IOS 12, Siri ShortCuts APP and the Pcalc App

Along with being a big fan of Apple, I am a fan of MacStories.Net and Federico Viticci who founded that Apple-centric website from Italy and his writing. What caught my eye recently was a great review of the PCalc App’s update (version 3.8) to take advantage of the APIs that Apple recently in IOS 12 regarding Siri Shortcuts.  Federico really praised how PCalc integrated setting up Siri Shortcuts in the app and he said it was a great model for other apps.  Federico also gave an example about how cool the automation will be in iOS 12 with the Siri Shortcuts and the Shortcut app that Apple released.    You can read Federico’s article here.   

One of the things Federico highlighted was the the PCalc app now allows you to create Siri Shortcuts using the clipboard in iOS as an input.  And he gave an example where PCalc can convert currency to another currency using input from copying a number to the clipboard.  He then explained that after you create some Siri Shortcuts for PCalc, you can then see those Shortcuts in the Shortcut App that Apple created and then you could chain together the shortcuts and name the combination for a shortcuts for that combination.  Basically, the idea is that you can pick a number for the currency you want to convert, and then it will convert it to various currency using the Shortcut App and the Shortcuts that are in PCalc that you created.  

So I tried doing that but I ran into a problem.  When I used the Shortcut App and selected PCalc Shortcuts, the problem was that once it converted one number, it than put the answer in the clipboard, and so the next conversion, rather than using the original number in the clipboard used the new number in the the clipboard.  

For example, I experimented with converting Euro’s to British Pounds and also to the U.S. Dollar.  The input was 100 Euros.  It converted to Pounds correctly, 88.88 Pounds, but then used that number to convert to dollars, instead of 100 Euros.  

So on Twitter I reached out for assistance from Federico and the developer of PCalc, James Thomson, was kind enough to respond also.   Here is what he said.

2018 09 17 at 9 32 PM

So James Thomson confirmed that the way PCalc works is that the output is added to the clipboard. 

Referring to features in the Shortcuts App, Mr. Thomson suggested the following that could be a possible fix.

2018 09 17 at 9 40 PM  

Well with that solution, I found a workaround.  And while I used the clipboard, I also added a feature where the Shortcut prompts me to fill in a number for the Euro, and then it first tells me that the first conversion number was an English Pound, and then when I was ready give me the Pound conversion number, and then tells me the next conversion is the U.S. Dollar, and the answer for the conversion to the Dollar, and then tell me the next conversion was the Chinese Yuan, and then the conversion answer.  

In the Shortcut App here is how I did it.  First, I used the scripting function “Ask for Input” where I set the question for the prompt to be “Enter Euro.”  That prompts an input and I set the value to “number” as I want a number, the value of the Euro I want to convert.

IMG 3442

Then I add the script “Get Variable” and I set the “Magic Variable” to the “Ask the for Input.”  This grabs the input and then passes on that variable to the next step, the script “Copy to Clipboard.”  The number I input becomes a variable which was then pasted into the Clipboard.  Because when I first did this the output was just a number without a label, I inserted a script to first label what the next number that was shown would be.  So I installed a script “Show Result”  and typed in Pounds.  This shows the word “Pound” before the conversion number is revealed.  The next step was that I added the Siri Shortcut I created in PCalc, which take the variable I added to the clipboard and converting the Euro number to the Pound number.

 IMG 3443

I repeated these 5 steps for the conversion to Dollars and Yuan.  So all together 15 steps.  The trick is because each time, the “Get Variable” is set to “Ask for Input” and then pastes into the clipboard, the clipboard for the subsequent conversions is not the output from PCalc’s prior conversion, but instead the original input that I typed in. That way, for example, if I convert 100 Euros, each conversion uses my original 100 Euro input.  

Here is a video showing how it works.  

ScreenRecording_09-17-2018 20-24-45.m4v

I agree with Federico that PCalc’s implementation of Siri Shortcuts is really great.  You should check out Macstories.net and PCalc. 

Why I Am Upgrading To The iPhone XS From The iPhone X

Early this morning, 3 a.m Eastern Time, Apple pulled the trigger and started selling [1] the newest iPhones that will be in stores on September 21, 2018. These iPhones are the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Last year, paying over $1000, I purchased the iPhone X. I got the one with the most storage, 256GB. But just short of 1 year later, I have decided to upgrade and purchase the newer model, the iPhone XS. Why did I do so? The main reason is that despite what some people think, the iPhone XS has all sorts of new technology that the iPhone X doesn’t have. Let’s go through all the new technology that the iPhone XS has.

