Tech

Read-Only Twitter

On the latest episode of The Talk Show with John Gruber, guest Marco Arment mentions how since, he hasn’t paid for Tweetbot as of late, he’s using it as a read-only Twitter client. He says it’s actually more enjoyable this way.

This got me thinking about how I could go about this. I use Feedbin for my RSS feeds, which support following a single Twitter account or a Twitter list. Retweets can be disabled, so that I’m only getting original content. If there are any links to articles, the text is grabbed from the article for me and ready to read. I can also star posts within Feedbin and share out if I choose.

So, what about posting? I post here. I do the thing I’m doing now. If you’re not familiar, this blog cross-posts to Twitter, so anything you see here you’ll see there. All of this goes into my concept of my digital decluttering I’m looking at. It’s worth a try at least.

Creating a Few Less Distractions

More and more, I’m becoming more about having my tech make as little sound as possible. The exclusion to this would be my smart speakers, since that’s literally their job. But, that’s good noise. What I don’t want are the various sounds that come from the different phones, tablets, and computers in my home.

It’s because of this I’m a considerable fan of silent mode on my devices. Increasingly, however, I’ve started using Do Not Disturb more. There’s an option on the Apple Watch to instantly activate DND when starting a workout. Apple also has option for DND which include staying on until you leave a location and until an event ends. I’ve started using the latter of these for while I’m at work. This keeps my Watch from tapping me throughout the day and my phone from vibrating in my pocket, attempting to draw my attention from what I’m doing.

I’ve also limited the number of notifications which can make a sound or vibration on my iPhone. Things like sports or news app end up working as a bit of a news feed in this way. I’ve also taken the time to employ some suggestions from Zac Hall’s article on 9to5Mac on toning down the distractions from the Apple Watch. I’ve personally limited my notifications down to three things:

  • Messages (iMessage/SMS)
  • Health
  • Weather

I want to know important things and these three things are the most important to me. Sports scores, social media updates, email, etc. can all wait. Some of these things, like sports news updates, get delivered to my phone silently to the Notification Center. Email apps and most social media have been deleted completely off my phone.

All of this is part of a process I’m going through to remove clutter from my life, both digitally and physically. It’s all an attempt to think more freely, to quiet my mind, and to really enjoy the things I care about. In the end, I hope to be a happier person.

Apple Watch Pride Braided Solo Loop Band

I love Apple’s solo loop bands for the Apple Watch. They provide a minimal yet classy look for the device while still having a good fit around the wrist. Personally, I bought the dark green braided solo loop earlier this year, and it continues to be one of my favorite bands.

A couple of weeks ago, Apple announced their new Pride bands for the year. One is a Nike sport loop band with the basic Pride colors and some reflective material made for runners. The other is a braided solo loop, which features colors from all the colors of LGBTQ+ flags interwoven among each other. That band is the one I just picked up.

I love this band! I fully believe in basic human social and civil rights, so this gives me a way to show I’m an ally in all of this. On the other hand, it also reminds me of the afghans my grandmother made that I grew up with around the house. This band is really stunning. I love the look of it.

One little note about this band: on the packaging of the band, there’s an App Clip that can be used to set the matching watch face to your watch. You simply open the camera app, point it at the App Clip code and an interface will launch allowing you to select the version of the watch face you like. It’s pretty slick.

There’s a part of me that’s really starting to like some of Andriod’s design choices.

Apple Music Lossless requires wired headphones, AirPods will only get Spatial Audio

Filipe Espósito, writing for 9to5Mac:

To make things simple, here’s the hardware needed for each new Apple Music feature:

Lossless: a wired headphone (except for AirPods Max with Lightning/3.5mm cable)

Hi Res Lossless: a wired headphone connected to an external DAC

Spatial Audio: any AirPods or Beats model with Apple’s W1 or H1 chip (Apple says that users can manually enable this option for other headphones)

On a related note, Apple Music Lossless will not work with HomePod or HomePod mini. Spatial Audio will also be available on compatible Macs.

