’ batterylife status.

What I’m missing

What I’m really missing is remote volume control via the Airpods. I’ve gotten very used to that function on my earpods. Now I have to dig up my device to adjust the volume, which is not very practical and seems to defeat the purpose of handsfree or wireless listening (and roaming around without your device on your body).

Another minor annoyance is battery life. I found that I have to charge the Airpods at least once a day, often more when I’m using them a lot.

Conclusion (so far)

After my first 2 weeks of use I’m finding the Airpods a very comfortable, easy to use, good quality wireless headset, with the special ‘Apple touch & feel’ that I’ve come to appreciate. They’re not cheap, but if you can afford them, I’d definitely recommend them.

From OSX Lion to El Capitan (Clean Install)


Ever since I bought my iMac back in 2011 (16 Gb RAM, core i7 processor), I had been working with Mac OSX 10.7 – otherwise known as Lion. I never upgraded, for I firmly believed in the adagium “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

However, this also meant that more and more applications had reached their maximum update level, among which Safari – which meant that slowly but surely more and more websites no longer fully functioned. Sites like Youtube and Twitter, to name but a few. So the level of my user annoyance gradually increased, until I reached the point of feeling ready to move on from Lion after all.

When Apple announced their latest MacOS “Sierra” to be expected this Fall, I suspected I would not be able to make the jump from Lion. So if ever I planned to upgrade after all, I had to do it now.

Since I had to jump  four iterations of MacOS (from OSX 10.7 to OSX 10.11) in one fell swoop, I chose to take as little risk as possible and go with a clean install. After much reading and research I also chose to do this from a bootable flash drive/usb drive.

Since I had never undertaken such an adventure, and had to do lots of Googling and Trying of Things, I decided to write every step down for you all – but only the successful ones, so your path might be shorter and smoother. So here we go…

…but before you move on, please consider carefully that a clean install will erase everything, and I mean Every Thing, from your Mac’s hard drive. This not only includes your files and applications, but also your user accounts and network settings. Know that in most cases a so-called “over-the-top  install” (in which you simply install the new OS over the previous one, without erasing everything) works perfectly fine. I chose a clean install because as I said I had a pretty large “jump” between OSes to make, which also stood for a time leap of about 5 years. Years in which a lot of “baggage” had accumulated, like unused extensions, app support files, preferences etc. These could potentially pose security risks or app instability in the new system, or simply take up too much space. A clean install would be like setting up my l’ill ol’ Mac as if it came brand new out of the box – at least on the inside 😉 .

Please also make sure that all of your mission critical apps are all compatible with El Capitan, before you do the install… The safest way to ensure this is probably to visit the developer’s website. You can also checkout, although I’m not certain how reliable they are in all instances.

Okay, if you still want a clean install after all this, please read on for my own step-by-step process.

1. Clean up
Throw away files and applications that you no longer use or haven’t used in a long time. Use an app like AppCleaner to make sure every little file associated with an application is thrown out as well.

If you want to rearrange things and/or throw out garbage, do so now, before you make a cloned copy (steps 1-4).

2. Close all applications, update them, log them
Make a note which apps came from the Mac App store and can be readily recovered, and which apps require you to download a new installer from the developer’s website.

Also, you may want to have a log of all of your application licenses in a copyable format so that you can paste it in when reinstalling your apps (after the install of El Capitan).

3. Log off from cloudapps like Dropbox, Evernote, etc. Do this last and don’t edit anymore cloud files until after the clean install.

4. Disconnect any unnecessary peripherals such as printers, tablets, microphones, etc. Try to work with just attached drives and a wired mouse and keyboard.

5. Empty the trash. You can use the TrashIt app if necessary.

6. Repair boot drive permissions
Use Disk Utility to make sure your boot drive permissions are all repaired and that the disk directory is verified as good.

7. Back up
This may be the single most important action you should take. Back up, back up, backup! Use Time Machine, but if you really want to be safe, also make a complete cloned copy of your Mac. I used Carbon Copy Cloner for that, for it is able to make bootable backups. You can try it out for free, which is perfect for opportunities like this.

Note: you will need a second external harddrive for the cloned copy, do not try to cram it in next to your Time Machine backup, for Troubles might await you and you do not want to take risks with your backups…

8. Download El Capitan from the Mac AppStore
It will launch automatically but you need to quit (CMD-Q) out of the upgrade process.

