Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

How to overwrite iCloud & recover your lost iCal data

October 16, 2011, 2:30 AM

I’ve been using MobileMe for more than two years, so I’ve gotten used to having my calendars and my contacts synced all the time between my iPhone and my Macbook Pro. It was pricey, but except for a few problems in the beginning, it worked well. A few days ago, when Apple made available their new iOS5 and iCloud, I upgraded, anxious to try the new features and see what usability gems Apple have hidden all throughout their new products. In spite of the long time to upgrade (about two hours and half, all in all), it went well and everything seemed to sync properly between all my devices.

Today however, I tried syncing my 2Do app on my iPhone — I haven’t opened it much lately as I’ve gotten used just to iCal, but if you need something more, 2Do is the best task & reminder management app you can find. After syncing, some of my calendars had been duplicated. I checked the ones that had tasks and deleted the others that looked empty — big mistake: when I checked my iCal a bit later, the same calendars were gone with no duplicates left behind. Luckily, I had a complete backup from earlier today (I must’ve had a feeling something would go wrong). I imported the backup, but to my horror, as soon as the calendars would be back, iCloud would start syncing and promptly deleting the ‘new’ calendars. Unlike MobileMe, iCloud considers the data it has in the cloud as the main ‘mother’ source, and all the other sources are considered its ‘children’. You don’t have the option to merge or overwrite the iCloud data with the one on your Mac, as you had with MobileMe. Frustrated, I tried various ways of importing back the data but each time iCloud would reject anything that wasn’t already in the cloud. In the end, I was left with no calendars at all and just a useless backup file — Apple should seriously think about this, what good is the iCal Archive backup if it doesn’t work?

So, if you’ve lost your calendars like me, or if you had duplicates and you or iCloud deleted them (some seem to have this problem), here’s a way to merge local data with iCloud and repair the syncing between all your devices:

  1. Obviously, you need a back-up (an iCal archive or .ics files) — if you don’t have that, you could try getting back the data using Time Machine (if you have one, of course). You can learn how to do that here, but it might take a while if you had a lot of calendars and events.
  2. Open the iCal preferences and delete your iCloud account — a warning will inform you that all your calendars will be deleted, including the reminders (only ‘On My Mac’ calendars will remain). You have to press on the minus button, as you can see below.
  3. Go to your Mac’s System Preferences and in the new iCloud section uncheck the Calendars — this will make your iCall ‘free’ from the iCloud. You have the same option in the ‘Mail, Contacts & Calendars’ section, either is fine.
  4. Go to and delete all your calendars and reminder calendars manually — you might have to create a new ‘temp’ one as you can’t have zero calendars. Now you should have a clean iCloud, with just two empty calendars, the second for the reminders  (just to make sure, check on your iPhone too).
  5. Cut your internet and import your backup file into iCal — now you should have all your data back, but since the calendars are already set as iCloud ones, not ‘On My Mac’ types, they’d be deleted as soon as you go online again. You need to manually export each calendar as an .ics file.
  6. Unfortunately, for the reminders it’s a bit tricky, as you can’t export them as .ics files — you need to create as many ‘On My Mac’ Reminder calendars as you have for your reminders and copy all from each calendar and assign them to a new ‘On My Mac’ calendar. Be sure not to use the same names for the new calendars.
  7. Now, delete all the iCloud calendars and the reminder calendars except the ‘temp’ ones that are already online — you should be left with a clean iCal, similar to what you had in the cloud before going offline plus the ‘On My Mac’ reminder calendars.
  8. Import the .ics calendars one by one, choosing the ‘New Calendar’ option — this will create similar calendars as you had before, but instead of being ‘iCloud’ calendars, they are ‘On My Mac’ ones.
  9. Put the internet back on and check the Calendars option in the System Preferences — since iCloud thinks this is the first time you’re setting up your iCal to sync, it will merge the data from your iCal with what you had in the cloud (the two temp calendars, which you can delete after the sync). With a bit of luck, you might even have the same colours you had before the mishap.

That’s it, less complicated than it looks, you just need to follow the steps properly and you should have everything back, working nicely, in about 15 minutes. Let me know if you have more questions.

Good luck!


Later update:

Mr Gruber (Daring Fireball) points out that iCloud calendars are now type-specific, meaning they’re either event-based or reminder-based. This means that when you upgrade, your calendars get split into two calendars bearing the same name, one for the events and one for reminders. While this is no problem in iCal, if you’re using BusyCal or 2Do (and maybe other 3rd apps too), you will get duplicate calendars. If you delete those, you’ll lose data, just as I did. My solution was to rename all the reminder calendars. Read more on Daring Fireball.



