Apple

Adding weather to Calendar in Mac or iOS

Weather in your iOS and macOS Calendars

I use Apple’s native Calendar application in Mac OS on my MacBook Pro as well as in iOS on my iPhone 6s and iPad Air II. I’ve used other calendars but there’s something about the simplicity and integration of Apple’s native apps that appeals to me.

I think the reason I didn’t think to attempt to include a weather forecast in my calendar on my Mac before was that I was used to using both the weather widget and a third party widget called Radar in Motion in Mac OS’ Dashboard.

Radar in Motion stopped working a while back and while I have weather set up in my Mac Notification Center (off the right side of the screen), I thought it would be more useful to attempt to integrate a weather forecast into Calendar so I could see both events and weather in the same place.

A few minutes of searching and I found Chris Short’s post above which covers adding a Weather Underground ICS calendar subscription file to almost any calendar, including Mac OS’s Calendar. Note, I’ve not tried this directly on an iPhone or iPad but it should work.

I copied this sample URL into my browser:

https://ical.wunderground.com/auto/ical/NY/NYC.ics

and changed the state and city:

https://ical.wunderground.com/auto/ical/CT/WARREN.ics

Note, before you go and do this, please read the following:

I’ve made numerous categories (calendars) in my Calendar: Home, To Do, Event, Hiking and I’m subscribed to Holidays. I color code each of these calendars and it helps me quickly look at my Calendar and see what’s what. I’ve been doing this for many years, since iCal first appeared.

If you don’t make a new category/calendar called something like Warren Weather” and you go too fast through pasting the URL in your browser, downloading the ICS file and adding it to your Calendar, you may accidentally add the weather subscription to one of your existing categories. I did this by mistake and could not, for the life of me, figure out how to undo it. Couple that with the fact that my Calendar is connected to iCloud and immediately synced with my iPhone and iPad and you have a potential issue if you make a mistake.

I recommend creating a new category/calendar called “Weather” or better, “Warren Weather” (substitute your town/city) and when you download the ICS file add it to that category/calendar and give it a unique color.

calendar detail

The last thing to consider is that this ICS file is for a particular place and it will not change if you travel from, for example, Warren, Connecticut to Chicago, Illinois. If you can figure out how to modify the ICS file to make it GPS aware, please let me know. But, short of that, if you find yourself in another city, make a new weather category/calendar for that city and click the X off in front of your home city to hide it temporarily.

calendar

Looks like we’re going to have some snow on Tuesday and I’ve got an appointment I might have to move. Brilliant.

Stroll

Apple’s full length ad for their new wireless earbuds: AirPods that work with all Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac). Apple’s advertising is on a roll recently, some great stuff.

I wish these things (and all Apple stock earbuds) fit in my ears. Alas, they don’t. I’ve been using Bose noise cancelling headphones for many years and recently upgraded to the Bose QC 35 wireless model. Excellent product and works well for me (music, phone, movies). Still, I wish I could use the AirPods, they certainly are more portable.

iPhone 7 Plus portrait mode advertisement

Apple’s new ad for the iPhone 7 Plus’s portrait mode. It’s a terrific ad, very well done: catching the girl’s various expressions, the variety of people, and the music.

It’s quite amazing what folks are doing with smartphones of all kinds these days, and this feature (multiple lenses, shallow depth of field in reality or as an effect) looks like it’s pushing things even further. I have an iPhone 6s but still prefer my cameras to shooting with it for “serious” work but it’s mostly because I find the controls easier to deal with, less about image quality which is saying something.

City to City

City to City

I was cleaning out a box of old boxes (I love boxes) and found this product box from 1986.

City to City was a travel reference tool that was built with HyperCard and ran on Macintosh Plus computers.

The significance of this is that it was more easily browsed than an atlas or travel book because HyperCard had the capacity to build links connecting different types of information (before the world wide web).

Once the web took off tools like this faded away. But, in its day it was a useful tool for those of us who did a lot of travel (I did a lot of travel for Apple in those days).

I’m posting two images, one of the cover, one of the back. If this history interests you, read the back to see more about what the world looked like before the web, GPSs and iPhones.

City to City

Bill Atkinson on the birth of the Macintosh computer

Leo LaPorte interviews Bill Atkinson on the 40th anniversary of Apple, Inc. on the birth of the Macintosh computer.

I was a very early Mac user, met Bill Atkinson numerous times in the HyperCard days when I demoed it for Apple, and met various members of the early Mac team after Steve Jobs gave me my first Macintosh in late 1984.