9. Create a bootable installer flash drive
Click here for an explanation how to. Move the installer file from your Applications folder to your bootable flash drive. It’s about 6 gigabytes, so make sure your flash drive is at least 8 Gb, and doesn’t have any files on it.

10. Connect the bootable USB El Capitan install drive to the Mac and install El Capitan
Since this process has been described by many others, I’ll simply refer you to the one that I found most helpful and easiest to understand. Click here for those step by step instructions.

In my case this process took 40 minutes. Which I thought was pretty fast, but as stated above my Mac does have a Core i7 processor with 16 Gb RAM, so if you have a different setup it might take more – or even less – time than mine.

11. Restore your data
Right after you boot El Capitan the setup process will start. You can elect to restore user accounts and settings from Time Machine. I chose the following set of restore options: Users folder + Settings + Other files and folders: Yes; Applications: No.

By the way, when you sign into iCloud it will sync up anything you had previously selected in iCloud sync settings. This may include your mail (after you rebuild or log in to your account), calendar, contacts, reminders, Safari bookmarks, iCloud Keychain etc.

The same goes for your other cloud apps like Dropbox and Evernote (etc): as soon as you login to their desktop apps, your files will automatically reappear on your Mac.

12. Reinstall your apps
In step 2 you made a list of Mac App Store apps, and apps directly from a developer’s site. You can now use that list to restore your apps.

If you were using any cloud-based apps like Dropbox, Box, Evernote etc. you can simply download their desktop application installers, install the desktop apps, log in and you’re back in business.

In case anything goes wrong, or if it goes well but you’re not satisfied with the new system
Take the current Time Machine backup you made in step 7, you can boot from the recovery partition (CMD-R), do a complete erase (Disk Utility) and then restore from your Time Machine archive. You’ll be back where you were before you started.

Issues I encountered after the install

There were three major applications that no longer worked after I had installed El Capitan. Two of those I knew beforehand, but the biggest one took me by surprise and forced me to purchase a software update. They were:

  1. Parallels Desktop 7 – this version is not compatible with El Capitan, an issue of which I was aware before I started. If I want to continue to use Parallels, I cannot upgrade (the more affordable option) for the jump from 7 to 11 is simply to big. I’ll have to buy a new, full version.
  2. iMovie ’11 – it is still available in El Capitan but I could not get it to work the way I wanted it to, so I had to switch to the latest iMovie. Of this I was not particularly aware beforehand, I mean I did know there was a new iMovie but I had hopes the older version would still work satisfactorily. Which it didn’t and since a lot had changed between these versions, I actually had to sign up for an iMovie workshop in an Apple store to be able to work with it again. I still don’t really like the new version, but what can one do – I guess I’m going to have get over it.
  3. Microsoft Office 2011. Now this one not working surprised me, and I don’t mean in a positive way. I could not get Word, Excel or Powerpoint to work at all, they wouldn’t even start. (I don’t use Outlook). Searching on the internet taught me that many struggled with this problem. There had been some fixes from Microsoft, mainly aimed at Outlook, but for the other three there were no fixes at hand as of yet. Since Office to me is mission critical, I experienced a light panic. I tried Pages for a couple of days, and even the open sourced LibreOffice, but both did not function the way I needed them to, for my specific wants & needs (I create written tutorials with lots of pictures, and inserting these pictures the way I wanted them to was a complete train wreck in both of those programms). After a week of trying (and cursing) I gave in, for I had to move on with my work. So I purchased Microsoft Office 2016 – which works like a dream with El Capitan I have to say, but confronted me with an unexpected expense.

In conclusion

These were the steps I took to go from Mac OSX 10.7 Lion to 10.11 El Capitan with a clean install. It took me many hours to research the many options and possibilities and finally I settled on the above set of steps. They are of course based on my personal choices and preferences,  and given my particular hardware system setup. Nevertheless I feel quite confident that in most cases these steps will work, which is why I took the trouble of logging them here for you all, so as to spare you the same amount of hours of research (and doubts, and annoyances) I went through.

I hope this will be of help to at least some of you. I hope you feel encouraged by the fact that I, a simple user and not a software engineer nor any kind of other tech expert, have managed to sail through these steps successfully and have already enjoyed my new El Capitan OS for some weeks before I published this.

