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Archive for the ‘iOS’ Category

My setup has been the same since quite a few years now: I have a Keepass file on Dropbox, and I use several different applications and apps on multiple devices to access and update that file. Which applications, you ask?

On my Macs as well as on my Xubuntu machines I will use Keeweb. Despite its name, it gives you a desktop application that natively accesses (and syncs) files on Dropbox. This is the application I go to for when I want or need to reorganise the Keepass file, e.g. to rearrange groups or import lots of account data.

I would use Keeweb on a Windows PC as well – if I had one. At work, we have no free choice of which application to use to store passwords, but luckily we do have the “official” Keepass Password Safe at our disposal.

On Android my favourite Keepass app is called Keepass2Android. I will admit that I made that choice a few years ago, and haven’t checked on its competitors recently (are there competitors of note, by the way?). But it does what I need it to do; it accepts Dropbox as cloud storage and it will even merge changes from the local version and the Dropbox version when it detects differences between the two during the synchronisation process. That last one is a killer feature, and it hasn’t failed me a single time in the years I have been using it.

On iOS the situation is a little more complicated – at least, that how it feels to me. I wrote earlier about KeePassium, and that is still my app of choice. I like the interface, and it does all I need when I look for account info (you can store more than just passwords there!).

But in order to sync my central file on Dropbox, on iOS the app has to go through the “Files” app from Apple. Files-the-app is capable of showing files of all kinds on the iOS device, as well as the files on several cloud file systems, like Dropbox. What is less clear to me, however, is how quickly “Files” notices changes on Dropbox and picks up the latest version of my central KeePass file. I also have had trouble getting the latest version of my file (as changed on Android, for example) onto my iPhone. Although I must admit that the last few weeks fared better: I haven’t noticed anymore missing syncs lately. What I can’t say is whether the issue was/is with Files rather than KeePassium or even my internet connection…

Anyway, when it comes to passwords I want to be sure that I’m not missing any information – or worse: I don’t want to overwrite my updated central file with an older version on iPhone! That’s why I currently always check the “last updated on” date of my Dropbox file in Files before opening the file again. Of course my Dropbox account is protected with a password, but I don’t think that is what Andrei Popleteev means when he’s writing about “How to sync KeePassium with Dropbox“.

Manually checking the file date on iOS is not an ideal situation, I know, but to me that check is a small price to pay for the greater good of having my account data available on all the platforms I use! And for me, KeePassium is still the way to go on iOS.

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I have written about my tribulations with the Xerox Phaser 3260 laser printer earlier this year. All in all, I’m happy with the machine: it’s probably not the cheapest option but it worked without fail for many years now, mainly helping my children with their homework and their university courses.

The trouble I wrote about earlier was in fact solely due to the appearance of Mac OS “Catalina”: this version of Mac OS requires 64-bit drivers, which were unavailable from Xerox for a very long time. During the whole process of trying out how best to work with different versions of Mac OS and the corresponding drivers I also turned on AirPrint in the printer settings. I did not hope to solve our problems that way, but in house full of iPhones and iPads AirPrint comes in handy. And turning it on for the Xerox is just a matter of clicking once:

As it turns out, this is actually the easiest way to get any Mac to print to the Phaser – even without any printer driver software. So here’s my tip of the day: if you are the owner of one or more Mac’s or iOS devices, make sure your printer understands AirPrint and turn it on! As long as you don’t need any fancy features of your printer, say for printing photos, this is the easiest and quickest way to get your printer working for you.

If I ever need to buy another printer, I’ll make sure it understands AirPrint ;-)

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A few days ago I tried to use KeePassium on the iPhone. Yet another KeePass app, you say? Yes – because it pays to be open to change, and in this case because KeePassium promises to sync automatically with any of a list of cloud storage providers. That promise means you can not just use DropBox, but also Google Drive, iCloud Drive, Synology NAS, and more, to store your file(s). It’s nice to have more choices when it comes to safely storing your passwords.

My current KeePass app, MiniKeePass, requires an explicit manual “Save to…” and “Open in MiniKeePass” actions to keep your cloud copy in sync on multiple devices. I tend to forget those “Save“s and “Open“s now that a iPhone is my daily phone; on my Galaxy S7, Keepass2Android requires just a “Sync” to figure whether to save its local copy to the cloud or to get the cloud version if that is more recent (and vice-versa, of course).

