Instapaper Returns to the EU

I’ve been an Instapaper user since it launched so I’m delighted to see it return to the EU now that it is an independent company once again.

When it disappeared from the EU when GDPR hit, I tried to find a way of replacing it first with Pinboard then with Safari Reading List. Neither of which really stuck, so despite the slight concern over why they couldn’t hit the GDPR deadline, I’m back using it and we’ll see if I start using as regularly again.

This is a very interesting article about the influence of Facebook and Google has over society and the unbalanced discourse that has been growing over recent years. It’s been a recurring concern of mine about Micro.blog and the many calls I’ve seen on there for diversity. They have rarely, if ever, included calls for people who take a more conservative stance. Balance is something that is needed if the service is to avoid the pitfalls that created the echo chambers we find on Twitter and Facebook now.

Pondering on Google I/O

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that Google announced at I/O this week. I feel like I’m stuck in a weird camp of being both fascinated and terrified all at once.

The rate at which Google Assistant is developing is astounding and the idea that they are working towards the computer from Star Trek is really quite cool. They are clearly getting there quite quickly. The video demos of Duplex making a call on your behalf to make a hair appointment or book a restaurant is frankly amazing. If those video’s are true (why didn’t they do a live demo?) then they’ve created a computer that can pass the Turing Test and fool a human into thinking they are talking to another human. This is one of the things that terrifies me.

I’ve long been uncomfortable with the amount of information Google can gather on people. Now they are showing how a lot of that data has been used to understand how humans communicate in the way they are building Duplex and demonstrating it’s ability to mimic that. Likewise with the new autocomplete in Gmail that they demonstrated, these things are impressive, as is the potential utility of them.

My struggle is that I hate the idea of all this data being collected on people, mostly without them realising, but at the same time I find that I want to use the new products that Google are creating with it all. I hate having to make phone calls to people I don’t know and the idea that I could just ask a computer to do it for me is great, but, it scares me. Just because we can do that begs the question should we be doing it? When humans are speaking in this manner, there’s an inherent level of trust that is built. It’s a verbal contract between two people, with a commitment from both to fulfil it. If a computer takes over this element on behalf of one of the parties, do we erode that trust? How far do we let these communications go? If we are not responsible for making appointments and bookings, do they start to become disposable? Will we become less inclined to keep them, and how will this impact small businesses?

The Bulletin Board ›

I’ve been reading Austin Kleon’s blog since January, I find the way that he speaks about his notebooks and how he uses them very inspiring. Today’s post is about his bulletin board and how he pins images, clippings, index cards, and various other bits to it for inspiration while he is writing a book.

The analog nature of lots of things that Austin does has really caught my attention. I love technology, but as a designer I also love objects and paper. When I was a student I covered the wall of my room in halls with bits of graphics that I liked. The whole thing turned into one giant collage of inspiration. That’s something I would like to get back into my creative life, something tactile and away from a glowing rectangle.

Adobe’s iOS App Failure ›

Over on Six Colors Jason Snell speaks of his disappointment with Adobe’s iOS offering. I’ve long been disappointed with Adobe’s approach to the platform and I couldn’t agree more with his comments.

But it’s frustrating that Adobe has failed its core design customers to such a degree—and it’s also a big risk for Adobe. Photoshop commands a lot of space in the brains of many creative professionals, but a lot of those people want to use iOS. If Adobe provided them with fulfilling tools for iOS—ones that are as capable as what’s available on macOS and Windows—it could keep its customers loyal.

As a designer the iPad has always appealed to me as a means of creating. It seems like it should be the most intuitive way of laying up designs and drawing out ideas. The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil only served to enhance this idea for me. Yet Adobe continually fail to acknowledge that we could do serious work in an iPad. They keep serving up “mobile” apps instead of actually considering how an app like InDesign or Illustrator could function.