And when Sierra comes, I can now move confidently forward with a simple over-the-top install.



How to fix your iOS 7 wallpaper bug

With iOS 7 came a complete makeover of the look and feel of Apple’s mobile operating system (iOS). It also came with at least one bug however, and one that annoys me to no end. After trying several solutions offered on the interwebs, I finally found one that works. Today I’m sharing my troubleshooting steps with you, so you won’t have to spend as many hours searching as I have.

The problem

On your iOS 7 device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), you set a wallpaper of your own choosing (so not one of Apple’s pre-installed ones). You find that your device zooms in without you being able to control any of it: you’re unable to pinch it smaller to fit your screen. Neither can you resize the image itself to fit the screen, for whatever you do, iOS 7 renders your image too large for your screen anyway.

Working towards a solution

You may try different steps, any one of which might work for you. I’m sure there’s more ways out there, but here’s the steps I’ve found so far.

Step 1: Disable the parallax effect

The parallax effect in iOS7 creates the illusion of a multilayered 3D background, with the wallpaper on a separate plane from text, app icons, clock, etc. When you tilt the device around, it creates an illusion of depth. Because of this effect, your wallpapers need more cushion on the sides to allow them to move freely around as you tilt your device. For some people the bug is fixed by simply turning the parallax effect off. You can go to your Settings for that: Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Reduce Motion and turn it ON.


Step 2: There’s an app for that

Disabling the parallax effect does not fix the problem for everybody, including myself. Another option could be resizing your wallpaper with an app. So far I’ve read about two that seem to work.

a. Wallax – Scale, Resize & Make your own wallpapers for iOS 7 ($0,99 / €0,79). This app claims to enable you to scale your wallpapers to fit screen with the Padded wallpaper option. If this app really works, you will have no more zoomed or misaligned wallpapers. I haven’t tried this app myself though, since I wasn’t willing to pay for what’s basically an Apple bug fix, unless I absolutely had to. So I can’t confirm this result.

b. InstaSize ($4,99 / €4,49). I haven’t tried this one myself either mind you, but I read that it did work for several people, so I thought I’d mention it anyway. It seems that you can open your picture in InstaSize and reduce the image overall. You then share it with the gallery, which saves it to the camera roll.  From here you’re able to set the picture as the lock screen image. It might take a few tries to get the correct size in InstaSize, but it seems to have worked for several people. As I said, I don’t know by experience that it will, but who knows, maybe it does for you.

Step 3: Workaround

If steps 1 and 2 do nothing for you, here’s a workaround that worked for me. Go into Photo gallery > turn your iOS device to landscape mode > screenshot the now smaller picture > set as a wallpaper in portrait mode.
Not perfect for iPad, for it only really works for wallpapers in portrait mode, but still it works pretty well until the bug is fixed. For iPhone/iPod Touch however this is the workaround – since the iPhone/iPod Touch wallpapers are always in portrait orientation!

So, I hope I’ve been able to be of some help to you guys out there, at least until Apple decides to fix this bug! (if ever…)


Thanks to this workaround I can finally fit the wallpaper of my choice to perfectly fit my iPad’s skin!

How to create website icons on iPad’s & iPhone’s homescreen

There are several ways to bookmark your favorite websites in Safari on your iOS device (iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch). You can simply add a bookmark to your bookmark list, or you can add it to your bookmark bar so as to have it easily accessible in Safari all the time.

The bookmark bar is a nice place to keep those faves handy

But there’s even a third way that not everyone seems to have heard of so I thought I’d share it with you here: adding bookmarks as an icon to your homescreen! This way, your most frequented websites will be just one tap away, no need for you to first open Safari, then access the bookmarks and then tap on it.
It’s always easier to learn these things by seeing them demonstrated, and fortunately I found a demo video in my grandmother ComiGran’s closet, who has been gathering iPad tips since before the War – and apparently recording them! Therefore it’s with great pride that I now present to you:

ComiGran’s Homescreen Bookmarks Demo!

(Click here if you can’t see the video below)

Now that you’ve tried that for yourself: are you going to add your favorite websites to your homescreen or do you prefer another way of bookmarking?


Add some flavor to your gadgets – and skin them!

If you like your gadgets clean, stark and simple, then by all means skip this post. But if you’re in for something different and personalized, and also, if you’re tired of your gadgets getting scratched just by looking at them, then you should consider skinning them. A skin is a special kind of sticker, made of thin yet sturdy material, that is customized to fit your particular gadget.