So I downloaded KeePassium, and pointed it to a copy of my .kdbx file. Unfortunately, the app wouldn’t / couldn’t open it, although it claims to compatible with all versions of KeePass files. Strange – or perhaps a bad copy on my side? I don’t know, since the error message wasn’t very clear. This means I will stick with MiniKeePass for the time being, knowing that I will have to look out for another KeePass-compatible app soon…

Why should I replace MiniKeePass? To begin with, the MiniKeePass app is no longer actively maintained, going by the updates to the source code on Github: the latest updates are from late 2017. And it shows: in iOS 13 I can see a few mix-ups in the user interface. For example, look at this:

Is MiniKeePass in Serious Trouble?

It’s not the only KeePass-compatible iOS app that is getting (too?) old to be worthy of attention. Check out the list of ‘Unofficial KeePass Ports‘ and even a cursory glance at the majority of entries will turn out to be (very dated). One version even goes back to 2010 – that’s almost the prehistory in IT terms. Others are more recent but require payment to get rid of ads – without any guarantee that the app will work with my files.

Let me be clear: I don’t mind paying for an app, especially for an app that will guard the hundreds of passwords I have to store. But then I want an app with a better-than-just-good UI, since I will be using it every day; I want automatic syncing with a choice of cloud storage providers; I want serious support, at least in the form of regular and continuing updates to comply with Apple’s progress. And ideally the source code of that app should be audited by independent security specialists, to make sure that it is indeed a secure and safe implementation, worthy of a user’s trust. I’ll keep looking! Your suggestions are most welcome, too.

 

Update on 2020-02-02: I revisited the app and changed my recommendation

 

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Since a few months I have been using Cloudflare’s “1.1.1.1:Faster Internet” app on my iPad. I like the idea of having more privacy while surfing the Web, even though it’s hard for me to verify what the app is doing exactly. At least I never had the impression that the iPad got slower because of the app – but your mileage may vary, of course.

Icon of the 1.1.1.1 app

Anyway, what I wanted to mention is that the upgrade to iPadOS 13.1 posed a problem for the network connection on the iPad. Some applications, Safari included, had no problem accessing the internet, but my main banking app continued to report “You have no internet connection – please try again later’. Puzzling and frustrating, since a second banking app (for a different bank, of course) had no problems whatsoever. I’ll leave it to the specialists/hackers to figure out what that means about the safety of that second app ;-)

In the end I removed the 1.1.1.1 app completely, and reinstalled it from the App Store. This did the trick: the application installed its VPN Configuration and hey presto, all my applications found the way to the web without any trouble. So even if you have configured your iPad to update all apps automatically, I recommend having a look at the 1.1.1.1 app directly after upgrading to iOS, sorry: iPadOS 13. If it has trouble establishing a VPN connection, just remove it from the device and reinstall it – that should do the trick.

Now I’ll take some time this weekend to read up on Cloudflare’s extension of the 1.1.1.1 app, called Warp. I was already intrigued by earlier articles about the WireGuard protocol, and Warp seems to give us a possibility to try it out without costs. I might well do so; if I do, I’ll report on it later.

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Just like in 2017, my iPad Mini crashed yesterday. When I picked it up, wanting to catch up my personal email, all I saw was the Apple Logo – for several minutes. I tried shutting it down, but that wasn’t easy. Any attempt to resulted in a new boot cycle. In the end, I succeeded, but it took me more than hour to finally turn it off and launch DFU mode.

From there on, it’s a simple matter to have iTunes massage the machine back into working order. And then you can restore the backup you made – you do make backups from time to time, don’t you? One important tip: if you want to encrypt your backup on your local hard disk, don’t forget to write down the password you use ;-) Otherwise you can spend another hour trying all the passwords you might have invented when taking the backup!

When all that is in the past, the Mini is back as it was – I’m relieved. But I do wonder: iOS may be a reasonably stable operating system, but why does it go bonkers from time to time? The Mini did not fall, did not get bent, did not lie in the sun nor in a freezer, it just lay untouched on my desk the whole day, connected to a charger…

For the record, these are, in my opinion, the best instructions about entering DFU mode: “DFU Mode” on the iPhone Wiki. Thanks for helping me out!

