Android's Answer to AirTags is here. Time to switch!

    Wait, there’s another competitor. Who would have believed that Tile would pull such a card from its sleeve?

    If you go to the AirTag page on Apple’s website, and check the ‘System Requirements and Compatibility’ information, you’ll see this:

    • Apple ID
    • iPhone and iPod touch models with iOS 14.5 or later
    • iPad models with iPadOS 14.5 or later

    As you are already aware, I am a Pixel user, so it was the third item in the list above which convinced me to become an early adopter of AirTags. And even though Apple says the company designed the AirTag to track items, not people or pets, my plan was to do exactly that: attach it to my dog’s collar.

    When I asked Drance about parents using AirTags to track their small children (such as during an outing at an amusement park) or pets (we know you’re up to something shady, Fluffy) she was quick to stress that the company designed the AirTag to track items, not people or pets. If parents would like to safely track their young children, she suggests an Apple Watch with Family Setup might be a better choice. (source)

    My dog’s AirTag.

    When the AirTag arrived, I linked it to my iPad and immediately started testing it. Every time my wife would go on a longer walk with our dog, I would track them simultaneously on Google Maps and Apple ‘Find My’ app. To accomplish that, my wife would leave her iPhone behind and bring an Android that was sharing its GPS location with me.

    If she were to take the iPhone with her, it would be too easy for the tracker. My goal was to learn how the AirTag would perform when having to rely on other people’s iPhones to do its thing. And to my surprise, the first tests went very well. The ‘Find My’ app would show our dog about a block behind the Android GPS, which was expected and quite accurate if you ask me.

    However, on walks very early in the morning, I would completely lose track of my dog on the map. The same would happen in large and spacious parks. All of that was also expected, but sometimes it was not working, even when she had people around her. Android users, for sure. But that’s not all the problems I experienced.

    I don’t know why, but the AirTag alarm would go off every other day even when my dog and the iPad were close to each other. Extremely close to each other. I would be sitting on the couch reading something on the iPad, with my dog lying down by my side.

    That I could never fix, even after unpairing, resetting and parring again several times. It was so frustrating that I ended up destroying the AirTag. Relax, it’s not what you are thinking.

    Auto-generated description: An AirTag device has been opened to reveal its internal circuitry and battery.

    We had a trip coming up, and our dog would stay with a pet sitter, which meant she would inevitably face the ‘away from owner’ alarm. As for the ‘AirTag traveling with you’ alert, that’s okay, as I definitely would tell her about the tracker.

    Long story short, I decided to disable the speaker altogether. This would also solve the issue of the alarm going off when it wasn’t supposed to. Taking great care, as always, I went about the delicate process. Unfortunately, after the surgery, the AirTag refused to pair.

    That was the perfect timing to try the Chipolo Spot, which is compatible with Apple’s network. I bought a 4-pack, and guess what? One of them also had the alarm going off almost every day. Maybe it’s an issue with the iPad parring, since it never happened to the ones paired with my wife’s iPhone.

    Google’s Answer to AirTags

    A few days ago, I received an email from Google with the news I was expecting for a while and decided to buy new takers.

    Find My Device network is coming soon. 
    You’ll get a notification on your Android devices when this feature is turned on in 3 days. Until then, you can opt out of the network through Find My Device on the web. After the feature is on, you can manage device participation anytime through Find My Device settings on the device.

    How it works.
    Devices in the network use Bluetooth to scan for nearby items. If other devices detect your items, they’ll securely send the locations where the items were detected to Find My Device. Your Android devices will do the same to help others find their offline items when detected nearby.

    Of course, there are plenty of people using iPhones here in Europe, but Apple’s phone is only more popular than Androids in the United States. Android has a much larger market share worldwide, which translates to a potentially wider network for Google’s ‘Find My Device’ service when compared to Apple’s ‘Find My’. And that’s something I’m excited to test.

    I purchased another 4-pack, but this time it was a Chipolo Point. Point? What about the Spot? Okay, time to decode Chipolo product line.

    Be careful

    Similar to Tile, Chipolo already had its own network and was selling distinct tracker models, namely ONE, which resembles a circle, and Card, which resembles, well, a card.

    When Apple introduced the AirTags, Chipolo released compatible trackers, which they branded as Chipolo Spot. And now there’s the Chipolo Point, compatible with Google’s ‘Find My Device’ service. The appearance and form factor of the models are the same, no matter the network. So, always pay attention to what you are buying.