You can skin almost every possible gadget, and frankly it’s a bit like getting a tattoo! (…) Ok, not really I guess, but it is, in the sense that “once you’ve done one, you want to do more (and more!)”. Anyway, I’m just saying: I’ve skinned every gadget in my house that I could find a skin for.

What I like about it, is that you can completely customize the design of your skin. You can do a photograph (or a compilation you created), pictures of some nice artwork, “look-a-like” woods, metals, fabrics, abstract digital patterns, and so on and so forth; the possibilities are literally endless!

Furthermore, the material is easily removable which broadens the horizons even more, for now you can get a new one when you’ve had enough of your current one. It’s addictive that way (see remark about tattoos…); when I ran out of gadgets to skin, I decided that there was still one left: my Apple TV’s remote. Ridiculous, I know, but what can you do… I’m telling you it’s like getting a new gadget – except for a fraction of the price 🙂

My iPhone 4’s skin – with a customized wallpaper to match

Thirdly, the skin is durable and protects your gadgets against scratches. This is the material they use in the car industry, so you do the math. I’ve had the above skin for two years, then I got a new iPhone – and was sad to see my beloved skin go. After all its use, it still hadn’t worn out!

Last but not least, I particularly like that a skin keeps your gadgets own design intact. The beautiful thin design of your new smartphone or tablet is not hidden like when you use a case or a bumper. You’ve just added color and your own personal style to it, how cool is that!

The only downside is that a skin of course does not offer the same kind of protection that a case does. To me that is in no way a deal breaker however: I simply bought some nicely fitting sleeves for my mobile gadgets and keep them in my handbag whenever needed. Done.

Being the comic geek that I am, I of course skin my gadgets with comics :-). Like my little iPod Nano here, and my first iPad.

iPod Nano – Green Lantern New Guardians. You’ll notice that I’ve used scenes with a lot of pink, since my cute little Nano is pink as well! 🙂


Green Lantern Hal Jordan visits Odym, the Blue Lantern home world. I just love those colors on my iPad!

The aforementioned Apple TV remote sports a scene from Fathom (Aspen Comics), click here if you can’t see the video below.


Here’s my iPhone 4S – all dressed up in Red Hood and the Outlaws:

Sticker sheet with my iPad’s second skin – when I got tired of the first one… (scene is from Grimm Fairy Tales’s Escape from Wonderland)

And finally, my Macbook Air proudly rocks DC’s New 52 Justice League! (I still like to stare at that thing a little while every time I use it :-)).

Skinning your gadget is very simple, although at first it may take you a couple of minutes extra just to get it right. But once you get the hang of it, it’s “Go, and Skin your Gadgets!” For instance, it took me only about 15 minutes to skin my entire Macbook Air, top, bottom and keyboard. I’ve made a little How to video for your convenience so you can see how simple it is!


Guess now all I have to do is wait for the availabity of skinning a television! 🙂 🙂



Restoring your Apple TV (when its white light is flashing)

I’ve been a very happy Apple customer for a couple of years now, their adagium “everything just works” is holding with very few instances that it does not “just work”. One of the biggest exceptions however is my 2nd gen Apple TV. I bought the thing shortly after it came out, so I’m guessing it’s about two years old now, and the first year everything was fine and good. After one of Apple’s many Apple TV software updates however, my troubles started and although I can’t say they’re completely over now, I was able to manage somewhat of a mutual cease fire agreement with it so I can still watch my stuff.

That took a lot of troubleshooting and many (many!) hours of searching the web, which is why I thought I’d share this with you all, so you won’t have to, hoping that you’ll be able to handle your Apple TV’s bugs far more quickly after reading this article.

Most of the workarounds below are not of my own devising; I did however, for mine and now your convenience, make a summary of everything I’ve read and tried out, to figure out the most relevant steps and put them in the order that worked for me.

Again, I have a 2nd generation Apple TV, so these steps are primarily aimed at 2nd gen devices. They probably won’t work for 1st gen devices and I’m not sure about 3rd gens either but you could try since Apple TV 2 and 3 have much in common. 

So here we go.


Apple TV 2 is not working, doesn’t seem to connect with your TV and/or your computer’s content (black TV screen). Its little white light is flashing once or twice per second.