It took Microsoft years to bring Office to iOS, and in that time apps arrived to fill the gap they had left causing Office to lose mindshare. That’s now starting to happen to the Creative Cloud apps, Affinity Photo is excellent, and more than capable of growing in to the gap left by a lack of a fully fledged Photoshop. My hope is that other apps will rise up to fill the gaps left by a lack of full versions of Illustrator and InDesign or that Adobe gets its finger out and creates them.

A Home Screen Update

I used to post a monthly series that looked at the Home Screens of my iPhone and iPad. Over time though I realised it didn’t change as much as I expected and so I lost interest in the process. Things have changed a lot recently so I thought it was time to post another look at my iPhone.

A few of weeks ago I put in to the practise the ideas in a post I linked to about setting up an iPhone home screen. I dropped all my apps into one folder and popped it in the dock. Then I pulled Tweetbot, Messages and Mail out alongside it in to the dock. My intention was to try and use my iPhone less, and when I do use it, to use it productively for communicating with my friends and family.

A couple of weeks later I found myself with five apps sitting on a second page of my home screen. I kept the first screen blank because I wanted to keep as close to the idea as possible, but I wanted these apps available without having to search for them. They all fell into one category. Entertainment, or more specifically video services (iPlayer, YouTube, etc) to stream content to my Chomecast or Apple TV.

I’ve now made another change and introduced 8 apps which I use so regularly it’s worth bringing them back to the my home screen to make accessing them more convenient. My iPhone still feels much calmer and focused than it did, but it’s not quite as a peaceful as a blank home screen used to be.

You can see the difference, I’ve gone from three screens with lots of app and folders on each, to two screens each with a clear use case.

The Dock

I’ve made a change to the three apps that sit in my dock. Tweetbot remains, although I actually do all my posting to the service through this site, I still interact on the service a lot and find some great content to save and read.

Messages is fairly self explanatory, thankfully most of my friends and both my parents are iPhone users so I do a lot of communication through iMessage. It’s been a mainstay of my iPhone dock since the day I got my iPhone 3G years ago.

The third app is Things. I’ve used a lot of to do apps over the years, for a long time I was a Things user, but it’s lack of OTA sync was a deal breaker and I moved to OmniFocus for many years. In the last year I’ve returned to Things via a stint with Todoist. In fact I was very happy with Todoist until the launch of Things 3. It’s just a pleasure to use and over the last few weeks I’ve found myself using it a lot more than I realised. Mostly to add things to my Inbox, but also when out shopping and running errands.

Page 1

Fitbit
Another fairly self‐explanatory one, I wear a Fitbit pretty much everyday and it’s companion app keeps things in sync and helps me to keep an eye on how well I sleep and how much I’m moving. One day I hope to replace this with the Health app and an Apple Watch, but that’s a ways off yet.

YNAB
Being wise with my money is something I am trying to be better at. I’m on a tight budget so making sure I’m saving and keeping money for various bills etc is really important. Since I started using YNAB I’ve found it to be really helpful and need it to check and add transactions too while I’m out and about. It’s the first budget app that’s stuck for me since Cha‐Ching many years ago.

Overcast & Apple Music
I listen to quite a few podcasts on varioius different subjects both while out and about and at home. When I moved some apps back to my home screen it made a lot of sense to include it in the eight. Apple Music follows similar logic, I like listening to music both out and about as well as at home. Usually it starts from my iPhone whether listening on headphones or over AirPlay to my living room speakers.

Instagram
My photo sharing app of choice. Interestingly as I type this I’m considering moving it back in to the apps folder and replacing it with something else. It still sucks me in when I’m just futzing about with no real intention which is what I’m trying to stop myself doing.

Micro.blog
Micro.blog is a fairly new service, I backed the kickstarter and have been using it since the launch of the beta. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself using it more and more, to the extent that I’m considering whether it’s worth replacing Tweetbot with it in my dock. I don’t think it’s got quite enough activity on it for that just yet, but maybe in the near future as more people are able to join the service.

Safari
Again self explanatory, I search the web a lot. Far more than I realised and despite using Spotlight to start most searches it became more annoying than just opening the app and starting a search.