So, why are we hyping up lossless audio then? The Spatial Audio feature sounds neat. It’s already a trippy experience when watching a movie, so I can only imagine how immersive an audio track can be, especially one with live instruments. But, it’s a bit disappointing lossless formats won’t work with products like AirPods Max or the original HomePod.

Just plugged in the Xbox One for the first time in three years. I looked in to Xbox Game Pass yesterday and it looked enticing. Now to run some system updates.

Fun fact: Madden 18 was still in the drive.

A Blank Slate

This is a current shot of my email inbox. It’s empty. Not a thing here. I like it that way. I’m not entirely an Inbox Zero type, but I’m somewhere close. If anything, I’m a neat freak when it comes to any of my tech. I don’t like many icons on my desktop, I use Twitter lists to curate my experience there, and the menu bar on my website here is discrete.

I recently signed up for an account with Fastmail, after seeing it heavily recommended across Micro.blog. I’ve dabbled a little with Hey, but I’m finding I want a little more control in my organization than Hey provides, so I’m thinking of asking for a refund there.

But, the thing I think I’m enjoying the most is having a blank slate with my email. I still have old iCloud and Gmail accounts out there, and they’ll both stay open for my reasons with each. However, the amount of crap that comes into both of those is a bit much. My iCloud email is being forwarded to my Fastmail address, but it’s quickly hit with filters for the smart folders I’ve set up, which are designed to emulate SaneBox as much as possible. There’s also some perks to moving to a paid email service (yes, I’m paying for email), such as pixel trader blocking and just the trust I have that Fastmail won’t rummage through my emails the way Google does with Gmail. There’s also being able to use my domain name.

All of this adds up to me sticking with Fastmail for the foreseeable future. So far, I’m really loving it.

12 South Curve Laptop Stand

I just received my Curve laptop stand from 12 South, so I thought I’d give a quick first impressions review. The Curve is one solid piece of metal with two rubber pads on the forks to keep your laptop from slipping. There’s nothing to set up here and this thing isn’t adjustable at all. It’s meant to be minimal in that regard.

That said, this thing hold my 13” MacBook Air at a great height for me when I’m sitting at my desk. I briefly gave a monitor a chance before this and between the resolution and the way it sat on my desk, it didn’t feel right. This setup with the Curve feels right. I’m only 5’8”, which, I assume, is about average for most people. I don’t have to slouch or anything with how my laptop is propped up on my desk. All this said, I love this thing!

The first iPhone/iPad ap I’m running on my MacBook Air is MLB At Bat. Works pretty good so far. I think the best part about this is I don’t have any fear of turning the game off when I quit my browser.

Picked Up a New MacBook

So, I made the plunge into using a Mac with Apple’s own silicon. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of months, weighing pros and cons. Today, I flipped the switch.

I have a 2017 iMac on my desk as I type this. It’s a decent computer. The display is absolutely gorgeous. I won’t even say it’s showing its age, as I believe the thing was just a little sluggish to begin with. I’ve seen the reviews and demonstrations of just how fast the M1 Macs are. I’m used to that kind of speed with my iPad Pro and my iPhone. When I launch an app, I see no reason why it shouldn’t load instantly. The iMac was becoming frustrating to use because of this.

Add in the fact I wouldn’t mind a little extra portability and I felt like I reached a tipping point with this machine. So, I looked into how much a trade-in on that machine would be and found it still would take a substantial amount off the price of a baseline M1 MacBook Air, which I picked up this afternoon.

My first impressions of this machine are “holy shit!”. One of the slowest apps on my iMac was Apple Music. We’re talking it would take 30 seconds for that app to load on screen. On the MacBook Air, the icon makes one bounce and the app is on-screen and ready to go. This is how I expect things to work.

One thing I’ve noticed is the screen size. It’s great with the MacBook in my lap. It’s on a desk where I notice the disparity. I’m somewhere between getting an external 27” monitor paired with a laptop stand like 12 South’s BookArc, or just going with a laptop stand like the Curve from 12 South.

