Studio Neat Material Dock

A few weeks ago I received my Material Dock from Studio Neat. This takes the MagSafe charger for iPhone 12 and the charger for the Apple Watch and gives them a stationary home on your desk, side table, or anywhere else you want a reliable place to charge your devices. They stay put via a couple micro suction pads on the bottom with no adhesives necessary. Bottom line is they do what they say they’ll do wonderfully.

Trailer - Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell

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.

Griffey Checkup 2

I took Griffey in for another blood test this morning and his red cell percentage has basically leveled off. It’s not necessarily a bad thing at the moment, but the veterinarian wants him around 30%, where right now he’s at 23%. In the reading I’ve done, normal is somewhere around 25-45%.

Overall, Griffey seems more like his normal self. He’s asking to play again, getting up in his cat tree, and bouncing around like you’d expect a 12 month old to do. I don’t have much worry for him at the moment, as long as he continues being this way.

I have to take him in again Monday morning, so hopefully his red cell percentage has risen. I think both of us are getting tired of these frequent vet trips.

Bad News for Griffey

I didn’t expect to have to write anything like this already.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve noticed Griffey being lethargic and that he basically stopped eating. When I’d try to play with him, he would seem a little interested, but not give much effort. Very unusual for a cat at only a year old. Overall he didn’t seem like himself.

So, I took him into the vet today to get him checked out. Initial scans didn’t show anything and x-rays didn’t show anything particularly alarming. However, when drawing blood samples, they noticed his blood was very thin.

Upon testing, they’ve determined he was severely anemic. We’ve yet to pinpoint a cause at this time, but I’m having a blood transfusion done on him as I write this and he’ll be hospitalized overnight. The best case scenario is he’s sent home with some steroids and antibiotics and he rebounds well. I’m not wanting to think about the bad scenarios yet.

I want the best for this little guy. He’s such a sweet little cat and has been a bright spot for me since I let go of Remy over the summer. Up until this week, he seemed like his usual happy self. I had no clue something could be wrong. My hope is that I caught this early and we can move forward with a happy healthy life.

I’m thankful for the support system I have around me in times like this. I don’t know what I would do without my brother with his emotional and financial support. I hate asking for it, but I’m thankful he’s so willing to help. I have good family support and friends who I know will be there for me. I’m so happy I don’t have to do this alone.

With that, I hope for the best for Griffey.

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.

Still Thinking About an E-Reader

A few weeks ago, I took my old iPad Air, which is still running iPad OS 12, and kicked off as many stock apps as I could and turned off notifications for everything. The goal was to make it as distraction free as possible, so I could use it as an e-reader. To this point, I’ve used it once. My biggest issue is the size of a normal everyday iPad. What I really want is something more book-sized.

This leaves me thinking about one of two options for me: iPad Mini or Amazon Kindle.

Let’s look at some factors.

iPad Mini

  • Size - The iPad Mini would be about the right size I’m looking for. It’s very light and not too big to hold in the hand. I would format it to be strictly for reading, so no notifications, instant messaging, or anything else would be happing here.
  • Library - I’ve already bought a few ebooks from the Apple Books Store. I also have an RSS reader I love and also subscribe to Apple News as part of the Apple One bundle. I could also annotate quotes easier from this device, since my blogging system is very iOS friendly.
  • Ecosystem - I’m fully wrapped up in the Apple ecosystem.This means devices and services within the ecosystem work well together. If I buy or read a book on my phone, the bookmark would be in the same place on the Mini when I pick that up. Same goes for the rest of the services I use on a daily basis.
  • Temptation - One thing I cannot delete off an iPad Mini is the Safari, the default web browser. That leaves just a little bit of temptation to go down various ratholes and forget my initial intent of using the Mini in the first place.

Amazon Kindle

  • Size - Again, we’re talking a book-sized device. It’s light and easy to hold in the hand.
  • Battery - Since the Kindle is an e-ink display, which gives it far more battery life than a tablet would give, weeks even. That would allow me to just leave it on a side table or bedside and not think about charging it for a while. I could also think about leaving chargers at home when I go on vacation.
  • Amazon - I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. They have some disgusting practices with work environments and have wrecked the financial stability of people who live in the cities they have offices. They’re also everywhere and have everything. I can find virtually any book through them and that is an advantage.
  • Temptation - The Kindle comes without a browser, has no notifications from messaging, and lacks really anything else which could pull me away from reading. It serves one purpose and does it well.

Physical Books

I shouldn’t dismiss physical books with all of this. I ran a Twitter poll a couple days ago asking which people prefer, books or e-readers, and a majority said physical books. That said, when it came to actual feedback, I received more praise from the e-reader side.

One issue I have to think about with all of this is my own personal issues with this, namely an old wrist injury I sustained at work a few years ago. That injury makes it hard to do anything stressful to it for any period of time without pain. Holding a book open with one hand is one of those things.

I also think about collecting a bunch of books and then moving someday. That’s a lot of weight, folks. I get the aesthetic, the look and feel of actual books, but is it worth carrying heavy boxes of them some day? Not for me.

What I’m Doing Currently

While I have a Kindle on my mind, I’m going to go with what I have in front of me right now. The more I think about this, the more I’m going the iPad route, namely the iPad Pro I work with every day. I have created a Shortcuts workflow which sets aside some reading time and triggers do not disturb during the duration of that time. When it comes to holding the iPad Pro, it is light and I find the flat edges of the device make it easier to pivot in my hand.

I’ve also ordered a screen cover for the iPad Pro called Paperlike. It’s exactly how it sounds, as it gives a more paper-like surface for the Apple Pencil. This makes it feel more natural for note taking and any other writing I’d need to do on screen. It also gives the screen a more matte finish, cutting down the glare and reflections the regular glass gives. This means I can take the iPad Pro outside and read much easier in the sun.