Mail
It’s email, I get too much of it, I need to be able to at least keep an eye on it for communication. I don’t want to be sucked in to it too much so it doesn’t live in my dock anymore.

Page 2

This second page is purely for the apps I use regularly to watch content on my TV. In the case of these apps my iPhone becomes my TV remote. Triggering a cast from here turns my TV on and gets me straight in to the show or sporting event I want to watch. These apps are useful to be available without having to search, and keeping them on a focused second screen means they stay out of way for my general use during the day.
BBC iPlayer
– Now TV
– Netflix
– YouTube
BT Sport

Overall this has been a really interesting exercise that has helped me to really focus and consider how I use my iPhone. I hope to continue with it like this for a while. There’s just one thing I wish I could do, especially as I have small hands, and that is to be able to pin those eight apps to the two rows above the dock rather than at the top of the screen.

Beautility, My Ultimate iPhone Setup ›

Forgive me for linking to a piece on Medium, especially one that requires you to log in to read. But this interesting approach to using an iPhone compelled me to do so.

I’ve been feeling a bit of “app fatigue” when it comes to my iPhone lately. So many things on it feel like a bit of a time suck, a way to easily get lost in a world of social media and news. On reflection, maybe I’ve started to fall into too much habitual checking of apps and not letting my mind wander with down time. It could be an interesting experiment to try and see what effect this kind of setup might have on my iPhone use.

How Apple Saved My Life ›

If you do only one thing on the internet today, please watch this video by James Rath. In a world where so often technology can make us feel disconnected and absent from those around us, it’s important to see things from the other end something. In the case of James Rath it’s incredible to see how much technology has influenced his life in such a positive way.

Big Screens, Even Bigger Lessons & Learning to Make Tough Calls ›

This is a really insightful look into the process behind making an iPad app from an established iPhone app. As a designer I have some knowledge of designing for different screen sizes, but the behaviour of an app is very different to the behaviour of a website, albeit with some similarities. Before I begin any future web design projects I’ll definitely be giving this piece another read or two.

Airfoil 5.5: Now Playing on Chromecast! ›

One of my favourite Mac utilities has just been updated to add some excellent functionality. Airfoil now supports Chromecast and it works very well.

I’ve never understood why AirPlay from an iOS device only allows you to send audio to one speaker at a time, Airfoil is the perfect way to fix that. My MacBook Pro is normally on and so I AirPlay to Airfoils sister app Airfoil Satellite and then using the iOS Satellite app send the audio to what ever speakers I want. Since I have a Chromecast in my little studio I can now easily send Apple Music to my speakers without faffing around with cables. I put it to good use this morning streaming to both my studio speakers and kitchen speakers while I moved between the two rooms.

Introducing Microsoft Surface Studio ›

Microsoft have introduced the Surface Studio which looks incredible. As a designer this has instantly appealed to me. When I was a teenager studying for my GCSEs and A‐Levels I had a large drawing table in my bedroom, I used it as my desk to do all my design coursework since at the time it was all mostly done by hand. When I watched this video I was instantly taken back to that time, this looks like the drawing table of today. It looks like the iMac Apple could make if they applied some of their iPad vision to the world of desktop computing.

This morning I gave something a try for the first time. I left my MacBook Pro at home and took my iPad and Bluetooth keyboard out to do a bit of work. Since the release of iOS 9 last September I’ve heard many people talking about it has enabled them to use their iPad to do a lot of work. Being a designer I just pushed them aside, no software is able to produce artwork to the that the Creative Cloud apps can on my Mac, and so I just marked it as not yet for me. I have noticed recently that I’ve been naturally reaching for my iPad to do certain bits of work, largely emails and admin. I decided it was time to give it a try. Interestingly I’ve really enjoyed it and I think with a little thinking through, I could switch some of my web site maintenance tasks to the iPad.

App Store 2.0 ›

News broke last night of some changes to the App Store. Chief among them was the availability of subscription pricing to all types of apps. Many people seem to see it as a positive for developers, and I agree to some extent, but it all depends how those subscriptions will be used.

