Teaching Messaging to an Explorer: stay within the Notification budget

From the Smartphones for All chapter on messaging:

The first step in teaching messaging to an Explorer is to simplify the iPhone’s Messages.app as much as possible. I review this in the Setting up an Explorer’s iPhone chapter.  The iPhone’s Messages.app has become harder to use as Apple has added more features, but most Explorers seem able to work around the confusion.

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If an Explorer has even modest reading abilities they will learn Messaging quickly. Using Messages.app to communicate from room to room in a house is one way to practice. Many families do this for neurotypicals, but for our Explorers this practice has been particularly helpful. I believe this is generally true for Explorers prone to intense focus or who use earphones to reduce distraction.

Once an Explorer is good at reading a message the next step is to encourage responses — typically by texting a question. There are many options here. “Y” or “N” are single letter responses to a yes or no question and the letter “k”is a widely recognized abbreviation for a neutral “ok” response. The iPhone’s autocorrect feature makes many Explorers more comfortable with longer text responses. Both Siri and the iPhone’s “speech to text” feature can be used to send verbal responses as text. Other Explorers may prefer to respond with emoji or even sound recordings (though the latter is a bit complex to do). There are many options to choose from.

The last step is initiating messages — typically a request for something. This is a small step beyond responding, and it’s easy to encourage by responding quickly and positively (when possible). Most Explorers, like most Messages.app users, will send a new message by tapping on an existing message collection rather than by browsing contacts or typing in a name. Alternatively, saying “Hey Siri, text Mum to get me a snack” works better than most Siri functions (see iPhone setup – Siri to learn how to teach Siri who “Mum” is).

Once an Explorer can receive, respond to and initiate messages the last step is managing group or “Chat” type messages. These are hard for everyone — all of us have accidentally message a group of people when we meant to message a single person. This can be more than a bit embarrasing; I hope future Messages.app improvements will make this easier to avoid. For many Explorers it may be best to avoid use of this feature in favor of a direct message. If a group message is being accidentally reused it can be deleted from an Explorer’s phone.

Messaging, by design, grabs the recipient’s attention. This isn’t too bad for a low volume of Messages, but every iPhone app is clamoring for attention. Almost all applications try to turn on all possible Notifications when they are installed.  Explorers will have low tolerance for unwanted interruptions and may end up turning off iPhone volume — defeating the value of Messages. The trick to prevent this problem is to regularly review the iPhone’s Notification settings and disable almost all notifications, leaving only those for Messages, Reminders, Calendars and the like (see Apple’s User Guide and Setting up an Explorer’s iPhone). 

Sadly this isn’t a one time chore, smartphone applications are alway fighting to enable Notifications, particularly when first installed. If an application’s Notification lust is truly annoying it may be due for deletion. 

Another way to reduce annoying Messaging interruptions is to enable the “Do Not Disturb” feature to accept messages only from “Favorites”, where a Favorite might be a Guide or sibling.  Our goal with Notifications is to make each one of them useful.

In the last resort an Explorer may be reminded that their iPhone is an important tool as well as a fun device, but I encourage optimizing Notifications first.

Smartphones for All: Preprint chapter – Calendars.pdf

I’ve updated the preprint of my book chapter on Calendars. You can read the PDF for free, my September presentation to the Down Syndrome association has other preprints.

This is one of my favorite chapters – iOS Calendars are a great tool for Explorers (and Guides as well). From the Key Points section (I’m adding these to all the chapters):

• The Calendar is a key tool to help Explorers learn and practice the fundamental life skill of planning.
• iPhone Cloud calendars are a huge improvement over paper calendars for all Explorers. They can be managed by Guides and they support sharing and alerts. They are always at hand. Explorers will lose paper calendars, but few will lose their iPhones.
• To support an Explorer’s use of a Calendar a Guide needs to use an iPhone Calendar themselves. They need to demonstrate use.
• When an Explorer asks when an event is, there’s always one answer – “It’s on your calendar”.
• Explorers can start with a simple Calendar managed by a Guide with event alerts. In time most will learn to add events, to work with Family Calendar Sharing (or the non-family equivalent), and to manage invitations.
• There is a longstanding and complicated Apple bug with Calendar invitations. If you send an iPhone calendar invitation to someone and they don’t get it you’ve run into the bug. There’s nothing you can do, Apple has to fix this. It’s just useful to know the bug exists. With luck you’ll never see it.
• It’s possible to substitute Google’s Calendar for Apple’s iCloud Calendar and still use the base iPhone Calendar.app. This can be a good option for a Guide who is invested in Google Calendar but it’s technically trickier.