So, this is the route I’m going to go. I want to read more in an effort to clear my head and gain all the other benefits reading gives. Here’s to more books in 2021.

Yeah, I’m Done

Note: I wrote most of this about three weeks ago. While I don’t see myself fully deleting my account, I do feel the need to step away from it, deleting the apps from my phone and only checking in on a browser at home.

I have principles when it comes to tech and how I use it. I try not to keep anything which doesn’t bring me any value and evaluate what use it is for me before picking up something new. I also believe in open web principles, or the ability to own my own data, unadulterated, with the ability to pick it up and easily deposit it somewhere else if I see fit. I also believe in respect of the data I do willingly give, trusting it's not going to be used for a malicious purpose.

I say all of this to say I’m at my wits end with Facebook. At this point, I don’t feel the need to run down their past actions when it comes to user privacy and respect for data. However, their recent newspaper ads against Apple have thrown me overboard. In case you’re out of the loop, Apple this week initiated their App Store privacy labels to show what data apps are collections from you and how they’re using that data. App developers are required to disclose what data is collected upon any new submissions to the App Store. Facebook has balked at this two days in a row, claiming the labels hurt small businesses.

As John Gruber of Daring Fireball explains:

Here’s the thing. Apple isn’t blocking the ability for Facebook to personalize ads, in any way. Apple is just providing users with control over their own privacy. Users can easily choose to keep providing Facebook (and anyone else) with all the information they want. Or they can choose not to.

Facebook sees Apple providing users with awareness of and control over their online privacy as Apple taking away from Facebook something that Facebook rightfully considers rightfully theirs. This is no different than telemarketers feeling like you’re doing them wrong when you add your phone number to a do-not-call list.

Again, Apple is only asking Facebook to disclose what they collect, not preventing them from collecting it.

Quoting Gruber in September:

Just because there is now a multi-billion-dollar industry based on the abject betrayal of our privacy doesn’t mean the sociopaths who built it have any right whatsoever to continue getting away with it. They talk in circles but their argument boils down to entitlement: they think our privacy is theirs for the taking because they’ve been getting away with taking it without our knowledge, and it is valuable. No action Apple can take against the tracking industry is too strong.

Facebook is simply acting out because they’re being outed in a major way. That said, it’s still up to the user to decide if they want to continue putting their life on Facebook. I understand many don’t feel they have a solution for this. But, I do, and it becomes really easy to leave a toxic relationship when you know you have a healthier one available to you.

That said, I’m ready to shut it all down. Much of this is entailed on the website deletefacebook.com, but this basically involves asking for a download of my collected data and then collecting the contact info of those who want it.

That’s where you come in if you’ve made it this far. If I have a mobile number for you, great! I’m also up for email addresses, mailing addresses, and birthdays if you want a greeting on said date. Just send me an email with that information.

As for alternatives to Facebook, I’ll lay them out here:

  • For micro blogging (or longer posts if you like), I suggest Micro.blog. That’s where this site resides and their mission is to make web journaling easy. Yes, it’s a paid service ($5-$10/mo), but remember your personal data is often the cost of “free” on the web.
  • Wordpress is another good option if you want something at no cost.
  • For chat, iMessage works great if you’re on Apple devices. For my Android users out there, I invite you to check out Signal. They’re an encryption based communications company with a great track record. However, I’m sure most will stick to basic text messaging and that’s fine.

Facebook isn’t without its good qualities. But, at this point, I can’t say those good qualities outweigh the bad. This all comes down to their leadership, who after many chance to change and do better, they’ve essentially doubled down instead.

I’ve also gotten this extreme jittery feeling whenever I deal with the site. I feel like an addict being pulled in and that’s uncomfortable to say the least. The best thing to do in a situation like that is to step away. So that’s what I’m doing.

Four Years

My father passed away four years ago yesterday. After the second anniversary, the burn of the moment seemed to subside. There’s still moments where it blindsides me, but for the most part I’m mostly normal.

It’s different with a parent though. No matter your relationship with them, it’ll hit you. The relationship I had with my father was not even close to perfect or something I look fondly of in its entirety. Yet, where I got past the death’s of aunts and uncles fairly quickly, my father lingers.

The thing I still miss the most is the conversations. It wasn’t really until the last few years of his life I got to know something of his upbringing on the Gulf Coast. I knew much of his time in the California desert and Nebraska, but little of his time in Mississippi. There’s still much I don’t know. But this is what happens when there gaps in a relationship.

Still, I sit here four years later and I can smile with ease. I’m sure of myself. I like where I’m at and where I’m hopefully going. It wasn’t easy at first. But, over time, it’s gotten easier. We all grieve at our own pace and in our own ways. I like where I’m at in that process for myself.

How COVID is Changing Japanese Communities

VICE Asia put together an interesting short documentary on how COVID is effecting cities like Tokyo, where more people are leaving the city than moving in. This is a trend which has gone on for about three months straight.

COVID has made me consider how I go about my life. I think about what’s important to me, how I want to live. I’m seeking a change in career and as I do, I think about wether I want to be remote.

I think about moving out west. If I move back to the Pacific Northwest, do I live in a place like Seattle or Tacoma, or do I go to somewhere less crowded like Bremerton or Gig Harbor? I think about my current situation living in a smaller city, somewhere which doesn’t have horrible commutes compared to other cities.

I’m betting I’m not the only one thinking about issues much like this. For years, people have converged into urban areas. Are we to the point where we start to spread out more?

H/t Chris Hannah