Better Face ID


Face ID, the technology that last year replaced TouchID as a security feature for the iPhone, is supposed to be better in the iPhone XS (whenever I refer to the iPhone XS I also am referring to the iPhone XS Max, which is the same as the iPhone XS but has a a bigger screen, 6.5 inch diagonal versus a 5.8 inch diagonal.). Apple in its keynote on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 , and on its website, highlights that the iPhone XS has “Advanced Face ID.”  According to Apple Face ID is “even faster” with the new IPhone XS.  

More Powerful Bionic Chip


Apple has upgraded the Bionic Chip, which it first rolled out in the iPhone X. The new chip is called the A12. The iPhone X has the A11 chip. According to Apple, the Bionic chip controls augmented reality experiences, Depth Control pictures and “speed and fluidity in everything you do.” Quoting Apple’s website.   A12 Bionic chip is “up to 50% faster graphics performance,” has “8-core Neural Engine, “Up to 15% faster performance cores,” “up to 50% lower power usage in efficiency cores,” “Enhanced image signal processor,” and “advanced performance controller.” Quoting Apple’s website. Significantly, the iPhone XS’s A12 Bionic chip features a 7nm design, which is the first 7nm size chip in any smartphone. The A12 Bionic chip in the iPhone XS can perform 5 trillion operations per second.  By comparison, the A11 chip in the iPhone X can perform 600 billion calculations per second. See AppleInsider.  This more powerful chip will help make all the pictures and video look better.

Better Photo Taking and Video Shooting

The iPhone XS has something now called “Smart HDR,” which Apple describes as “Leveraging multiple technologies – like faster sensors, an enhanced ISP, and advanced algorithms – Smart HDR brings more highlight and shadow detail to your photos.” Quoting Apple.
Also, with the more powerful algorithm’s and chips, Apple has a new editing feature called “Bokeh and Depth Control.” Essentially, the iPhone XS can now do a bokeh feature that is just like the large DSL Cameras and lenses that cost thousands of dollars. See Apple. 

As for the picture sensor itself on the dual cameras on the back of the iPhone XS, Apple says they are “twice as fast.” See Apple. But Apple also improved the front-facing camera on the iPhone XS. Among other things, that camera now has “all-new video stabilization.”  See Apple

More Storage — 512 GB

Another reason to upgrade from the iPhone X to iPhone XS, is that the IPhone XS is the first iPhone to have storage up to 512GB storage.  The iPhone X top storage that customers could choose was 256 GB storage.  Since I use the iPhone to take so many pictures and videos of the family and also listen to music and watch movies downloaded from Netflix or Amazon Prime, having more storage is a real blessing (even if it is expensive)[2] . So having the ability to have a phone with 512GB of storage is reason enough for me to upgrade.

Better Cellular Connection Over LTE


Apple also upgraded the cellular connections in the iPhone. The IPhone XS supports faster LTE cell service, known as “Giga-Bit class” LTE.  T-Mobile announced IPhone XS supports T-Mobile’s 600 MHz service.  See MacRumors.com. Having faster and stronger cellular connection is very important to me. I am on the T-Mobile network. And where I work, all the cellular connections are very weak. The iPhone XS will support T-Mobile’s 600 MHz service. Hopefully this will improve my cellular connections.

Dual Sims, Including an eSim


The iPhone XS is also the first iPhone to support dual SIMs for cellular connections. This means you can use your iPhone with two different cellular phone numbers. Even better, one of the SIMS will be an eSIM, which means from the settings you will be able to choose cellular connections and switch whenever you want to purchase ad hoc connections. The iPads have long had eSIM cards. They are fabulous. A number of years ago, I went to Spain, and on the plane after I landed in Spain, through GigSky in my iPad settings, I purchased 5GB of data for a reasonable price to use for one month in Spain. The eSIM in the iPhone XS works in 10 countries including the U.S. (Austria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, German, Hungry, India, Spain, the UK and the U.S.)   In the US, T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T support eSIM. You can use GigSKy service on the iPhone XS.  See the Verge This is a huge feature for me and others who like to travel abroad.