As always with preprints don’t worry about the typos and grammar blunders.

I’m mostly done with new chapters, moving to rewrites and updates. Editing on the way …

iOS 11 for Guides and Explorers – restrictions and simplification

With each release of iOS there’s obviously a lot of book updating to do. I very much hope I get my first edition out during iOS 11’s tenure — and then get updates out thereafter.

iOS 11 has made the iPad significantly more complex than it was, but the impact on the iPhone is smaller and generally positive. It continues to get harder to avoid two-factor authentication (how to disable it if you accidentally enabled). That’s a problem for Explorers because it makes Guide remote management harder — I’m going to have to figure out how to support the Guide role with two-factor enabled. (Apple, some help here would be appreciated!)

Restrictions haven’t changed much. There’s still room for a lot of improvement — particularly in control of cellular data use. There is a new restriction to lock “Do Not Disturb While Driving” — but very few Explorers will be driving a car.

The new Notifications review screen (pull down from top) now pulls down an image of a Lock Screen — with notifications overlying it. The image even says “Press home to open” even though the phone is actually … open. Nobody has been able to explain how this makes sense and I hope it will be quietly fixed in a future small update.

Sweeping down always shows Notifications, you then sweep right to see Widgets. In iOS 10 this screen defaulted to showing whatever was last used; the new behavior is consistent and easier to understand. If all Notifications are disabled and all Widgets removed the weird “not-lock” pulldown screen is only mildly confusing.

Sweeping up from the bottom shows the new Control Center. This is a real improvement! There’s no more left/right double pane, the background goes blank, and it can set it to only work from the Home Screen. Controls can be customized and many removed. (The behavior of the WiFi and Bluetooth Control Center controls has become more complex and confusing to expert users, but for Explorers the new “smart” behaviors should be fine.)

Siri is a bit harder to disable now. Instead of one switch there are three, but if all three are disabled it behaves the same way. Siri can also be disabled in restrictions along with voice dictation — that will be a better option for most Explorers. Of course some Explorers like Siri, so mileage will vary.

There’s a new setting for Emergency SOS that’s disabled by default. I suggest leaving it off. Accidentally activating emergency services can be traumatic for an Explorer — and may have legal consequences.

Which brings us to Messages.app. Messages.app is a key tool for Explorers and iOS 10 made it unfortunately more complex. Things are not better in iOS 11.  Heaven help anyone, Guide or Explorer, who accidentally taps the Messages.app App Store button. There’s no setting to disable this danged thing — even though the mass of iPhone users is pleading for one. There’s also a new bottom button bar that lists almost entirely useless Message widgets. These can be individually removed from Messages, but to hide the bar one has to know to gently drag the gray App Store icon downwards. The button bar will return though if one accidentally taps the App Store icon.

These changes to Messages.app are not popular. There’s a chance Apple will fix some of this in a future version of iOS. I advise leaving a comment on www.apple.com/feedback/iphone.html – I’ve read that Apple actually monitors those. I’ve requested they add a restriction for Messages App Store and a setting to disable the bottom menu bar in Messages.app Settings.

That’s all I’ve found so far, I’m sure I’ll see a few more things when I update the Settings chapter. If you see more things leave a note via Twitter or Facebook or email me at jfaughnan@gmail.com.

Image management on iPhone is a mess for Explorers … and everyone else

Today I worked on my chapter on Photos and Video management for Guides and Explorers. Before I could write out about how to incorporate still images into Notes as a memory tool I felt I had to address issues with managing storage demands of video and still images for an Explorer’s iPhone. Ironically this hasn’t been a problem for our Explorers — #1 deletes liberally and #2 isn’t that interested in images. It’s been a problem for the rest of the family though!

I’ve been afraid of this topic. I knew it was ugly. Apple cultivates a deserved reputation for creating beautiful images, but Apple geeks know that Apple’s photo management strategy went off the rails years ago.  Thirty minutes of 4K video (10GB) can consume all the free storage in lower end iPhones.

Today I put out my first draft and I feel my fears were justified. It will be interesting to see if iOS 11 and updated iCloud features help — but I’m not too hopeful. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library is their “solution”, but it’s too expensive (Wifi and high quality broadband, $120/year data fee) for many Explorers.