One other adjustment is the keyboard. When I’m mobile, I’m used to typing on the Magic Keyboard for the 11” iPad Pro. That said, I think I enjoy the MacBook in my lap better. Between the bigger base and the bigger keyboard, it seems to suit the scenario of typing in my lap. While on the go, I think the iPad Pro will still be my primary travel machine.

Overall, I’m happy with the new machine so far. Absolutely no regrets in my purchase today.

Mac OS X launched 20 years ago today. It came with a brand-new interface, one that prompted me to switch while I was taking graphics design classes. The Aqua interface was much more flexible than what Windows offered at the time. I haven’t looked back since.

Ulysses 22 is out

Ulysses has long been one of my favorite writing apps. The problem I’ve had with it is I’ve not quite had a major use for it. Giving me a main reason could give me a reason to pull everything else into Ulysses as well. Well, with version 22, Ulysses has added support for Micro.blog publishing.

I especially love how they describe Micro.blog:

If you don’t know Micro.blog, you should definitely check it out. It’s like Twitter, only without ads, and without likes or retweets, and without posts that are forced into your timeline, and without a character limit that encourages reduction. It’s also decentralized, you own your content, it has themes, and it’s built by a very cool team of really nice people.

I’ve been using the beta for version 22 for a couple of weeks now, and I can tell you publishing to Micro.blog from Ulysses has been great. I suggest checking it out, along with the other features Ulysses provides.

I Love Time to Walk

Lately, I’ve been using Apple’s Time to Walk feature in Apple Fitness+. Here’s how Apple describes the feature:

An inspiring new audio walking experience on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers, created to encourage users to walk more often and reap the benefits from one of the healthiest activities. Each original Time to Walk episode invites users to immerse themselves in a walk alongside influential and interesting people as they share thoughtful and meaningful stories, photos, and music. Time to Walk can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere with Apple Watch and AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones.

I absolutely love this feature. Most Fitness+ workouts I feel excluded from, either for a lack of equipment, or because I live in a second floor apartment and I recently had a new downstairs neighbor move in. I’m fairly certain they would like me doing some kind of aerobic workout above them.

What I love about Time to Walk is it puts you in to the featured person’s world. For example, I just listened to the walk with NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace. The walk is on his property, and you can hear the birds chirping around him and his feet shuffling through the dry leaves below him as he tells his story of coming up through racing. Just for this moment, I feel like I’ve left my usual surroundings and entered his.

The walks usually trend around 35 minutes, thought you’re by no means married to the time. You can go longer or shorter if you like. Metrics are tracked on the Apple Watch like any other walk. The stories I’ve heard have been interesting across the board thus far, and I find their musical choices enjoyable. I find it all to be a good way to get out of my reality for a little while. I definitely will keep using this feature.

MailPixelBlocker is an Apple Mail plugin for blocking tracking pixels

🔗 MailTrackerBlocker

This is a plugin for macOS Apple Mail which seeks to block the tracking pixels sent in many emails, especially commercial emails. Tracking pixels have become increasingly prevalent over the past few years, and they can report everything from your physical IP address to the kind of device you’re on.

I’m currently on a trial using the email service Hey, which blocks tracking pixels on their end. I’m finding the service as a whole to be superb and the tracking pixel blocking is a nice benefit to have. However, not everyone is looking to potentially shell out $100/yr ($8.33/mo) on an email service, so plugins like MailTrackerBlocker are a nice alternative.

Unfortunately, this is only for macOS, so those who use Apple Mail or any other client on iOS/iPadOS are still at risk of being tracked if you check your email on your phone. Hopefully, this issue has rung enough alarms in Cupertino to make tracking pixel blocking a feature through all platforms.

Apple Watch Braided Solo Loop

I just received my tax return, so I did as one does and spent a little money on myself and picked up one of the braided solo loop bands for the Apple Watch.

