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 publishing.

I especially love how they describe

If you don’t know, 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 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 iconic watches that inspired Apple Watch faces

An interesting, detailed look at the inspiration behind some of the watch faces on the Apple Watch.

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.

Location Based Apple Watch Faces?

One of the actions in Shortcuts for iOS 14 is Change Watch Face, which actually changes the watch face on your Apple Watch to the one you select within the action. I paired this with an automation where when I hit my work’s WiFi network, it asks is I want to change to my Work watch face. Works like a charm.

I’ve begun adding YouTube channels to my RSS feeds and I’m finding it to be a much easier way of seeing when new videos are out. YouTube’s UI is simply too cluttered and too concerned with feeding you videos from other channels.

What I’m going with for now. Once Fantastical updates, I’ll stack it onto the Things widget. Carrot Weather is stacked with the conditions and radar widgets.

At this point in the iOS beta cycle (with a GM coming soon), all I want to see are the widgets third party developers have come up with.

Checking Out Apple News+ Audio

Apple News+ has been a service which I've been back and forth on. I'll subscribe for a month or so, lose interest and unsubscribe, only to resubscribe a few months later. My biggest issue was consistently wanting to take time to read articles. This is a general issue I have with reading, if I'm being honest.

Recently, Apple debuted audio within its News+ service. Included is Apple News Today, a daily news briefing which runs somewhere between 5-10 minutes. Also included is a selection of narrated articles from a select list of publications.

I first checked out an article on John Legend in this month's issue of Variety. Once finished, it transitioned to another article from the curated "For You" section, which tries to pick stories based on your interests and reading history. I listened while I was working yesterday and found this as a nice way to digest articles when I'm not able to sit down and actively read. Without audio, there's a chance I may have never encountered these articles in the first place, so I'm finding it as a welcome addition to Apple News+.