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More than a year ago, Samsung (finally!) delivered Android 7 to the Belgian Galaxy S7 smartphones – and my device is still claiming to be up to date while displaying Android version number 7.0…

Google released the first version of Android 7 in August 2016, and a few weeks ago they released the Android 9 beta… Samsung (like many other vendors) is taking much, even too much, time to support their products.

Much as I like the quality of Samsung hardware (at least when it comes to phones), the lack of software support makes me more and more appreciative of Apple’s efforts. I have been using Apple hardware – mostly Mac computers in all form factors – since 1991, but Mac OS has never been as as closed as iOS, and that was one of the reasons I preferred Android smartphones. I am not disappointed in Android as such, but given the increasing number of threats to mobile devices it is important to get regular and speedy updates. Apparently, for Samsung there were no security updates worth mentioning during in the last six weeks (the latest security update on my S7 was installed on April 9, probably days after its release)… It’s a good thing the S7 is far from worn out, or I might be very tempted to switch to an iPhone.

There is still hope for Android Oreo, by the way: SamMobile announced its “imminent release” a few weeks ago. Without a firm planning, however, S7 users can only continue to hope… and remember that Oreo will probably be the last official upgrade for the S7 !

PS. Yes, My Samsung Galaxy S Plus is still working. But I have no plans to try and upgrade it beyond its current Android 5.1.1 (CyanogenMod 12.1).

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From time to time, I spend some time (sometimes way too much) to check out the applications I’m using. Certainly on mobile devices the available options for a given function can change quickly, and it’s always useful to see if you’re missing out on something a newer application has to offer.

My most important app on any platform is, of course, a password manager. I have already spoken out in favour of the KeePass family of tools. Currently on the iPad Mini I’m using MiniKeePass, which is not very sexy to look at (or to use). But the app can read your database when stored in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.), and the source code is available on Github – so we are reasonably certain that the app does what it is supposed to do, nothing less and certainly nothing more.

The MiniKeePass settings screen

My search for ‘Keepass‘ on the App Store turned up another candidate: KeePass Touch. Glancing over the specs made me want to try it out. Indeed, the “Touch” part of the name indicates that you can unlock access to the passwords by using Touch ID, and I must admit that I have grown fond of that functionality on multiple mobile devices.

However, a bit of study stopped me from switching from MiniKeePass. Here’s why:

  • KeePass Touch displays ads, that can only be avoided by paying.
  • KeePass Touch claims to be “Open Source”, but I’m guessing the quotes are there for a reason: I wasn’t able to find the source code of this app, nor did I even find any website for the company that publishes the app.
  • As I found out by comparing both apps, MiniKeePass can also be unlocked by Touch ID. That’s perfect for use on my new iPad Pro ;-)

I’m very suspicious of KeePass Touch, since there are no guarantees that your passwords are safe from the eyes of its developers.

I would be very happy if someone made MiniKeePass read and write its files directly from/to Dropbox, Google Drive or a similar cloud service. But even without that I will continue to use MiniKeePass – if only to prove that real Open Source is important to me.

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Since the update to iOS 10.2 my test devices emitted this message: “[Some application] May Slow Down Your iPad“. Specifically: I have seen the message once on each device and for the given app, regardless of the number of reboots.

Image of the warning message

Stackoverflow tells me (indirectly) that the message is caused by the fact that our app is currently built in a 32-bit architecture, and that we should upgrade to 64 bits.

Is that correct? And: is the message shown only once, or could it reappear later on?

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A few days ago I complained about the way the Byline app handled the upgrade to iOS 10 on my iPad. Well, I stopped complaining when I realized that there are in fact 2 (two) versions of the app. As far as I can tell, “Byline (Universal)” aka. version 4.2.2 dates back to 2013 and was built for iOS 7. It’s this version that posed all kinds of problems and essentially failed to to what I wanted on iOS 10.

Since December 2015 Phantom Fish has released a completely new version of Byline, called Byline 5 and sporting version number 5 (of course).

byline5.png

In the app store this is, however, a separate app. That means that people like me, who do not read the update notices of all the apps they have installed, are likely to miss this opportunity to upgrade. And that is a shame, because Byline 5 is quite good – and it looks a lot more modern and at home on iOS 10 than the older universal version!