This is great stuff and Atkinson (and Andy Hertzfeld) were pioneers in the history of personal computing. I met Andy when he gave me an early (beta) copy of Switcher at Macworld.

[via The Loop]

John Oliver on the Apple – FBI case

John Oliver on the Apple vs. FBI case on iPhone encryption. His mock Apple ad at the end is priceless.

The one thing I hear few people talking about is this: If the FBI wins this and they get access to encrypted devices, what will happen when a J. Edgar Hoover becomes head of the FBI, or a Senator Joseph McCarthy starts searching for communists (terrorists?), or a Richard Nixon becomes President, or, given that all of them are dead, how about when Donald Trump becomes president?

J. Edgar Hoover started the FBI and was incredibly paranoid and used FBI resources to routinely spy on people for his own purposes. Joseph McCarthy used his Senate seat to blacklist people he thought were communist infiltrators (he too was paranoid). Richard Nixon was caught bugging the opposing party’s office in the Watergate scandal and in the resulting investigation it was revealed that his White House was involved in “dirty tricks” for years.

Do you think a person like Trump will have his FBI director use this capability judiciously?

Update on home made Time Capsule

A month ago I posted on my experiment with a Home made Time Capsule and I’ve learned some things and changed some things since that long post.

First let me say that while I think this setup is fantastic and every Mac user should be doing something like this, this is not my only method of backing up my computer. I’ve continued to use SuperDuper to do a complete clone of my computer every day.

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This setup worked perfectly, when it worked. Time Machine works in the background so the only way I knew it was working or not was to check it’s system preference pane from time to time to see when the last backup was. Time Machine is supposed to attempt a backup every hour when the computer is awake and connected to the network but I was noticing that there were times when it was skipping 1/2 a day at at time.

Something was up. So, I left the system preference pane open so I could watch what was happening. I watched as Time Machine attempted a backup but the drive never spun up and mounted. If I unplugged and replugged the USB cable of the drive it would spin up and Time Machine would find it and work.

I wasn’t sure what the problem was but I had a feeling that the portable USB 3 bus-powered drive I was using wasn’t getting the wakeup message from Time Machine, either because USB 2 (what’s on the AirPort Extreme) or the drive itself was missing the intelligence to wake the drive from sleep at the needed time.

Bus-powered drives tend to be 2.5″ HD mechanisms for portability and these smaller mechanisms don’t need as much power to run so can run off of the power in a USB cable connection to a computer (they’re what are inside laptops as well as portable cases). Desktop drives tend to have 3.5″ HD mechanisms in them and have power bricks. And, they cost less for a lot more storage.

I thought maybe a desktop drive might solve this problem but I decided to pass this question (bus powered or desktop) on to someone I knew had a similar setup on his home network. He’s a developer who I met online many years ago through a mutual friend but who I’ve never met in person: Scott Gruby (this seems to be quite common these days).

Scott agreed: the bus powered drive was probably the problem and a desktop drive might solve it. He uses a Western Digital RAID drive on his network and I don’t need RAID but decided to look into their standard desktop drives. The Western Digital My Book seemed like a good way to go. 4TB for about $110 and decent reviews on Amazon. Its a larger case with a 3.5″ 4TB drive in it, no fan, and a power brick.

Given that there are many drives in this category I decided to take a look at the BackBlaze Hard Drive Reliability Review for 2015. Interestingly, in 2014 Western Digital was their most reliable drive but in 2015 it had been overtaken by Seagate.

In looking through the Amazon reviews of the Seagate 4TB desktop drive I noticed one comment/review that caught my eye. A Mac user attempting to use the drive as I am, connected to an AirPort Extreme for Time Machine over the air backups. He found that the drive did not mount on time for the backups to work. So, for me, that eliminated the Seagate and I ended up with the WD 4TB My Book for Mac. The Mac and non-Mac version cost the same so I figured I’d get the one with “Mac” on the case. I partition and format all of my drives so it doesn’t matter to me if the drive comes pre-formatted for the Mac.

R0000530

The new drive came, I formatted it and got it connected to the AirPort. It’s very quiet, no fan and the spinning drive makes very little noise. I can hear it but it’s not obnoxious.

I decided to start from scratch and redo the Time Machine backups of both my wife’s MacBook Air and my MacBook Pro on the new drive. I started with my wife’s machine because it doesn’t have much on it. The initial backup took about 2 hours and worked flawlessly. Over the next two days my wife’s computer backed itself up to the new drive every hour. The drive went to sleep, then awoke for the backup every time. This was great, exactly what I was hoping for.

Then I started the initial backup of my MacBook Pro. Estimated time: 12 hours.