This quote from The Verge’s coverage of the news is exactly what I’m concerned about.

Tsiddon says his company makes around $10 million a year from its premium apps, which are sold for a one‐time purchase fee of $3.99 or $4.99. Lightricks has sold 8 million app downloads to date. Tsiddon hasn’t fully committed to a subscription model yet, only saying that he’s “excited to experiment with the business model,” but based on back‐of‐the‐envelope math he believes if his company saw 4 million downloads while charging a $4 monthly subscription fee, he could make 10 times his current annual revenue.

If developers start to shift to pricing like this, I and many others, will stop using their apps. I simply can not afford, and even if I could I would not be able to justify, paying $4 a month to use an app. Especially when it’s multiplied by the 12 independent apps on my iPhone homescreen. That’s not sustainable.

UK Developing Digital Driving License Stored in Apple Wallet App ›

This morning the CEO of the UK Driving License Authority posted a prototype on Twitter of a digital version of the UK driving license in Apple Wallet. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that this would be on their radar, but it’s certainly something I could get on board with. I really don’t like carrying my wallet around with me and Apple Pay is one of the big factors driving my desire to upgrade my iPhone (the fact it seems to be dying is the other) and having my driving license in the wallet would a great step to being able to leave my wallet at home.

Building a New Photography Workflow With the iPad Pro ›

Drew Coffman has some interesting observations in the opening paragraphs of his article about Building a New Photography Workflow with the iPad Pro.

“I’m just now realizing that the more and more I embrace each creative process, the less time I want to give to anything but the act of creating”

So often we change things because we think we should, but in actuality we should only really make changes in workflows and apps we use with motivation similar to the above. To free us up to create more things.

I like my blog, I enjoy it from many angles, from creating the design to posting to it regularly. But on reflection I realise that the thing I dislike the most is editing and feeling the pressure to write well. I just enjoy posting or my blog, and I enjoy reading articles and sharing the ones which I think are most interesting. Hence why my posting rate has increased since I made it easier to share an article to my blog from my iPad or my iPhone. The change in workflow has allowed me to do more of the thing I most enjoy about my blog.

Apple’s Actual Role in Podcasting ›

Marco Arment has written a great piece in relation to the secret Apple meeting with seven renowned podcast producers. He outlines Apples role and position in the podcasting world, what the podcasters are after and what it could mean.

It seems to me to be another case of the big companies trying to gain more control and data about those who listen. I’m in favour of things developing, but they need to remain open. The likes of Facebook and Medium are making the open web a harder place to be, and to me that is showing me how important it is that it remains easy to do things without the big data companies controlling everything. I couldn’t agree more with Marco’s final statements.

And the last thing we all need is for the “data” economy to destroy another medium.

The Sweet Setups Best Bible App ›

The Sweet Setup has spent some time looking for the best bible app on iOS. I’ve had a hot and cold relationship with bible apps, sometimes I find time incredibly useful, other times they seem cold and disconnecting. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve tried s number of the apps on this list and couldn’t agree more with the conclusion, in fact the two apps that I have installed on my iPhone and iPad are the top two from this article.

Ulysses 2.5 for iPad and, Now, iPhone Review ›

A glowing review which I couldn’t agree with more. Ever since I downloaded it for my iPad I’ve been using the app, now it’s on my iPhone as well everything I write for this site goes through the app. Paired with the Mac app, it’s great for writing sermons in as well.

One Year in: Why a Die‐Hard Mechanical Watch Lover Can’t Get the Apple Watch Off His Wrist (and Why That Matters) ›

Interesting read in to how a Die‐Hard Mechanical Watch Lover has fallen for the Apple Watch.

I’m becoming more Andre intrigued by this device. When the rumours for it began I didn’t see the point, but as software develops for it my attention becomes increasingly caught. It’ll be interesting to see when and how the second generation Watch builds on this initial offering.