An interesting post by David Sparks over on MacSparky about the general workflow he uses for publishing on his blog. He treats long form posts as projects which require mind maps, an editor and a most importantly, time.
Most of what I write on this site are small, linked posts, but for longer posts there are some great pieces of information that I can take from David’s workflow.
Tools for the job are another story that mostly comes down to personal preference. I use a combination of text editors to write my posts, most of which depend on the device I’m using. I would love for a built-in Markdown editor to be added to the GitHub file editor, but for now I will continue to use what I always do.
Your posts are just a normal, everyday part of the open web. At this writing, mine appear on micro.inessential.com — but it’s on my to-do list to have those appear on my main blog (this blog) instead. (Probably won’t happen until after I ship the app I’m currently working on.)
And this is how it used to be, and how it never should have stopped being: my blog is me on the web. I own my blog: I own me.
And so everyone who follows me on Micro.blog sees my blog posts, and I see theirs. Simple.
And anyone who wants to could just read my blog in an RSS reader instead. All good, all open.
Stephen Hackett, with an interesting outline of a possible new iPhone SE. There has been no confirmation from Apple that they have plans to update the now two year old SE, but I hope they do. The SE is a great choice for people who aren’t too bothered about having the latest specs, people who don’t want to spend a fortune on a phone, and people who don’t want to carry around a big phone.
I’ve been perfectly happy with various wired in-ear earphones for the past few years, but after buying the iPhone 8 late last year and spending the next few months wrestling with the lightning-to-headphone adapter, coupled with another pair of cheap earphones breaking, I decided it was time to move to wireless earphones.
I use earphones mainly when walking to/from work or when travelling. I don’t use them for exercise, and I rarely use them for any longer than an hour at a time. I listen to podcasts mainly, so I’m not too worried about sound quality as long as it isn’t notably bad. What is important to me is noise cancellation and comfort.
Initially, I looked into AirPods. They are extremely small, have no wires and are powered by the W1 chip, but reports of poor noise cancellation, along with the worry that they would not stay in my ears, 1 pushed me to look elsewhere.
The draw of the W1 chip is what pointed me towards BeatsX. W1 makes pairing earphones to your Apple devices stupidly easy. With the BeatsX, all I had to do was turn them on and I was presented with a “Connect” button. Pressing this instantly connected them to my phone, conveniently naming them “Colm’s BeatsX”. This process is the same on my iPad and Mac, so there are no issues swapping between devices.
One of the unavoidable trade offs of going wireless is that there is another battery to keep an eye on, but I’m happy to report that battery life is extremely good on the BeatsX. I have been using them for over a week now and have only had to charge them once, which is easy to do as I always have a few lightning cables lying around. Beats advertise an 8 hour battery life, and “5 Minutes of Charge = 2 Hours of Playback”, which I would say is accurate based on my early use of the BeatsX. Whether or not that holds up in the weeks and months ahead is another story.
BeatsX fit comfortably in my ears, and I like the fact that I can leave them dangling around my neck while I’m not using them. The design is minimalist and the controls work as well as I’ve come to expect with most earphones.
The chord that goes around the back of your neck is a small bit long for my liking but it’s not an issue really, only when wearing a scarf or a jacket with a high neck.
I don’t use earphones while exercising, but my brother took the BeatsX for a run and was not impressed with how they stayed in his ears. That’s probably very dependant on individuals, but it’s worth noting.
I’d definitely recommend BeatsX. They are a great option for someone looking for cross between standard wired earphones, but something not quite as extreme as Airpods.
EarPods refuse to stay in my ears, even when walking at a normal pace. As for noise cancellation - I would more often than not have them on full blast to hear podcasts cleary when outside. ↩
Good interview with Manton Reece on the motivations behind Micro.blog, which he created. I joined Micro.blog soon after it launched but have only recently started really using it on a regular basis.
In comparison to an average Twitter timeline, Micro.blog is so much less cluttered, and more thought seems to go into posts. It’s also a really great way to stumble across blogs from people that would otherwise be missed.
I’m looking forward to future updates to the site. Hopefully it stays true to its original intentions.
Jason Snell on his wishes for an iCloud storage bump this year:
The policy Apple uses to grant a small amount of free iCloud storage space needs to change. The free 5GB just isn’t large enough to do almost anything useful. Apple could raise the allotment, allow an additional amount per every device attached to an Apple ID (or set of family IDs), or even offer a year of a larger data plan with purchase of a device. I firmly believe that Apple doesn’t need to nickel and dime people with its iCloud storage plans—once people use them and get used to them, they will pay for more storage. But the upsell happens way too soon, before users can see how useful iCloud storage can be.