I hope someone has a better solution. Here’s the draft for the storage management chapter (draft form, footnotes omitted):

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iPhones in current use may have as little as 32 GB of storage (some of which is used for Apple’s basic apps) or as much as 256GB. Once upon a time this was a vast amount of storage, but 30 minutes of modern video may use all the local storage on a low capacity iPhone. Eventually video use will consume any amount of iPhone storage. Generous use of the still image “burst” feature will also use storage quickly.

There are no great solutions to this problem. Apple’s solution is to purchase iCloud Photo Library storage (see the user guide for how to do this). At the moment 2TB of iCloud Photo Library storage costs $120 a year and practical use of iCloud Photo Library requires high capacity WiFi. If an Explorer has the money to spend, and if they have high quality WiFi, then the iPhone will automatically move photos to Apple’s servers and free up storage on the iPhone. All the Explorers images will be saved — at least until they hit the 2TB storage limit (200 30 minute videos will do that).

With iCloud Photo Library there is an option for Guide to manage the Library. A Guide can use a web browser and an Explorer’s iCloud credentials to view their iCloud Photo Library. A Guide may then delete videos and images to free up space. Items deleted from the iCloud Photo Library will eventually be removed from the iPhone. Unfortunately there is no way to select more than one item at a time in the iCloud web view, so this is only practical for deleting large videos.

Apple’s iCloud Photo Library solution is not affordable for many adult Explorers. Technically inclined Guides may find Google Photos is a cost-effective way to manage iPhone images, but the complexity of using Google Photos.app to mange iPhone storage use is well beyond what I can address in this book. Heck, it gives me headaches to contemplate it!

For an Explorer without WiFi the simplest practical approach is to go to Settings:Photos & Camera and turn off “iCloud Photo Library” and “My Photo Stream”. For simplicity I also recommend disabling “iCloud Photo Sharing”.

With these settings images will be stored locally. If the iPhone is backed up (see Chapter ___) then images will also be backed up, and they will use iCloud backup storage.

These images they need to be periodically deleted. This can’t be done remotely, a Guide or Explorer has to have the iPhone in hand to remove Photos. This is tedious, though deleting “moments” can help, or a Guide can go to Albums:Camera Roll and slide a finger over many images to select and then delete them.

What about images that an Explorer or Guide wants to keep? The simplest approach here is to select them on the Explorer’s iPhone and mail them one at a time to a Guide’s account for archiving. Another approach is to “share” them to Notes.app, I’ll discuss that in the next section.

The bottom line is that image management on the iPhone is a mess. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library is a solution for higher income Explorers, but limitations in the web browser view make it hard for a Guide to help manage storage. Most Explorers will need to keep their images on their device, and either the or a Guide will need to periodically remove them. Only a few images will be saved by mailing them to a Guide or keeping then as Notes.

Special needs iPhone – Down Syndrome

I spoke yesterday at the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota Adult Matters conference. I spoke about supporting independence through an iPhone.

I think it went well, I know I learned a lot listening to parents and speakers. It looks like the book should work well for parents of teens and adults with Down Syndrome. There was special interest in safety, managing Facebook, and using Notes (for lists). I’m going to expand my chapter on Notes to discuss incorporating photos, including photos of hand written sketches, into a Notes library.

I was impressed by the use of texting to communicate with less verbal Down Syndrome adults — even those who may read a grade 1/2 level. My own experience has been that texting often works better than conversation; guess I’m not the only one.

Smartphones for all: Ten sample chapters and a presentation for Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota (DSAM)

In advance of my September 9 2017 presentation to the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota I’ve made my presentation powerpoint and 10 sample (PDF) chapters available online.

There are some user warnings …

These draft book chapters are available for download. Some are up to a year old and all will have more revisions before publication. They haven’t been proofread, so they have many typos and similar errors. Don’t worry about reporting those.

When I started my book project I planned to do both iPhone and Android in a single book. I’ve since focused on iPhone and I hope to do Android as a separate, later book. These chapters still contain Android material. It is harder to write about Android because devices vary and there are usual several different generations of Android software in use.

Chapters are distributed here as PDFs. The writing tool I use creates Endnotes rather than Footnotes when I save as PDF.

iOS 11 is coming out on September 12 so they will all need some revision after that!