Better Water Resistance


IPhone XS is water resistant to a depth of 2 meters for up to 3 minutes (IP68), while iPhone X is only up to 1 meter depth for 30 minutes (IP67).  See Apple. This means your iPhone XS is less likely to be damaged by water compared to the iPhone X. It could also mean you might be able to film or take picture of underwater activity.

More Ram and L1 Cache


For those who are into more computer technology stats, the iPhone XS has more Ram and L1 Cache than the iPhone X. In terms of ram, the iPhone XS has 4GB of ram, while the iPhone X has only 3GB of ram. The iPhone XS has 4 times more L1 cache memory than the iPhone X’s L1 Cache. See AppleInsider.com. All this is better for computing power.

Helps Family Trickle Down Device Plan

Finally, upgrading to the iPhone XS will help my family’s trickle down device plan. For several years, the practice in my family is for me to purchase a new iPhone ever year, and then give me last year’s iPhone to my wife, and then my wife gives her iPhone to my oldest child and then the oldest child hands down that child’s phone to the youngest child. So when I upgrade, everyone in the family gets a newer iPhone. [3]


  1. Or allowing you to reserve to purchase on September 21, 2018.  ↩
  2. Choosing 512 GB of storage, the iPhone XS costs $ 1,349 and the iPhone XS Max costs $ 1,449.  ↩
  3. Although my youngest child would like me to purchase for that child the latest iPhone, the iPhone XS!  ↩

The Success of Apple Pay/AppleInsider.

AppleInsider.com has a nice overview and analysis about how Apple’s Apple service and technology has thrived.  It is a great read.

My personal experience is that Apple Pay is really thriving.  I use it almost every time that I purchase something in real life.  Pretty much every store I go to in NYC takes wireless payment and I use Apple Pay.  When I took a vacation in Spain and Italy with my family this summer, almost every restaurant and store I purchased anything from took wireless payment and Apple Pay.  On top of that when I need cash in NYC where I live I don’t need my bank card as Chase allow you to use your Apple Pay on your iPhone or Apple Watch to enter an ATM space and activate the machine, just like a bank card.  It has gotten to the point that I don’t actually carry that many credit cards in my wallet and leave them at home.

I would like to see more websites use Apple Pay for payment. Right now one of my frustrations is that I have to type in and put credit card information on website. Apple Pay on websites has not taken off like it has in the physical world.

One of the main reasons to use Apple Pay, other than convenience, is security. No vendor or retail operation will get your credit card information if you use Apple Pay.  Credit card fraud is a real problem.  I recently had to replace a credit card because I saw a charge that I didn’t make.  I am sure I once used that card in the regular way instead of Apple Pay.

The other thing about Apple Pay is that it is not only for transactions.  Pretty much most tickets I purchase end up in the Apple Wallet.  Including U.S. Open tickets and air travel tickets.  Soon the subway and buses will probably allow for entrance with Apple Pay or Apple Wallet.

What is going on is your iPhone or Apple Watch is replacing your wallet.

iOS 12 and Mojave

Thoughts on iOS 12 and Mojave

Some time has passed since WWDC 2018 and I have had time to play with the betas of IOS 12 and Mojave for the Mac.  Here are some thoughts.

Betas On Main Devices

FYI, unlike some people who are afraid to put betas on their main devices, I have been putting brand new betas on my main devices for several years now and I haven’t really suffered that much.  I have benefited from using the brand new bells and whistles in the new operating systems.  And the most I have suffered is a crash here and there. The crashes usually have occurred my iOS devices, not the Macs that I have put betas on.  And the thing is that back in the old days of Apple, back before OX 10 on the Mac, Macs used to crash a lot.  It was a normal thing.  So a few crashes here and there is not a big deal for me.  The crashes have occurred this year on my iPhone X.   It just now and then crashes and reboots. Same for the Apple Watch.

iOS 12

The big thing this year at WWDC is that Apple didn’t announce or release any new hardware. Instead, it was all about software. In particular, Apple announced hundreds of new features and services in iOS and OSX operating systems for all its current hardware. Here are some of the features I have teste out and which I really like and stand out.

Performance.

