Stupid Siri Won’t Read Me Text Messages

In hindsight, this makes a ton of sense. For the last 3–4 months, however, it’s been infuriating.

I have a tendency to have Siri read me my text messages if I’m out walking or driving. It worked forever. In the old days, hold down the button, ask Siri to read the unread text messages, and then you could respond. Since I got my iPhone 6S, it was even easier—if I was in speaking distance, just say “Hey Siri, read me my text message” and she would.

Until a few months ago, when Siri said “I’m sorry, you’ll need to unlock your iPhone for that.”

Say what? Why you gotta be that way?

I googled and binged and duck-ducked for the last few months. I always assumed it was a bug. The only fix I ever saw was a factory reset, which I wasn’t going to do.

When iOS 9.3 came out yesterday and I got a new text message, I figured “Ah, maybe it’s fixed! Let’s give it a shot!”

“Hey, Siri, read me my text messages, please”

“I’m sorry, you’ll need to unlock your iPhone for that.”

Oh, Siri, it’s on.

I kept poking around the settings and turning things off and on to no avail. Finally, I noticed that I had turned off showing text messages on the lock screen (which was a result of a text barrage I was on the end of months ago and was sick of my phone lighting up every 2 seconds).

Hmm … I mean … if I didn’t want messages on my lock screen, it probably makes sense that Siri shouldn’t read them to someone who walks by.

Flip that switch, Siri is back to being my best friend.

So, again, in hindsight, this makes sense. The UI doesn’t make this obvious though. Somewhere in the UI it should say “This will also prevent Siri from reading you text messages on a locked phone”, or when you try to do it, Siri should say “I can’t do that. You can change that setting here.”

Or something.

Anyway, my phone outsmarted me and Siri and I are cool again.

Owning Your Own Social Media Content

I’ve been linking to Manton Reece a good bit lately, as he’s hitting on some topics that I’ve been thinking about. Namely how do you ensure that while you’re putting stuff into Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., you ensure that you own the canonical versions of your files (or at least make it so that when one of those businesses pivots, gets bought, whatever, you don’t lose everything).

“I rarely post photos here on my own site. I’ve stuck with using Instagram instead.
I need to change that. I do like the Instagram app, though, so I’m going to keep using it. I’ll just copy the photos over to my site as well, and I’ll use Workflow on iOS to help automate it.”

He made a nice workflow for the Workflow app for iOS. Workflow is really cool, and sometimes you just need a little kickstart to get going.

I loved the idea of making it easy to post photos to this here blog, so I adapted his workflow a bit to make one that’s a bit more generic. You can find that here.

With it, I can take any photo on my phone and post it over to my site in about 10 seconds. You can see an example with this post about the bottle of Pretty Things I opened up the other day (two more bottles of Jack D’Or hanging out in my fridge for a special occasion).

Full Screen Caller ID Photos on iOS

For whatever reason, it used to be very easy to have your contact photos show up full screen on the iPhone when a particular contact called. And then, a few versions back, it just seemed to stop working.

This iMore thread explains how to get it back. Basically, just make sure that the picture you choose for your contact fills up the whole screen, even as you pick the little circle version that show up around the OS.

It’s a small thing, but it’s really nice to have full screen photos on the big iPhone 6S screen.

iOS9 Makes the iPad Awesome(r)

I mentioned using my iPad as my “go” machine for weekends and vacations so I don’t have to bring a full laptop. An iPad, WINGStand, and keyboard have generally proven enough for me to get a couple of hours of work done (or a work emergency) without much fuss.

With iOS9, which came out last week, its even better.

iOS9 multitasking on the iPad makes it even better. I can pull up a chat application, or email, or Twitter, while I keep a terminal open and do my work. Rather than having to bounce back and forth between apps, or having to work some network mojo to get onto my corporate chat system using a client on a server somewhere, it’s all right there in the iPad window.

If I do need to switch apps, now I can use the same cmd+tab keyboard shortcut that I use on the desktop to pop between apps.