Thank you, Steve

October 6, 2011, 7:42 AM

Feels like losing a dear family member. Thank you, Steve.

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose,” … “You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” — Steve Jobs

Sorry Mr Glaser for borrowing your idea, I’m sure you’d understand.



Changing light metering on the iPhone with Camera+

January 14, 2011, 11:53 PM

Long before every school kid had a photo-taking phone, or even before point & shoot cameras were cheap as dirt, photography was something you had to make sacrifices for. As a student, I could only afford shooting, developing and printing two films per month at most. Each shot meant taking a really good look, carefully setting the aperture and the speed and waiting for the right moment. After that, I would jot down on a small paper the film’s position and the used settings — the only way to learn how everything worked, days or weeks later, after I’ve finished the film and see the the printed photos.

But enough about the good ol’ days. Digital photography is king, and today Flickr’s most used camera is Apple’s planetary-successful iPhone (Nokia still don’t know what hit them). The iPhone4 has a superb 5 MP camera, with a very interesting HDR ability. Like always with Apple, it’s not about the specs — I bet the 5 MP iPhone photos look a lot better than most 6 or even 8 MP other phone-taken photos, but you can call me biased. Still, typical for Apple, you can’t manually set anything except the flash (my old Nokia N73 had quite a lot of manual settings, including 8-steps exposure compensation). Light is mostly spot-metered around the focus area, which doesn’t help much, since you can’t even lock the setting in any way. So, almost each time I took a photo, I wished I had my old Canon Eos 33 with it’s trust-worthy exposure compensation dial.

In comes Camera+ 2.0.

This handy app had quite its quarrels with Apple, being pulled off the App store a few times for making use of the iPhone’s volume buttons to snap the photos — a smart idea, which says quite a lot about the developers, but Apple didn’t fell for it, considering it an illegal use of the device. The 2.0 version got approved though (minus the nifty volume trick), and comes with a lot useful features, but most of all, with a simple way of controlling the metering.

… but add a second finger on the screen and—boom!—magic happens.

It’s all done very easily: the camera focuses just as the default one, when you touch it; but add a second finger and in comes the touch exposure control. You can play around with it on the screen and see how metering the light in different areas provide quite different results, from dark under-exposed photos to bright, over-exposed ones. Here’s an example, first metering the light in the brightest area, the clouds:

A beautiful sun-setting sky: the light is metered on the brightest spot, the clouds.

then metering the light in one of the dark spots, the shadowed house:

An eerie, washed-out sky: the light is metered in one of the dark areas of the frame.

Now, some will say that’s no big deal, as the iPhone’s standard camera can do pretty much the same thing. But what will you do when you’d like to set lens focus in one area of the frame, but measure the light in another? Take this case, for example:

Different focus areas, with similar metering — also, different White Balance settings.

In the first case, the focus is almost macro-like, very close. The metering is in the same area as the focus. In the second image however, the focus shifts towards the back of the picture — but the metering remains in the same area as before. There is however something else changed now: the white balance. Enter the White-Balance-lock button, the second reason why this app is great. In the second picture, the white balance is measured on the screen, locked, then the “touch exposure ring” is moved back to the same area as in the first picture.

These two features are the things that convinced me to buy yet another photo app for my iPhone. It has plenty more, like editing (cropping, rotating, flipping), scene modes and some crappy borders (heh, must give something to the muggles as well, right?).

So, Camera+ is probably the closest thing you’ll get to a manual settings camera feeling on your iPhone. And, for just £1.19, I’d say it’s a steal :) But just in case you’re still not convinced, you can also read the Camera+ 2.0 review on TUAW.

Some might ask why would anyone bother with SLR-like settings on a phone camera. I’ll just say this: the best camera is the one you have. Hope that’s enough to shoo the trolls :)

Further reading:
• If you want to see some real old-school film photography, check out Kit’s blog — Two words: Leica Noctilux.
Stanley Kubrick’s perfectionism leading to some special Zeiss lenses /via Gizmodo.



The right kind of ammunition

March 6, 2009, 2:39 PM

Catching some office gossips like San Francisco designers being the best among international design offices like Pentagram and MetaDesign, I was curious to see who exactly was or were partner-in-charge at Pentagram San Francisco. In comes Robert Brunner (the other Pentagram partners are Kit Hinrichs, designer and Lorenzo Apicella, architect).