    The Future

    Life360, the parent company of Tile, which has never mentioned trackers compatible with Apple’s or Google’s networks, recently announced a GPS-Bluetooth network in partnership with Hubble Network. What‽

    I’ve never heard of this network or the technology before, and am interested to see how a satellite can pick up a Bluetooth signal from Earth. But besides the brief post and hyperbolic video published on Life360 website, there is not much said about anything else. And I have so many questions. For example, will there be a subscription? Will current Tiles work on this network? Does the satellite constellation currently exist?

    In any case, I’ll be taking good care of the Tile trackers I still have in my drawer. Except for that one. Yes, the one you might remember, mysteriously disappeared.

    Modern travel is weird.

    Half of my backpack has clothes. The other half has filming gear and dongles. A bunch of them. Thank you, Apple.

    Auto-generated description: A laptop, a camera on a tripod, and other tech accessories are placed on a windowsill with Lisbon cityscape visible outside.

    At least, everything I travel with is USB-C compatible, which means there is always a cable available to plug and charge anything. But not exactly everything. Guess what? All of those cables are useless for one device. I’ve been wirelessly charging my wife’s iPhone with my Pixel because she forgot to bring the Lightning cable. Thank you, Apple. Again.

    Auto-generated description: An iPhone is wirelessly charging on top of an Android Pixel, both placed on a reflective surface.

    🤔 In summary, the new #iPads are even more powerful than my #MacBook Air M1, but the #iPadOS is still the same, making them lag behind.

    How the Vision Pro caught my attention despite my skepticism

    It looks like Apple did it again!

    No, I haven’t purchased one and do not intend to do so anytime soon, but this is the first device of this type I would ever buy. Confused? Go with me for a moment. It will make sense, I promise.

    Even though the Vision Pro isn’t the only Augmented Reality device out there, I always felt like all the others were made for gamers. It might be because of how they are promoted. I don’t know. But since I’m not a gamer, buying a virtual or augmented reality headset simply never crossed my mind.

    It’s a computer

    From the very beginning, Apple was clearly positioning the Vision Pro as a consumer device, but because of my gaming perspective and the price tag, it was never an item on my radar. Then I watched Casey’s video about it, and something clicked for me. This is definitely not for gamers. It’s not a gimmick for geeks, either. It’s for everyday people who prefer or have to use computers to do their work.

    I’m still putting off buying a US$4,000 (after taxes and some accessories) first-gen gadget, but that video sent me on an endless journey on YouTube. Many people are showing it being used as a computer with several giant screens. In other words, one can use it to “work on a computer” with practically no desk space. All that real-world usage really spoke to me. Well, “real-world” might not be the best choice to describe it, but I think you got it.

    I could never use the iPad as a Mac replacement. Despite Apple spending a fortune trying to promote it as a computer, it is note a computer. The restrictions imposed by iPadOS make my work much more challenging. The Vision Pro, on the other hand, can be connected to a real computer, and that makes all the difference.

    So many Apps

    However, a computer is only as good as the software library available for it. And as far as I could understand, everything that works on macOS will work when a Mac is connected. Which kind of brings us back to the old debate about touchscreen Macs, but I digress.

    Then there’s visionOS, which has the potential to unleash a wave of new ideas, much like iOS did a long time ago.

    And, of course, the younger generation that prefers mobile devices was not left out. Thanks to Scott Forstall’s advocating for the App Store on the iPhone, there’s now an abundance of Apps already available for Vision Pro.

    Why not buy it?

    Well, first there’s that price tag. Then there is the fact that it is a first-generation device. I waited until the 3GS to buy my first iPhone, and in hindsight, I should probably have waited until the 4S.

    There is one thing for sure: Apple won again. I can clearly see myself purchasing a smaller, lighter, and much, much cheaper version of the Vision Pro in the future. And if it makes the Apple stock go up enough, I might be able to score one for free by selling some of what I own to buy its “4S” generation.

    Will I be able to automatically save my Android photos to Apple Photos?

    Even though I adore Google Photos and the endless slideshows on the Google displays I have at home and work, I wouldn’t entrust my memories to any one company. That’s why, for a long time, I’ve been using Google Takeout to download a copy of the photos from the previous year to add them to Apple Photos as a backup. The system works, but it’s too manual and prone to mistakes.

    Maybe you don’t know this, but even when you use Google Photos to manage the pictures you take, Android will keep a copy of them in the DCIM folder on your phone. And as far as I know, they will not be automatically deleted. To free up space, you must use the cleanup option or manually delete them. But what if I told you that this inconvenience could work in your favor?

    The other day, I had one of those click moments that helped me see this issue as a blessing in disguise. Here’s what I’m currently trying to do as I write this post.