Oh, and then when I’m waiting on something to run, or just want a background distraction, I can watch a movie in the picture-in-picture mode.

iOS9, on the surface, might seem like a smaller update, but for the iPad, it’s a pretty significant update and makes me even more confident that I can take off for a week and get by just with my iPad.

Workflow App for iOS

The Workflow app for iOS is one of the coolest apps I’ve seen for iOS. It’s something that makes it that much easier to use iOS as a full time OS. There’s a bunch of little things that you can do on a full Mac that are hard to do on iOS.

Workflow takes advantage of iOS 8’s extensions to make it easy to ship data around, pass it through other apps or web services, munge it, and ship it off somewhere, or save it to Dropbox or Evernote. It’s pretty remarkable.

Federico Viticci’s lengthly review covers the app in detail, and gives a few examples of some handy workflows:

  • Save to PDF (take almost anything—web page, map, etc—and save out a PDF of it)
  • Search for the song lyrics of the current playing song
  • Tweet out the title and artwork of the song you’re listening to

There’s some handy workflows in the app’s gallery, as well as on the dedicated subreddit. Some of my favorites?

  • Send a URL into OmniFocus
  • View Source on a webpage
  • Get the current weather and news headlines and read them out loud

David Sparks has put together a video that I’ve just scratched the surface of covering the app. It’s an hour covering the ins and outs of the app.

It’s pretty infrequent that I find an iOS app that is interesting enough that I spend a bunch of time just playing around with it. Workflow is that sort of app.

A Couple of Quick App Reviews

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and haven’t had a ton of free time, but I have had some time to try out a couple of apps.

Waze

With all that traveling (mostly in the car), I gave Waze another shot. And I just can’t use it for day-to-day travel. It does one thing incredibly well: using real-time data to really find you the shortest route. It’ll route around traffic, route around various incidents, and use crowdsourced data to get you there faster. And it is really good at that, save the few times where it tries to get super cute and route you through a bunch of side streets and around neighborhoods to save you a minute of travel time.

It doesn’t do anything particularly poorly, but it does pretty much everything else mediocrely. The interface is visually not pleasing, and at times, confusing. The voice prompts are distorted and are pretty bad compared to other map apps. I think the voice prompts come too close to intersections, leading to harried moments of “is this the turn, ohhhh crap it is”.

For 90% of your travel, Apple Maps or Google Maps will probably meet your needs perfectly well. When you’re stuck in traffic, get your passenger to grab Waze and see if there’s a way around.

Overcast

Marco Arment’s Overcast is a new podcast player. I’ve been using it exclusively for a week, seeing if it fits my usage patterns better than other apps. So far, it does. The interface is really pretty nice—it’s pretty minimal and laid out nicely to take advantage of iOS7. It downloads and plays podcasts. I tend to listen to most podcasts at more than 1x speed, and Overcast handles that nicely. It also has a feature called “Smart Speed” where it snips out long silences to help speed up podcasts. It’s a pretty nifty feature and works as described. I’ve not noticed it yet, but it definitely speeds things up. This has allowed me to not use 2x speed, but knock back to 1.5x and still get a nice speed boost. One of the nicest features is that it will import your settings from most other podcast apps to get your started. A really nice touch. All of the server side stuff seems to run pretty smoothly … more on that in a bit.

There’s a couple of rough edges, which is to be expected in a 1.0 release. You can’t globally set “always play podcasts at X speed”—you set them on each podcast with a “use last settings” or “always use these settings”. I’d guess its an attempt to not put too much stuff hitting in a setting screen, but it always bites me when I’m playing a new podcast or a podcast that hasn’t updated since the app released. It doesn’t seem to download new podcasts quite as quickly as Instacast did. You can’t tap the top of the screen to scroll to the top of the view. When downloading, it does seem to heat up the battery decently (though that could be intermittent signal, since I’ve been traveling, so I’m holding out judgment on that one).

So far, it’s my go to podcast app. I think in a couple of iterations, it’ll have sanded off the rough edges. And, to top it off, it’s the only podcast app I know of that brings a web app to the table, which means you get desktop sync no matter where you are. The only thing that needs to happen on the desktop app is for it to find a way to play at more than 1x speed, which would be a huge win.