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If we ever get Weather for iPad, this is how I’d expect it to look. Between and iPad app and better notifications and radar, it could replace Carrot as my app of choice. It’s so close!

On Watches

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I’m currently wearing this watch while my Apple Watch charges. It’s a backup watch I paid $20 for, something I keep in my desk drawer for times like this. Part of me wonders if I could live with a traditional watch like this, while another part wonders how much I’d miss a smart watch. Little things like setting a timer, task management, or skipping a song while my phone is out of reach are nice uses. But, I do like the potential style options of having multiple traditional watches around.

On Interoperability and Instant Messaging Privacy

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Greg Morris:

Interoperability and big tech giants are not the real target, your privacy is, and they want the right to snoop on you. Sure, messaging should work like email, but the governments of your country made a world that requires your messages to be encrypted and are now breaking it with something ‘simple’.

Greg is on to something. There’s a certain peace of mind that comes from me receiving a blue bubble in iMessage. I know for a fact that message is end-to-end encrypted. It’s why I wish my friends with Android devices would use something like Signal with me.

Now, I have basically nothing to hide. I don’t get involved with criminal activity. Hell, I rarely text much anyway, so there’s very little chance of even some behind the scenes shenanigans going on. I want end-to-end encryption for the same reason I close my blinds at night: what I do on my device or in my home is my business and nobody else’s. Simple as that.

But, governments, more and more, don’t think so. Numerous bills have floated through Congress attempting to chip away at end-to-end encryption. They claim it’s to help law enforcement to catch criminals and terrorists, but that’s such a small segment of society, is it worth it to the rest of us to give up our privacy because of a selected few? Further, with how viciously conservatives are going after the LGBTQ+ community and activists, who’s to stop them from snooping to lock up private citizens simply because they don’t like their way of life? You know damn well Texas would.

So, while I agree the whole messaging thing is messy these days, simply forcing big tech companies to comply with each other, thus stripping away some of the privacy features of these platforms, isn’t the answer.

Apple AirPods Max

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When I was a kid, my family had one of those classic component stereo systems that had separate units for the receiver, amplifier, tape deck, and record player. Later, we added a CD player. My brother had these over-the-ear headphones that I would steal all the time to listen to music for hours at a time as I sat in front of this stereo.

There was something about having over-the-earphones that felt so much more immersive than listening from stand-alone speakers in a room. The world around me would be transformed into one of my own, one where I would incision live performances being performed right in front of me.

Over the years, however, the headphones I had gradually got smaller. First, it was the standard set of Sony Walkman headphones, then Apple EarPods, followed by a mix of AirPods and other workout type headphones. I currently own a pair of AirPods Pro, and I love them for the most part. The biggest flaw I see in them is I’ve never had a perfect fit with them, so they gradually slip out of my ears, allowing outside noise to slip through.

That isn’t the case with the AirPods Max. I bought these because my new apartment has some rather thin walls. When I’m in my office, I can clearly hear my neighbor’s music and conversations. There’s also the dog downstairs, who I’ve dubbed Murder Dog, who insatiably barks whenever his owner leaves. The seal on the AirPods Max combined with their noise-canceling fully erases any outside noise for me. As I type this now, I’m siding in a fairly busy Panera at lunchtime and the only thing I can hear besides music is me eating a potato chip.

Besides the noise-canceling, I love how these things sound. Once again, I’m immersed in my music. I hear tones I didn’t pick up on before and notice background vocals more than I ever have. More so, I’ve really enjoyed wearing these while watching TV. When watching soccer matches, I can hear the supporters sections more clearly, while regular TV shows feel more cinematic. It’s the closest I’ll have to a private theatre.

One big difference between the AirPods Max and Pro is the signal they project. The Max look like you’re listening to something while I’ve had people attempt to talk to me many times over with the Pro. That said, when switched to Transparency Mode, I’ve been able to carry on conversations with my girlfriend with no problem.

The build on the Max are by far the best I’ve owned in a set of headphones. The band is rubbery with a bed of meshed fabric in the middle, which never seems to provide too much pressure to my head. Those headphones I wore as a kid would make the top of my head ache in short order. The main units are aluminum with metal rods attached for the adjustable fit. The cuffs are barely noticeable for myself and have never left my ears sweaty thus far. Those cuffs are removable, allowing them to be replaced when they do finally wear down.

If I had a beef with the AirPods Max, it’s the battery. There’s no off switch on these headphones, only an included case which covers the cuffs and sends the headphones into a low-power state through the sorcery of magnets. Still, while I’ve never had to stop listening to charge these headphones, I still find myself charging them at least once a week. Not a considerable inconvenience as long as I don’t forget to plug them in overnight.

All in all, I do love the AirPods Max. They serve the purpose I sought with them, which was to give me great, immersive audio while drowning out the world around me. They do cost a good chunk of change, but between the sound, the build, and the little bits of magic from being in the Apple ecosystem, I feel good with my purchase.

Servicing My AirPods Pro

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There’s been a known issue with the AirPods Pro where a crackling noise will appear, especially in situations where there’s heavy bass. This began happening for me about two months ago, not only with heavy bass, but also in situations with a lot of outside wind or other outside noise.

So, I took them into my local Apple Store to have them looked at, since Apple offers a free replacement program for this specific issue.

After a short wait, an associate checked the firmware and iOS version I was running. From there, he took my AirPods to the back to run a sound diagnostics test on them. Upon returning, he informed me both buds showed the rattling issue, and therefore I was getting both buds replaced free of charge. I even got some new tips for my troubles. After charging the new buds up and pairing them to my iPhone, I was good to go.

And that’s the entire process. About as painless as I could ask for.

Meditation

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My mom has been battling some high blood pressure issues of late, which have been causing severe headaches and even landing her in the hospital for observation for a couple days. She has prescriptions set which will hopefully help her, but these need to be combined with diet and exercise as well.