On reviewing this I feel like I’ve done a large amount of work, but there’s a lot still to do. I just keep swimming. iOS 11 is coming out soon and it will of course require rewrites. As much as possible I refer to the iPhone User Guide rather than recreate it, in part to reduce version dependency.

Presentation Sept 9 Minneapolis area to Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota

I’ll be doing a workshop on Sept 9 2017 for the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota (DSAM) Adult Matters Conference.

There’s a Facebook Event for my workshop, here’s the description from the conference site:

Independent Living with an iPhone

This presentation is about using a smartphone to support independent living for teens and adults with special needs. Dr. Faughnan has been using iPhones for six years to promote independence of his child with a cognitive disability and another child on the autism spectrum. The focus of the workshop is on iPhone use but also describes Android options. Topics will include phone setup, calendaring, notes, and related topics.

Dr. John Faughnan has a professional background in software development, health computing, and primary care medicine. He is writing a book titled ‘Smartphones for All: Independent Living with an iPhone’. In addition to his medical and software work Dr. Faughnan has been a coach and manager for Minnesota Special Hockey since its inception.

I’ll make my conference materials and presentations available online at https://www.sphone4all.com/dsam2017/.

Setting up an Explorer’s iPhone – Backup and Photos

I knew it was tiring to setup a new iPhone for an Explorer, but I only understood why after I wrote up all the steps and considerations:

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I’ve read that iOS 11 might includes some kind of automated iPhone setup — we really and truly need a one click base consideration for a minimal data use and maximal simplicity environment.

The section on Backup and Photos surprised me. I hadn’t really thought about Backup for my Explorers before. It’s not as critical as I’d long thought …

Every book on using technologies emphasizes how important it is to backup regularly. I’m not going to do that. For the iPhone Explorer backup is a good idea, but it’s not absolutely essential.

The reason backup is less important now is that most of an Explorer’s critical data will be “in the Cloud”. It will be on Apple’s servers, which are backed up by Apple. If an Explorer loses their phone and gets a new one, they will still have their Notes and Calendars and Email and Music and Videos 1. The critical information, that must not be lost, is the Explorer’s iCloud email address and password.

There are still reasons to Backup though. For one thing, of that setup work we’ve described in this chapter isn’t in the Cloud! A Guide won’t want to lose that work. Other apps, like games, may not store their data in the Cloud 2. Only a backup can protect their data.

So even though it’s not absolutely essential, it’s still a good idea to backup. Unfortunately the iPhone won’t do a backup over a cellular connection, even for an Explorer with unlimited data. Backup only happens to a device that’s on a WiFi network 3. It will happen automatically for an iPhone that’s locked and plugged in, or it can be started manually (see iPhone User Guide for manual backup directions).

Apple enforces the WiFi-only backup limitation because most iPhones users have limited cellular data plans 4. That limitation means, however, that Explorers without WiFi aren’t getting any backup. The best advice I can give is for a Guide to do a periodic manual backup on a WiFi network. Many Explorers can also learn to do this at a local library, coffee shop, or public WiFi location.

Apple currently provides every customer with 5 GB of free storage for backup and iCloud data. That’s usually enough for a single iPhone — unless an Explorer likes to record videos. Videos, and to a lesser extent still images, are a problem for iPhone backup 5.

The problem is that “Photos” (videos and still images) use a lot of storage. Even if an iPhone has adequate local storage, free iCloud accounts are limited to 5 GB — and once an Explorer hits that limit they may not be able to backup anything else!

There are a few ways to manage the Photo storage problem. I go over them in a later chapter. To start with a Guide or Explorer can simply delete old Video recordings from the iPhone to free up storage. A more aggressive option is to turn off backup of Photos (Videos, images) 6 and also turn off “iCloud Photo Library” and “My Photo Stream” 7.  With these settings iCloud storage won’t be used, but a Guide or Explorer may still need to remove Videos and Images to free up space on an iPhone.

 

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1 There are always exceptions, but this rule is generally true.

2 Many do these days.

3 It’s also possible to backup to a computer using iTunes, see the manual for details. Apple is moving away from using an iPhone with iTunes though.

4 I wish they’d enabled a manual override, but there’s no doubt iPhone settings are already too complicated.

5 In Apple land sometimes Photos means “images and video”, sometimes it means just images. It’s kind of annoying.

6 It’s not obvious how to do this though. See https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204247 and follow the directions carefully.

7 In Photos & Camera settings, see User Guide.