    Remember Syncthing? I set it up to synchronize the DCIM folder on the Pixel with a folder I created on my Mac. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please watch the video below explaining how to do it. On it I’m demonstrating how to sync Obsidian, but don’t worry about that. The steps are the same for the DCIM folder.

    I am optimistic that this plan will address two issues. The first one is having an easier way to back up my photos, but it will also help me with cleaning up the images that are constantly piling up on my phone. To give you an example, early today, when setting the system up, I discovered 23 GB of old photos and short clips stored on my Android.

    It will take a while for all that to be copied to the computer, but the beauty is that Syncthing works both ways. Once the files that have been synchronized with my computer are transferred to Apple Photos and deleted from the folder, they will be automatically deleted on the phone.

    This is the very first test I’m doing to make sure Syncthing is correctly transferring everything to the Mac and then deleting the files on the phone when I delete them on the computer. If everything goes well, the next step will be to create an automation to replace the manual process on the Mac side.

    This is all for now. When I have further updates about this idea, I’ll publish part two of this article.

    This is the story of how I fixed a Disk II drive

    It may sound crazy, but there was a time when Apple computers and accessories could be repaired by the user. This is a story about how I fixed a Disk II drive without any electronics training.

    Software and resources used

    I cleaned the green phosphor monitor and repaired the crack

    Cleaning and repairing a frame crack took a lot of time, but I’m happy with the result. I also closely inspected the capacitors and couldn’t find anything unusual. The board looks like it just came out of the factory, but there is a strange smell coming from the monitor when it is on. I suppose I will have to wait until the mysterious capacitor begins to leak.

    Cleaning the Apple IIe

    This Apple IIe arrived pretty dead, and even though I don’t have any training in electronics, soldering, or any of the many other skills, I decided I would fix it. The list of problems is endless, and I’ll do what I always do in situations like this. Break it up into smaller problems and solve them one at a time.

    First step: cleaning.

    Without experiencing the unknown variables, it’s impossible to organize efficiently

    The best way to organize things, whether they’re physical or digital, is to accept the mess for a while. That’s why my strategy for organizing things is to always start with a messy environment, a blank canvas to play with. However there’s a catch: I have to pay close attention to what I’m constantly searching for and using.

    It is only after rearranging things again and again and learning my necessities that I am finally ready to begin building the system that will meet my needs. But, there is no doubt in my mind that that will not be the final version. The world around us constantly changes, and we must adapt to keep up.

    The tricky part is figuring out the exact moment when the messy stage has to give way to some order. I like to use a concept I borrowed from economics: Transactions Costs. In other words, if the mess is making me less and less productive, it’s time to pause and organize by choosing the best workflow I’ve come up with so far.

    If you haven’t already, I encourage you to watch the video below. It’s about an Evernote notebook being built from empty to fully functional. It started out messy, and I added tags, links, etc. as I learned what I was constantly looking for and using.

    And like I said before, it’s a strategy that works in both the digital and physical worlds. Last week, I finally organized my workbench inspired by the way I moved objects around when I was working on the Apple IIe restoration project. I’m pretty happy with the final result, but I already had new ideas for it.

    The messy approach is also a way to foster creativity. There are many good books about this subject. There’s one literally titled Messy, but The Click Moment and Algorithms to Live By also discuss it.

    Moving things around forces us to look at a problem from a different perspective, which helps us come up with unexpected solutions. But it is important to keep in mind that the project on which we are currently working is not our sole concern. In my case, the messy workspace was also a project in progress.

    Take a look at the shelf and the soldering station; they are all made from scrap wood. By the way, I love that cool industrial vibe. You can even tell from the black circles on one of the shelf legs that the piece of wood was once below the table glass. It was a test; I was trying to figure out how many crossbars I needed to keep everything stable and I ended up replacing the studs with the thicker ones that are there now. As for the rest of the replaced pieces wood, they were used on other projects.

    But there are more repurposed materials. The desk itself is made up of the top glass of an old kitchen table, supported by some cheap Ikea trestles. As for that Chromebook, it will not get Chrome OS updates anymore, but it is still good enough for Google searches and the Evernote web client.

    So, the next time you are working on a complex project, don’t be too hard on yourself. Every so often, a little mess is what you need to unlock a solution that was always there, but you couldn’t see.

    By the way, switching to another project also works, but that’s a story for another time.

    ADTPro tutorial and how I fixed the 'transfer aborted' problem

    Back in the 70s and 80s, software was also sold on cassettes because files could be transferred to computers using sounds. It was a pretty ingenious method, but it came with its own problems.