With iOS 12, Apple says it is optimizing performance. In particular, it will run much more efficiently and powerfully on older iPhones. For years, Apple has been critized when it releases new iOS systems because older phones would be bogged down and not run quickly after upgrading to a new OS. Apple was accused of purposely doing this to force consumers to upgrade to new model. Because every year I got a new iPhone, I never experienced this phenomena. However, my daugther, the youngest in my family (now 12), has observed this as she has an iPhone several generations older than the newest — she has an iPhone 6s. Her phone is a hand me down. Prior to the release of iOS 12 beta, she was complaining about the lack of performance of her iPhone 6s. Two things drastically improve her performance. First, I had a local Apple Store change iPhone 6s battery. They were going to charge $35 but then they saw that the serial numbers of the phone made it eligible for a free upgrade. So no charge. Around the same time, I installe iOS 12 beta. My daughter says her phone now feels like a completely new phone. It is running much zippier. She is much happier with it.

I haven’t seen the same performance boost on my iPhone X. Others conducting tests say there is a performance boost. My iPhone X was already running very fast. So I haven’t really seen a big boost running iOS 12 beta.

Animoji and Memoji Upgrades

These features really only work on iPhone X which has the built in face recognition and face tracking hardware. But eventually, probablly this fall, more iOS devices, like the iPad, will have this type of hardware, as well as the entire lineup of iPhones. Animoji and Memoji are gimmicky, but they also feel to me like the future. As you may remember when the iPhone X was launched, Animoji is the feature where you can layer anmimated face over your face, and it will replace your face, and will move around and have facial movements similar to that of your real face. Now, Apple has upgraded this feature by adding toungue and eye wink tracking. Also, Apple had expanded the use of this feature by allowing you not only to use this as a video clip insert into iMessage, but also use it live in Facetime. Also, Apple has expanded this not only by adding new Animoji faces, but also by allowing you to create your own Animoji face, or what Apple calls a Memoji. You can now build your own Memoji, or many Memojis by using a built-in Memoji builder and choosing from a menu of different features that makes humans look different – hair color, hair style, eyes color, eyes shape, etc. Then Apple expanded where you can use these Animojis and Memojis. Before you could use them only in iMessage on an iPhone X. If you wanted to use that Animoji some where else, you would save the short video clip from your iMessage to Photos and then from there transfer them to another app. That is how last year when iPhone X came out so many people figure out how to make Animoji Karoke videos. Now Apple puts the Animojis and Memojis for you to use in other apps, most notably Facetime.

I think this technology is huge. The customization you now have with Memojis means we are getting closer and closer to something that evenutally will be ubiquitous. Soon, when we do video calls or shoot videos of ourselves or others, we will be able to swap out the faces or other body parts in real time. And it wont’ be just Animojis and Memojis. Eventually this technology will do the equivalent of photo touch but on real time video. I am sure there will be filters that clean up your face of any blemishes or age lines or anything else you don’t like. Or, the filters will give you other human faces, not just Animojis and Memojis. You will soon have anyone’s face instead of your face or the faces of those in your video. Crazy stuff. But also useful stuff. There a lots of people who don’t Facetime Video because they are selfconcious of thier look. Using an alternative face will make it easier for them to use the technology. Similarly, there are people who might be hesitant to make videos, like the tutorials or vlogs on YouTube. They may be hesitant because they don’t like their looks or because of privacy. The Internet allows anonymity. But if you use your real face in videos or photos, eventually you will be identified. Particiularly with software that identifies faces. Having another face will make it easier for people to particpate on the internet with video, live or recorded, without giving away their identity. Couple that with technology to give different voices, and you have even more anonymity.

There are other upsides: For example, it will be easier for individual creaters or small crews to make movies with many characters without hiring a large cast or using expensive animation software.

There will also be huge downside problems. How will we know what is real? With this techology imposters could pretend to be various famous politicians an individuals, and it will be tough to tell who is reall and who is not? We have already seen how people fall for fake news. What happens when people see videos or live feeds of someone like Hillary Clinton saying something when it isn’t really her? Or Putin? Or Trump? The posiblities for mischief are huge. This technology could be so powerful and disruptive that it may be come regulated. Just like color copiers in the United States are required not to copy United States currency, it is possible we could have regulations preventing providers of this type of software and hardware from allowing individuals to copy reall people to become the new “skin” for someone else. Given the nature of digital and how technology advances, I don’t know how any government will be able to effectively regulate this type of technology.