5GB is not a reasonble amount of free storage to give people these days. Google provide 15GB of storage by default on Drive, which is a big reason for people (myself included) to use it. The primary use of iCloud for most people is to store photos and videos that they take on their iPhone. 5GB won’t allow most people to even back up the photos they currently have, never mind take any new photos.
I agree with Snell. If Apple were to increase the free storage tier to something acceptable - minimum 10GB - then that would encourage more people to actually pay for storage beyond that once they realize how useful it is.
I have been using Google Analytics on this site for over a year now to monitor all sorts of things like number of visitors, demographics, pages hit and even screen sizes being used. As 2017 drew to a close, I was curious about some of the numbers specific to the year.
Intelligence is a great feature of Google Analytics that allows you to search over data in plain English. For example, I can ask “Most popular months in 2017” which will return the top list of months per page view in 2017. You can also ask something as specific as “What is the slowest loading page” and it will return a list of pages which have the worst bounce rate.
Google are often accused of being creepy with data. If given permission, they can track your every move in Maps, track your interests using Search, and more - but that’s only if you give them permission. Services like analytics are so good, I am more than happy to allow them to track my site usage. It’s a small price to pay.
TouchArcade are reporting that for the first time in a number of years, there will be no iOS release from Rockstar this Christmas. It’s become a bit of a tradition for Rockstar to port old console games to iOS at this time of year, and I’ve enjoyed playing them over previous Christmas holidays. It’s a pity we won’t be getting anything this year, but hopefully there’s plenty more to come from Rockstar in 2018.
Another year, another list of favourite apps from Federico Viticci. For the past twoyears, I have written about the apps that Federico highlights as his favourite, that I also find useful. This year, he has compiled an even bigger list of apps than in previous years, so it’ll be interesting to see have I picked up any new favourites that fall on this list.
Between Dropbox and Google Drive, I have all of my important files backed up online. The Dropbox app has seen a steady stream of updates this year which is always welcome, especially with a service tasked with storing your files online. The addition of the Files app on iOS 11 means I use the official Dropbox app less, but it is still useful to have for reference.
1Password is one of those services that’ll make you wonder how you got by before using them. All your passwords stored online for reference, quickly accessible from the share sheet on iOS. I would (literally) be lost online without 1Password. An absolutely essential app for anybody to have on their devices.
I’m not actually a paid subscriber of Spotify, podcasts fit the bill for me over music for the majority of the time, but Spotify is a great service which allows a free account to play a number of songs and listen to ads in between, albeit losing the ability to select their own songs after a certain number of skips. This is even better on iPad, where you can select any number of songs in any order and just sit through a 30 second ad every half hour - perfect for a casual user like me.
Overcast is the best podcast player on iOS. I’ve written before about the advantages of Overcast, over the stock podcasts app on iOS, namely Smart Speed and Voice Boost. The app itself has had some more work on it in the past year and is a breeze to use.
I really like the YouTube app on iOS. Last year I complained that the app doesn’t have picture in picture, and that is still the case. I honestly don’t see that changing any time soon, so I’m willing to accept that this might never be implemented - prove me wrong Google. Nonetheless, the YouTube app is really clean, easy to use and receives regular updates which is all you can ask for.
Still the king of maps in my book. Apple Maps is closing the gap bit by bit, but Google Maps is still my favourite. As long as Apple can make a good alternative to Google Maps, I’m sure they will be happy, but Google have long since set the benchmark here and I don’t see any reason to stop using their service.
Google Trips is a clever app in that it can detect based on your emails where and when you have booked a trip, and can offer you tips on where to eat, what to see and what to do in an area. It saves you the hassle of trawling through websites and books trying to plan out a trip, and bases all it’s recommendations on actual reviews. For any travel enthusiast I’d highly recommend it.
Uber don’t operate in Ireland, so the next best thing is myTaxi (previously Hailo). It works just like Uber - set a location, pickup point and order. All payments can be made on card if necessary. It makes ordering taxis much easier and takes out the guesswork by letting you see where exactly your taxi is on a map in real time.
Probably the most used app on my phone. The majority of my friends and family use Whatsapp, so I find myself spending a lot of time on it every day. The app is fast, well designed and rarely if ever causes me issues. It doesn’t get in the way of me messaging people and keeps a backup of all my chats.
This was one of my complaints about the old Gboard: its default light theme looked garish in dark apps; on the other hand, if you persistently enabled Gboard’s dark theme, then it would look out of place in apps like Messages or Mail. With automatic theme switch, changing Gboard’s default appearance is no longer a concern because it adapts to the app you’re using.
Another great update to my favourite iOS keyboard, Gboard.