I’ve been touting the workouts in the Fitness app on her Apple Watch and iPhone for some time. Fitness+ has become a decent sized library at this point and it’s really easy to find what you want on there. In addition to this, the Time to Walk guided walks on the Apple Watch are something I’ve come to enjoy to get me on an interesting 30 minute walk from time to time.

More recently, Fitness+ has added meditations to the lineup. I’ve done a few of these under the themes of Calm and Focus and have found both to deliver on their intent. Last night I Facetime’d my mom and guided her how to get into doing one of these meditations. She was definitely impressed and could feel a difference afterwords, enough to want to do these often to help relax her and get her blood pressure down. With that in mind, I’ve put together a brief little how-to to guide her and anyone else on how to do these. It’s amazing what a few minutes of deep breathing can do.

On iPads and eReaders

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I’ve been feeling the urge to read more. The problem is: I can’t stand holding physical books. They look cool on a shelf. I appreciate good typography and quality binding. But, I simply cannot pry a book open for an extended amount of time with one hand without some level of discomfort. That’s my beef with books.

So, I’ve been attempting to read in my 11” iPad Pro of late. On one hand, it’s nice I can prop it up on a table and read hands free, thanks to Apple’s Magic Keyboard folio. On the other hand, the size of the tablet on its own makes it extremely top-heavy for me to enjoy holding it for long periods of time while reading on the couch. With its form factor, I find it to be good for reading a couple magazine articles from Apple News+, but not so much for anything more than 10 to 15 minutes.

For a hot minute, I pondered the new iPad Mini. Reviews propped it up as a great device to read on, on top of it being a fully capable iPad. I looked around to see if I could pick one up, but found many places to be unavailable, with a wait time on Apple’s website of a month if I ordered one there.

I really began to weigh my decision at this point. If I had two iPads in my possession, obviously the mini would take some use away from the Pro, mostly content consumption, like reading and watching video. I recently bought a new MacBook, which has taken some of my writing away from the iPad Pro, so having the mini around would only make the Pro even less useful to me.

So, what if we took reading out of the equation? Then I’d favor the size of the Pro over the mini. Bigger is better for watching video. I do still enjoy writing on the Pro occasionally, thanks to the quality of the Magic Keyboard attached to it. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to give up that keyboard. There’s no quality option like this for the mini.

Then it occurred to me, there’s a category of device I wasn’t even considering: eReaders. If reading is my major concern, eReaders check all the boxes. They’re lightweight and easy to hold in the hand. They’re easy to read, have backlighting for dimly lit rooms, while looking great in sunlight. As a bonus, thanks to them having eInk displays, they have battery life that lasts for weeks. One more thing, they’re far less expensive than a $500 iPad Mini.

For a split second, I looked at the Kobo line of eReaders. They have good typography, Overdrive library access baked in, and provide an overall quality experience. But, they’re also backed by Walmart here in the States, which makes me uncomfortable. This may sound odd given what I did go with, but I just have some major issues with Walmart. I’ve also seen them try media ventures in the past only to see nobody care and the product fizzles away.

Instead, I picked up an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Say what you will about Amazon, I’ll likely agree with you. But, they do have this eReader thing locked down.

I ordered it with a folio case and paid my toll to get rid of the ads. I’ve been giving it a whirl for the past day and I have to say I really like this experience. It does one thing really well; it allows me to read a book in peace without my hand cramping up after 10 minutes. No notifications, no phone calls, no social media apps to pull me away, just words on a screen that I can comfortably look at for a long period of time.

I repurchased Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism, which I’ve had on Apple Books. I’m starting about halfway through it, in which it’s taken me well over a year to get that far on the iPad. I’m curious to see how long it takes me to finish it now that I’m on the Kindle. In any case, I’m hopeful to build a quality, calming habit going forward.

On Switching from 1Password to Apple Keychain

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I’ve been wondering if I should move all my account logins from 1Password to Apple Keychain. I’ve actually supported my mom using Apple Keychain for her logins since it’s baked into iOS and therefore simpler to use.

For me though, I’ve stored everything from checking account info and software keys in 1Password and I’ve wondered how I could access those without 1Password. Justin Cox has a good idea:

I also use 1Password to secure important details — insurance numbers, license plates, rewards program account numbers, and other things you can never find when they’re needed. For each of these, I created locked notes in Apple’s Notes app.

I never thought of that, but I like it. I’m all about simplification, so, it looks like I have a weekend project ahead of me.

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“I remember designing the Notes app, while Raymond and Laurent did Calendar and Address Book. We sat next to each other, and during our coffee and tea breaks we’d take a guess at the type of stitching Steve would approve.”

Angela Guzman, former designer at Apple

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Well, I’m back on the beta train. iOS 15.1 is an update I’ve been looking forward to, so call me a little impatient. This update includes SharePlay which, along with allowing users to enjoy different types of media via FaceTime, it also finally brings screen sharing to iOS. This is huge for troubleshooting with my mom’s iPhone since we live an hour apart. So, thought I’d test things out, so I know how to go about things when I need to.

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I initially missed the Steve Jobs tribute on Apple’s front page yesterday. Luckily, Tim Cook tweeted out the video that was shared on that page. Such a remarkable, tireless mind. Steve is still missed. 

Cable Management Project

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For a while, I’ve wanted to tuck the cords at my desk away. Today I achieved that goal. It’s just a much cleaner look.

Shoutout to Edward Lee for his YouTube tutorial on how to do this. I’m pleased with the results.

The top of my desk.

Underneath my desk.

Behind my desk, showing the wire-catcher.

Under my desk, showing where my power strips are hidden.

Read-Only Twitter

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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

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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:

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.