The great thing about Time Machine is that even on the initial backup I was able to close my computer (stopping the backup) and move to a different part of the house, open my computer (continuing the backup) until the initial backup was done.

Over the next few weeks I’ve kept track of Time Machine’s system preference pane on both my computer and my wife’s and the new drive is spinning up and mounting every time. If both machines want to back up at the same time Time Machine knows to form a line (so to speak).

I think the power supply of a desktop drive is probably essential for this application, but, there must also be something in each drive’s controller that allows it to be awaken by Time Machine. I can’t say that I’ve tested other desktop drives at this point but I take that Amazon commenter at his word that the very popular Seagate drive didn’t work for him. It might be that other brands work, I don’t know but I do know that the drive I got has been flawless so far.

Time will tell.

Home made Time Capsule

R0001255Many people think of the networking gear in their houses (cable or DSL modem, WIFI router) like plumbing: they get it all installed and set up and then forget about it as it runs in the background.

The problem with this thinking is that the amount of stuff we have moving through this “pipe” is increasing at a rapid rate. It was acceptable to have a 300 baud dial up modem in the old days for email and AOL but now that we have the internet and streaming video and voice over IP and all sorts of other stuff running through the same pipe, having a faster internet connection is important.

In short, we upgrade our computers from time to time to take advantage of new and faster processing power but we tend to not upgrade our home networks.

In fact, cable modems can be upgraded and cable internet services can be upgraded as well and it’s useful these days to look into that if you have a lot of stuff connected to your cable modem and home network: AirPort router, Apple TV, computers, printers, thermostats, etc.

Downstream of the cable modem is the router which tends to be a bigger bottleneck than a cable modem. I’ve been using Apple AirPort routers since they appeared and while I’ve sometimes been slow to upgrade them, I do consider upgrading them when newer models have faster speeds or more capabilities.

The latest model of the AirPort Extreme has been made taller to incorporate larger antennas for better coverage and the wifi protocol has been upgraded to 802.11ac to accommodate the increased use of streaming video. We’ve been using one since they came out over a year ago and it’s improved our network speeds considerably and given us much better coverage both in and outside our house.

Backup

I use SuperDuper! to back up my MacBook Pro and I back up my wife’s MacBook Air with it as well (on a separate disk). I also have a hard disk dedicated to Time Machine which I manually connect to my MacBook Pro daily to make a different kind of backup. I stared using Apple’s Time Machine religiously when I bought a new computer and Migration Assistant balked at recognizing my SuperDuper backup disk and I had to use my Time Machine backup disk to migrate my stuff onto the new machine.

A piece of me will always like the SuperDuper (or Carbon Copy Cloner) kind of backup better: you’re left with a disk that is essentially a clone of your computer and you can boot from it. This means that if your computer has a problem, you can easily boot another one from your backup and be back in business immediately.

However, Time Machine has it’s selling points as well, the most important of which (for me) is that it’s automatic, happens over the air, and once it’s set up and working, falls into the background.

Apple has combined a Time Machine hard disk and an AirPort Extreme router in a product called Time Capsule which looks identical to an AirPort Extreme router except it’s got a 2 or 3TB hard disk in it.

This product has appealed to me for years but there’s something about having a hard disk built into a device in a way that makes it tough to replace that scares me. And, what happens when you buy a new Time Capsule to replace an old one? How easy or awkward is it to move your backups to a new one?

It would seem to me that it might be better to connect an external hard disk to the AirPort Extreme and treat it as a Time Capsule. This way you get the benefit of over the air backups but can replace or even remove (for safe keeping) the hard disk.

Experiments and what I learned

File sharing has been possible with AirPort Extreme routers for a long time now. You can plug a USB hard disk into the router, find it on your home network, and copy files to and from it. However, the Time Machine software would not work with disks connected this way. No doubt there were many reasons for this but the one that seems likely is that the firmware on the AirPort router has to be able to wake a connected disk from sleep when the Time Machine software wants to use it. And, once the copying is done, the disk needs to be able to spin down.

When I started researching this a few weeks ago I found this article on TidBits: Use Time Machine with the 802.11ac AirPort Extreme Base Station. The article is a few years old and comments are closed but it was a useful read for me.

Then I read the Time Machine entry on Wikipedia: Time Machine (OS X) and specifically noted this:

“On a Time Capsule, the backup data is stored in an HFS+ disk image and accessed via Apple Filing Protocol. Although it is not officially supported, users and manufacturers have configured Linux servers and network-attached storage systems to serve Time Machine-enabled Macs.”