So far, I’m loving this thing. It’s super comfortable, to the point I can barely feel I have the watch on. It’s not too loose or too tight. I’m an hour away from the nearest Apple Store, and given the coronavirus pandemic didn’t want to deal with going to a store if I didn’t need to. So, I used John Gruber’s sizing guide to determine which size to get and accurately got a size 6 band. The watch doesn’t move on me at all. It’s a perfect fit.

I love how this band looks as well. There are no clasps or Velcro needed here, since it’s just one seamless piece. That minimalism is something I’m totally into. I think I found my new favorite Apple Watch band style.

Sometimes, it's the little things

Just in the last two incremental iOS/iPadOS updates, Apple has fixed a couple of small things that mean a lot:

  • Bluetooth device categorization (14.4) - This was an annoying one for me. I have a Bluetooth dongle in my car which I use to transmit music from my iPhone to my car stereo. Before this update, the iPhone assumed this device was a pair of headphones. Because of this, the iPhone would assume I was listening to headphones at full volume and would automatically turn the volume down to a safe level. This is really annoying when you’re driving and not listening to music on headphones. Now, if you go into Settings > Bluetooth, then click on the device you want to edit, you’ll see you can now change the type of device you’re listening on, which also allows for Apple to get a better reading at your listening volumes for hearing health.
  • Unlocking iPhone with FaceID while wearing a mask (14.5) - This is still very much in beta, but it is working. If you own an Apple Watch, it’ll allow your iPhone to unlock when FaceID fails if you’re wearing a mask. This is huge for all of us living with COVID. I recently switched to a much shorter numeric passcode on my phone because of this issue. Now, I should be able to switch back to my much longer alpha-numeric passcode, which is just better for security in general. This seems to only work when your Apple Watch is in it’s active state, so you may have to always raise your wrist to activate the unlock, but it does work much like how you can unlock a Mac with your Watch.
  • Emoji Search on iPad (14.5) - You could do this since the release of iOS 14 on iPhone. Finally, you can do the same on iPad. Sometimes predictive text doesn’t always offer you the emoji you want to use. This solves that issue with a separate search option in the emoji keyboard.
  • Landscape loading screen on iPad (14.5) - Before now, the loading screen has always been in portrait mode, which looks dumb when you have your iPad attached to a keyboard in laptop mode. No more.

What all of this tells me is Apple is no longer waiting until the major version updates to deploy new features. This goes back to 2020 when they deployed full trackpad support on the iPad, coinciding with the release of the Magic Keyboard. That said, there’s still a couple small iPad related things I hope they address sooner than later:

  • App Library - It’s on the iPhone. It should be on the iPad as well.
  • Hiding Homescreens - Again, it’s on the iPhone, but not the iPad. I would love to have this option.

Other than that, Apple has been making a lot of satisfying updates recently.

The Paperlike Screen Protector

I just received and installed the Paperlike screen protector, which aims to give the screen a more paper-esque texture to make writing with the Apple Pencil on the screen a better experience. In my first impression, it does seem to do just that. There seems to be just a little bit more friction on the screen than the bare glass provides, so writing is much more stable on my iPad Pro now.

The other thing I was curious about was reading on my iPad with the Paperlike. So, I opened one of the books I’ve been packing at and read a couple of pages. One of the first things I noticed was that it seems to soften the text a bit, in some ways similar to ink printed on paper. I found that to be just a little bit easier on the eyes. I could find myself using my iPad Pro as my primary reading device now.

Fingerprints are also basically nonexistent. As I look at it now, I can see a couple smudges from finger oils, but nothing overly abrasive and bothersome like I had before. I always look to clean fingerprints off my screen and I’m not having that knee jerk reaction at the moment.

This all leaves me with some solid first impressions of the Paperlike. I have a feeling I’ll end up leaving this thing on, and this comes from someone who usually doesn’t like screen protectors.