While I must apologize to Phantom Fish for doubting their ability and willingness to adapt Byline to iOS 10, I should also scold them for failing to add a little test to their old version: it should not be too hard to detect iOS 10 and propose the upgrade to Byline 5 to the user.

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I have always been a big reader. Books and magazines in the days of paper publications, and lots of online and/or digital writings since I discovered the Web. My favourite means for following up on blogs and news sites is the RSS feed. RSSOwl is good enough on the Mac or PC; mobile devices require something else, of course.

rss.png

On the iPad, I have been a longtime user of Byline – longtime meaning “ever since I bought it”. Byline offers a free version that can handle offline reading – just perfect for me, since my daily commute by train passes through areas without significant 4G/3G coverage. And offline is handy as well when you’re on holiday in a foreign country.

However, since the upgrade of iOS to version 10, Byline seems to have trouble. Syncing doesn’t always work – or should I say: “usually does not work”? I have had the app crash several times in a row. Changing the settings is possible, but somehow the app does not take the new settings into account.

Someone wrote that Byline is “almost abandonware”, and the number of updates to the app during the last three years seems to validate that point of view. Yes, there is a new version 5.0.2 since the beginning of September 2016, but my bad experiences with the app date from last and this week… Please, Phantom Fish, can you do better? Because if you don’t, I will have to start researching a replacement, and I haven’t seen many RSS readers that fit my needs – on iOS, at least.

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Just a quick notice about a link that’s worth remembering for all users of the Mac, the iPad or the iPhone: “The Sweet Setup” will recommend the best app for your machine, within a series of broad categories.

sweet-setup.png

The “best” app, of course, very much depends on everyone’s particular taste, and I find myself disagreeing with many of their choices. But – and it’s a big but – what I like very much about this site are the extensive reviews of many apps. These reviews should help you choose your best app, even if that choice does not correspond with theirs. And don’t worry: the author(s) know(s) that different tastes will lead to different choices ;-)

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It’s quite a coincidence, of course. Just a few days ago, I praised the Logitech K810 keyboard; on September 3rd, Logitech introduces a new keyboard called the K480. It looks similar, in terms of key size and layout, but it’s bigger, because it incorporates a ‘cradle’ that will accept a smartphone or a tablet and transform the keyboard into the base of a keyboard-screen combination.

Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480 -  A wireless desk keyboard for your computer, tablet and smartphone

Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480
A wireless desk keyboard for your computer, tablet and smartphone

Like the K810, the K480 keyboard connects to three devices; unlike on the K810, you choose the active device using a rotary knob rather than three dedicated keys. I use the K810 to enter text into an ElementaryOS machine, an Android tablet and sometimes even a Mac. The K480 will be able to do the same, and at the same time hold the tablet in a more sensible position in relation to the keyboard – sounds fine to me. And the new K480 is only half the price of the K810! I might just get one and leave it at work, to ease my typing on mobile machines during meetings; a real keyboard always beats the on-screen keys of iOS as well as Android ;-)

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No, not “just a Kawasaki”. I’m referring to Guy Kawasaki, a longtime Apple Evangelist, and an interview about “11 Reasons Why Guy Kawasaki Thinks Android Is Better Than Apple’s iOS“. I have been telling my friends the same thing; now I know that I share my preference for Android with one of the staunchest Apple fans ;-)

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Of course, Robert Cringely writes about the snafu with Apple’s iOS6 maps application troubles: “Apple’s Maps is so spectacularly bad it’s inspired its own Internet meme. Funny? You bet“.

But as always, it pays to check your facts before publishing. Even Google Maps knows about the “tiny hamlet in Austria where every street name starts with the F word” – because that hamlet does exist in the real world! Just check the Wikipedia: Fucking, Austria.

Then ask yourself: why does Google Maps call the streets in that hamlet “Hucking” ? Creative spelling indeed!

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Should you develop native apps or web apps when targeting mobile devices? There is no single simple answer, of course: context and requirements are essential factors in the decision process. I mentioned an article that clearly favors native applications, but here’s another take on the matter: “Creating Cross-Device Compatible Mobile Applications that Integrate with SharePoint“.

The author creates a complete application, and although it was built for Windows Mobile I like to think that it should be easily transformed into a solution for iOS or Android – or are those operating systems too radically different for such a conversion?

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