I then did a bit more digging and found this from Apple: AirPort base stations: About USB disks

“OS X Time Machine supports compatible unencrypted USB disks connected to AirPort Time Capsule (802.11n and 802.11ac), and AirPort Extreme (802.11ac).”

Then I found this piece by Apple: Backup disks you can use with Time Machine

“An external USB drive connected to an AirPort Time Capsule (any model) or AirPort Extreme (802.11ac model only)”

Time Machine has two different file protocols for two different ways storage devices are connected to a Mac. USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt disks directly connected to the Mac get a different type of backup than Time Capsules or disks connected via USB to an AirPort Extreme both of which are being written to over the air. I found this out by noting that when I first connected my already in-use Time Machine hard disk to my AirPort base station Time Machine would not continue to backup to the existing file(s), it kept wanting to make a new backup. This is because the local backup files are different from the networked backup files. This difference is probably because of security and possibly other speed related issues.

How to do it

You’ll need a hard disk or SSD with at least as much storage as the disk you’re backing up. A Time Capsule will back up multiple machines on a network so you need to add up the sizes of all the various machines you’re backing up.

Time Machine will continue making incremental backups until it runs out of room, then it starts deleting the oldest backups.

My wife has a MacBook Air with 128GB of SSD, I have a MacBook Pro with 1TB of SSD. Neither of us has more than half of our storage used.

I had an older 1TB Lacie Rugged Drive with a USB 3 port on it. Its not super fast (5400 RPM) but given that it’s connected via USB 2 I figured drive speed wasn’t an issue. If I buy another hard disk for this I’ll no doubt get a 3 or 4TB disk.

I found that desktop (AC powered) vs portable (bus powered) isn’t an issue as long as the disks adhere closely to the USB protocols (for mounting and sleeping).

Format the disk with disk utility as you would a normal, modern OS X disk: Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Consider naming it “Time Machine” or “Backup” or something other than “Untitled.”

Connect the formatted, empty disk to your AirPort Extreme base station’s USB port.

Run the AirPort Utility, click on your AirPort Extreme, and click “edit.”

Click the “Disks” tab.

Click Enable File Sharing.

Secure Shared disks with a password. It can be a simple password and each machine using this disk will store the password in its keychain.

You could also use “Accounts” to remember the Mac OS X accounts using the disk. We used password.

I did not click the “Share disks over WAN” checkbox. Checking this would allow you to get to this disk from outside your home network. This is probably safe but somehow it scares me. If anyone reading this has experience doing this I’d love to hear about it.

When you have this screen set up as you want it, click “Update” at the bottom to update the settings on your AirPort Extreme.

That’s it, you’re done.

You should see your AirPort Extreme base station in the finder on the left side of the main Finder window under “Shared” but if you don’t, you will the next time you log in or restart. You don’t need to interact with the disk there unless you want to use it for non-Time Machine related file sharing.

Go to the Apple Menu and choose System Preferences, then click on Time Machine in the bottom row of icons.

Turn Time Machine on if it was off, select disk and consider clicking the “Show Time Machine in Menu Bar” checkbox so you can monitor things easily as you get started with this.

After this, backups should happen automatically. The first backup takes a long time but what’s great about this is you just go about using your machine as always and it will stop and restart on its own. My machine’s screen went to sleep but as far as I know, Time Machine kept working in the background. My wife leaves her machine open but sleeping and it wakes up and does it’s backup, then goes back to sleep. Very slick.

You can monitor what’s happening in the Time Machine preferences pane which you can now get to easily in the Time Machine menu on the menu bar.

I’ve had this set up working for three days on both my wife’s and my machine and it’s simply amazing, no bumps, and while I’ve not tested the backups, I have run the Time Machine application on each of our machines and poked around in the backups and it’s working as it should.

So far, so good. Again, very slick.

Wish list for future AirPort / Time Capsule routers

It would be great if both the AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule had faster USB or some other, faster connection protocol. It would make the initial backup faster and allow faster file sharing on connected disks. It’s not essential but given that USB 3 is a standard on Apple devices and hard disks, that would be nice.

One thing that would get me to dump my home made set up and buy a “real” Apple Time Capsule would be if the Time Capsule backed up iOS devices like my iPhone and iPad. The fact that I have to use the kludge that is iTunes to back those devices up to my Mac, then have my Mac backed up is awkward. No doubt Apple wants to sell more iCloud backup space for iOS devices but a local backup would be good as well.

No doubt there’s a lot more Apple might do with the AirPort Extreme to support the coming home control (HomeKit) devices people will be connecting to their networks.

Until then, my home made Time Capsule is working just fine. Let me know if you give this a try or have suggestions for improvement.