Working towards a solution

Step 1. The first thing to try is: take your Apple TV’s remote control and press both your menu button and the down arrow, holding them simultaneously for approx. 5-10 seconds until the white light starts flashing rapidly. Normally this would restart your Apple TV. If you’re lucky, this will do the trick for you and you can enjoy your content once again. Done!

Step 2. If step 1 does nothing for you, or if your Apple TV tells you to “Connect to iTunes”, then try the following:

  • disconnect all cables from your Apple TV, including the power cord
  • connect your Apple TV to iTunes on your computer with a micro USB cable. After that, connect the power cord as well. If you’re wondering if you even have a micro USB you can check out the image below. Perhaps you have some other gadget that uses these, like your smartphone (not an iPhone), a Kindle, an MP3 player, etc. Otherwise you’ll have to buy one. They’re not expensive. Here’s a picture:
  • your Apple TV will now show up in iTunes. Select your Apple TV in the source list and click Restore. Wait until it’s done; this may take a while since it’s not only resetting to factory settings but iTunes will also download and install the latest software version. Ready? Then done! Now you can hook up your Apple TV to your TV again and go have fun.

Step 3. If step 2 didn’t work because your Apple TV didn’t show up in iTunes at all, try the following:

  • Disconnect the HDMI, power and USB cable
  • Wait for 10 seconds
  • Reconnect the USB cable
  • Immediately hold the menu and play buttons on the remote for 15 seconds
  • Apple TV 2 should now start flashing the LED wildly and appear in iTunes with the restore button.

If it still doesn’t show up, maybe it’s your mini USB cable (even if it works just fine with other devices). Sometimes you need to wiggle the USB plug or put a little weight on it in order to have a reliable connection. Or just try another cable if you have one, sometimes that helps too.

If that still doesn’t work, try the above but add the power cord after the third bullit (and before the 4th).

Step 4. Sometimes step 2 doesn’t work and iTunes tells you the restore has failed because “an unknown error occurred” and then some number, like 1602, 1611, 2006 or 2009. I mostly got 1602, but I know other people have gotten the other ones as well.

Now it’s getting tricky for I’ve read a number of possible solutions by different people, depending on their respective situations I guess. The one that worked for me was:

  • First, try to restore again, taking the above steps; sometimes this really helps
  • If it doesn’t and the error message in iTunes keeps persisting, then ignore the error message and hook your Apple TV back up to your TV anyway. In my case, nine out of ten times the Apple TV had been restored after all, in spite of the error message in iTunes!

Other solutions might be (I haven’t tried these because the above worked for me, but other people have):

  • Try a different mini USB cable
  • Try holding your mini USB absolutely stock still during the entire restore process (this will take several minutes, so just hang in there)
  • Reboot your computer
  • All of the above

Now what?

So, what if this restore thing is working for you now, but the blinking white light just keeps returning? Will you have to keep restoring it like every month or so?

There was a period that I literally had to go through that every week, and it seriously bummed me out. Still, I wasn’t ready to buy a new one yet, since I’d only had the thing for a little over a year, I mean, come on!

So I kept on digging a little deeper. After much searching and reading I concluded that it somehow had something to do with my Apple TV’s communication with my router. The experiences I was having confirmed this: the blinking white light usually happened either when the Apple TV was waking up from sleep, or when it had been restarted after for instance, a software update (did I mention there’s quite a lot of those?).

So I thought: you know what, my router is like 5-6 years old anyway, I’ll buy a new router – and I did: I got an Apple Airport Extreme. That definitely sped things up for my other devices, but in the end it didn’t do away with my Apple TV troubles.

Then I remembered another tip I read about from a very technical person: if you didn’t want to go through all their very technical steps (including completely reprogramming your router etc.), you could simply leave your Apple TV on all the time!

So simple it’s actually brilliant. It has turned out to be the single most useful tip in all of my troubled time with my danged Apple TV! I went into its settings menu, turned off its automatic slumber mode and refused all software updates from then on so as to avoid the mandatory restarts.

From that moment on my Apple TV 2 has never stopped working. No more flashing white lights! 🙂 🙂

So yeeeeaaaaah! I’ve been a happy Apple user ever since. Even including my li’l ol’ Apple TV.

Micro USB port

So, do you have an Apple TV, and if so, what are your experiences?