Reading about Mr. Brunner on wikipedia, I was startled to find out that he leads a team at Ammunition LLC, just after reading that he had joined Pentagram in 1996. Browsing the Ammunition website, I found out he is no longer with Pentagram, since he left with his team to form his own company in july 2007 (press release). In 2008 he was joined by two other top professionals, Creative Director Brett Wickens and Band Strategist Matt Rolandson, both former leaders from MetaDesign San Francisco.

The interesting thing is that Mr. Brunner was previously the Director of Industrial Design at Apple, between 1987-1996, and was the one that hired and later proposed Jonathan Ive as director after his departure (you can watch the youtube interview).

Ammunition specializes in product design, identity design and interaction design, and you can easily see from their portfolio their work is of highest quality. And of course, they have a smart, classy logo.







The real Steve Jobs and why design wins

September 14, 2007, 3:17 AM

Great portrayal of Steve Jobs’ by Robert X. Cringely.
(via Subtraction)

I was suprised by the iPhone’s price drop, but even more surprised by the open letter to all iPhone customers. The tone was polite, honest and direct, but I had the feeling it left no doubt about who’s in charge. It was obvious long time ago that Apple designs with arrogance (Clay Shirky beautifully writes on this topic in this “A Brief Message” post). But Mr Cringely manages to strip down Mr Jobs entirely, exposing his marketing genius, leaving no doubt about the recent price drop and it’s purpose. You almost get the feeling, as you read in awe, that Steve Jobs is the new Palpatine, soon to take over the entire universe in his white&minimalistic iDeath Star :))

Joke aside, this useful insight which proves Apple can and does do anything it wants with it’s customers only underlines the true power of design (no, not the dark side :P). The whole Apple strategy is dead simple, make the best looking and coolest designed stuff people need (or we think they’d need, since we, designers, know better, right ?) and the cash starts flooding in. Why ?
Because we still have little real, good, efficient design around us. We think we do, but we don’t actually. This is why a well thought product manages to sweep the market so easily: because it has (almost) no real competition.

The only problem is when the unchallenged leader begins to slow down, overconfident with its size and power. Or when it becomes so engulfed by it’s arrogance that it begins to lose contact with the end of the chain, the buyer. All great empires have fallen, as history unkindly has proven (well, capitalism seems to be the most succesful so far, but I don’t want to imagine what would replace it, should it fall). But for now, Steve Jobs still wants to show everybody he’s won. So the show will still go on, with, maybe, the best to come. And in the end, it’s all good for us, users.

(via Subtraction)



Wasn’t gonna talk about it…

July 7, 2007, 12:30 PM

…but surfing through Flickr I came to see this, fotos from the Apple store on the day the iPhone was launched. I know Apple has some of the most fanatic adepts, it can probably compete islamism when it comes to it’s followers’ dedication :P

Here is the first guy who bought the gadget. How can an object inspire so much joy, excitement? Even kids are less enthusiastic sometimes. Beeing sort of a tech geek myself, I know that getting some new aparatus will have its highs, but this seems just way out of normality. Or something like that. It reminds me of the Mr. Bean gag when he comes in the morning and pops the balloons he used to give the impression he was sleeping first in line at a new store :)
iPhone Frenzy

It’s sad when things get to own us, instead of the other way around. It would be nice if we had a Tyler Durden to burn our material chains from time to time and wake us up to reality :) Just let go?…
Fight for your freedom!



The good, the bad and the Apple design…

May 11, 2007, 2:23 AM

Pray for Apple

Last year I came to Bucharest (largest in Romania) because I wanted more than any other large Romanian cities could offer for my career. The first thing I remember seeing on my first day was the new iMac on my desk. After admiring it’s design, it’s compactness, it’s coolness, it’s look-at-me-I’ve-got-no-towercase, I started mumbling and cursing, since I had never used a Mac before. It took me a week or so to get used to it, but more than one year after that, even though I’ve learnt to love many of its features, I’m still not convinced Apple is “the way”, contrary to what most of my fellow creatives think.

Funny thing is, while reading this article from Design Observer, I’ve started thinking that Apple is becoming more and more like the Big Brother they pretended to defeat in their 1984-ad. Or like some sort of a Microsoft 2.0 (everything nowadays has to be web 2.0, right ?), one greedy corporation trying to take over the world market, this time in the name of great design and user friendliness.

I’m all for great design, but sometimes only one type of “great design” might be bad design. “Or to put it another way, if you round too many corners, you lose your edge.” (Design Observer)

or maybe “one Apple to rule them all” ?

Later edit: another funny article about macs vs pc on the best page in the universe :P (via studioprimer)