    Volume, for example, played a significant role in the process of saving or retrieving software. Too loud or too low would cause errors, meaning that we would have to press stop on the tape deck, rewind, and go through the process all over again trying a different volume. And we are talking about unreliable physical nobs, not the precise digital control we we currently have on our phones and computers.

    Fast-forward to today, and it’s still possible to do it thanks to the headphone port that endures in many devices. If all you want to do is send files to a vintage computer like the Apple IIe, the audio connector on some phones, tablets, computers, or even an iPod will suffice.

    However, if both parts (the old and new computers) have to exchange information with each other, there have to be two audio cables connecting the output of one to the input of the other, and a modern software like ADTPro is needed to manage the communication.

    What you need

    • Vintage Apple computer
    • A disc drive to save the images
    • Two audio cables
    • Modern computer
    • ADTPro
    • Java

    In the video below, you can learn how it works, how to set it up, and some tips that will help you with the audio settings. But, you should also read the blog post because there is valuable information there as well.

    Unlocking the volume level

    Recently, I wrote about the challenges of bringing my 2012 MacBook Air back to life. When I finally did that, I unlocked another level of the Apple IIe restoration project saga. My plan was to use that computer to transfer files to the IIe. However, like everything else in this project, that was easier said than done.

    The MacBook has only one audio port, and I needed two. That’s easy, right? A USB dongle will do it, and thanks to Apple’s insane relationship with computer ports, I happen to have many of them lying around.

    Well, that simple task quickly turned into days of swapping dongles and tweaking the in and out volumes on the MacBook. As evident, this restoration project is increasingly resembling an 80s adventure game.

    Fun fact: the IIe doesn’t have a volume control, and that was a big problem when I was a kid and wanted to stay awake until late at night playing games.

    Fortunately, thanks to an error message appearing on both computers, it is relatively easy to quickly know that a file transfer is not working. Naturally, I knew about the volume problem from experience, but I decided to first make sure audio was coming out of all the ports. It was.

    Next, I started moving up and down the in and out volumes, until I finally found the correct spot. Putting it like that makes it look so easy, but, believe me, it was a painful process of trial and error that involved restarting the file transfer several times. It took me hours, but it was so gratifying when I finally did it.

    Of course, I saved that information on Evernote. And to help others with the same problem, the settings below are the the ones working for me.

    ADTPro not saving to disk

    When I finally figured out the audio settings, everything was always working fine with the smaller software. But the process would not finish when transferring larger images. At the final stages, a loud noise would come from the drive, and the process would be aborted.

    Unlocking the disk drive level

    What I didn’t tell you so far is that transferring a file is just part of the process. These computers didn’t come with a hard drive. All they have is an internal memory that is wiped as soon as the power is turned off. So, the next logical step is to start saving all transferred files to disks. And if you prefer an era-appropriate word, here are some options: floppy, floppy disk, or diskette.

    Since my recently purchased Disk II (the device that reads and writes to diskettes) arrived last week, and a couple of days later so did the the box of disks, it was all set for the big day.

    I opened ADTPro on the MacBook Air, typed the commands on the IIe, then went back to the Air and started playing the tunes. I knew that the transfer would go smoothly because, at that point, I had already thoroughly tested it. It was finally time to record the first file onto a disk. If you have never done this before, I need to stop here for a moment and set the tone.

    The transfer and recording take a few minutes and happen in several steps. The first part of the data is sent to the vintage computer’s memory (the one that is wiped if the IIe is turned off). Then the transfer is paused while the computer saves that part to the disk. Next, the IIe cleans that first block from the memory and ‘tells’ the MacBook to send the next block. That’s why the cables going in and out on both sides are needed.

    This process is repeated many times, and the first program I was trying to save to disk was the Apple IIe side of ADTPro which so far I had to always send to the IIe to actually start transferring any other software. This would save me some time in the future because loading software from disk is many times faster than using audio.


    I now had my first disk and was eager to copy the next one. XPS Diagnostics is a software that can help me test several of the IIe components, including the disk drive itself. So, here we go again…

    This is a much larger piece of software, meaning that there are more of those send to memory and save to disk steps. Everything was going fine as before, but on the very last ‘save to disk’ step, a loud noise came from the drive, and the process was aborted.

    Oh, no!

    I tried it again a couple of other times, only to end up with the same results. That was so frustrating. At that moment, it was clear to me that I would need to start working on the Disk II level of the IIe Saga.

    Spoiler: I did unlock it and managed to move to the next level, but this is a story for another day.

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