Apple Talk on Quitting Facebook

On the recent episode of Apple Talk with Rene Ritchie and Georgia Dow, Rene goes into some detail of why Facebook is problematic. Much of this revolves around political based accounts which continuously violate Facebook’s terms, but often get a pass because of possible deals or because Facebook doesn’t want to deal with the backlash, both of which would affect their bottom line.

I went all in on using an iPad Pro about a year ago, when I traded my MacBook in for credit towards an Apple Watch. The iPad Pro was simply the better performer of the two with much better battery life. With that said, I’m curious about today’s Apple event. 🖥

Pondering a New iPhone

When the iPhones 12 were announced, the time had finally come for me to explore updating my device. For the last three years I’ve been running with an iPhone X, so anything coming out in 2020 would be a significant upgrade. There’s also the updated design, which resembles Apple’s current iPad Pro line, which I find extremely enjoyable in both how it looks and how it feels to hold.

I’m really intrigued by the iPhone 12 mini, as I see it as somewhat of an in between of the iPhone X and the original iPhone SE. I like the idea of having a smaller iPhone, one I could easily use with one hand without stretching my thumb to get to the far upper corner. However, preorders for that device don’t start until this Friday, November 6.

So, I did some snooping around on Apple’s website today and found I could have a normal sized iPhone 12 as early as tomorrow. That’s a very tempting proposition. So, which iPhone 12 is best for me? Since the internals are exactly the same, let’s do a size comparison:

iPhone SE iPhone X iPhone 12 mini iPhone 12
Height 4.87” 5.65” 5.18” 5.78”
Width 2.31” 2.79” 2.35” 2.82”
Screen size 4” 5.8” 5.4” 6.1”

One thing I’ll say about the first generation iPhone SE is it does feel slightly cramped in the hand. As you can see, there’s only a difference in width of .04” between the iPhone SE and iPhone 12 mini, so there’s a chance I could feel the same way about the iPhone 12 mini. That said, there’s no bezel on the iPhone 12 mini like there is on the SE, so maybe the difference is closer to .1” in terms of feel, but I’m still not sure that’s enough to not have it feel cramped.

That basically leaves me ready to pull the trigger on the normal sized iPhone 12. I’m thinking I’ll get it in blue.

An Ode to Apple Pay on Apple Watch

Just about everyday, I see people fumble through self-checkout lines. I watch as they tap around the screen, try to figure out which payment option to select, fumble with their cards or cash, maybe wait for change, then fumble around with the purse or wallet before gathering their stuff and leaving.

Me, I scan my items, hit total, double click the button on my Apple Watch to trigger Apple Pay, wave my watch in front of the reader, then collect my receipt. No fumbling around with cash, cards, wallets, or purses. This doesn’t even touch on pandemic related issues.

There’s a part of me who wishes transparent was still an option for the new widget style in iOS 14.

10 Days Sans Facebook

10 days ago, I shared a post, which marked my exit from Facebook until at least after Election Day. I deleted the apps from my mobile devices (including Instagram) and already had the site blacklisted on my devices through the app 1Blocker.

I totally get the addictive properties of the site. Many times I’ve been on my phone and felt the urge to look, yet I’ve resisted. But, I don’t miss the garbage I saw daily on the site. Often people I followed would get the 30 day mute, even some I consider close friends. I see what the incumbent does daily through my RSS feeds, I don’t really need it elsewhere. Unlike Twitter, which I manipulate heavily through a third party app, there’s no real good, secure way to filter the noise on Facebook.

Being we’re in a Covid world here in the US, there hasn’t been much concern over missing any events. I did miss out on an Oktoberfest event at my favorite bar, but I was working anyways so no worries. There’s still plenty of seasonal brews around.

Overall, I’m happy being off the site. We’ll see come November where I stand, but I could be comfortable enough to delete my account all together. I’ve seen plenty of posts on the web with a good step by step of things to do to guide me the right way. Until then, I’ll continue posting my happenings here and yelling about the Stanley Cup Finals on Twitter1.


  1. Go Bolts! [return]

Just had my first phone call on the HomePod. It’s like having the person next to you.