Finally, a smart discussion of pro apps on iPad

I recently discovered Cup of Tech podcast and gave a listen to episode 129 and I’m really glad I did. I found perhaps the best, most mature and informative discussion of “pro apps”for the iPad Pro. I think the quality of discussion is largely due to the fact that the podcast hosts are all developers and it’s reflected in the information provided by the discussion. They begin by discussing the apps that currently exist which might be defined as pro such as Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer and Procreate. They then move on to the usual mention of Apple’s pro apps specifically Final Cut Pro, Logic and Xcode. But then they go into an actual discussion of what needs to be happening behind the scenes and what might explain the lack of these apps that’s far. Specifically they go into a fascinating discussion of SwiftUI, Catalyst, and development process of those frameworks as it might relate to the complicated process of writing the pro apps. They don’t dig so far that a non-developer would get lost (I’m not a developer) but rather discuss the frameworks in terms of what they can currently do, current limits (in the publicly available versions) and what they can probably do behind the scenes (given new versions likely being used at Apple), and just a generally excellent discussion of the various considerations in developing complicated apps and in developing frameworks to produce those apps.

In other words it’s not just a brief and pointless repetition of the usual complaining but rather an actual exploration of what happens when a company has to build something complicated from the ground up.

The discussion begins at about 1:10:00.

Review: Logitech Combo Touch for the 12.9” iPad Pro

At the the core of my love for the iPad are the many possibilities that come along with a touchscreen tablet. I particularly enjoy the variety of keyboards and stands that make for the modular computing experience that seem to define this form factor. Whenever the subject of external keyboards and cases come up, it’s common for people on the internet to ask, why not just get a laptop? The simple and best answer is that I can’t remove the screen from a laptop. It’s permanently attached. And, along with that limitation, I cannot rotate a laptop from the horizontal position to a portrait position.

The options I considered
Of all the keyboard cases I’ve tried with all of my iPads since 2010, I think this Logitech Combo Touch may prove my favorite though it’s too soon to be certain. I’ve been very happily using Apple’s Smart Keyboard portfolio that I’ve really enjoyed using the past 2+ years and considered just updating that to a new one. In the end my desire for a trackpad and backlit keyboard led me to consider Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad, Brydge’s Max+ and Logitech’s Combo Touch. I chose the Logitech.

Comparing features
The outer material Apple uses on the iPad keyboards has not been durable in my experience so that was a strike against the Magic Keyboard especially at the price Apple asks. Add to that the missing row of function keys and it seemed I should keep looking. The Brydge Max+ was the next choice but was less protective along the edges of the iPad. And when removing the iPad from the Brydge to use hand held it would have no protection at all. It also costs more and would not be shipping till June. Lastly, Brydge has a mixed track record in terms of quality control. That left the Logitech which offered the best protection, earlier shipping and the least cost. Another plus with the Logitech was the built in kickstand for use with the iPad propped up without a keyboard. I also thought I’d like the textured fabric-like covering on the Logitech. The biggest drawback is that due to that kickstand design it has a very deep footprint and the reviews are mixed as to how that works in the lap.

It’s only been a week but here are some thoughts. I like the feel of this case just as I thought I would. The fabric-like texture is very nice, much preferred to Apple’s. It feels nicer and does not show oily smudges from contact with skin I’m really happy to have the iPad protected in a case that seems sturdy but I’ll note that it’s thinner and lighter than I expected.

The keyboard itself is excellent just as I’ve come to expect from Logitech keyboards. Now, I should say, I’m not that picky and am fairly adept at adapting to keyboards but this one feels very well made and I type well on it. The row of function keys is a very nice feature to have and happily has screen brightness, keyboard brightness and all the other expected functions. I’m super happy that holding the lock key in the top right corner functions as a Siri key. I like using Siri but don’t like reaching up to the iPad corner button. And Hey Siri sometimes has other devices respond rather than the one I’m using.

The trackpad works pretty well. I did turn off tap to click as there’s not much palm rejection going on and so the cursor jumps all over with the slightest touch. So, still getting used to the click to click as I’ve gotten used to tap to click with the Magic Trackpad I’d been using at my desk. But the clicking works very well in all areas of the trackpad. Also, there’s a two finger click to bring up the contextual menu and that works perfectly. Lastly, scrolling and all the gestures work fairly well and smoothly. All in all, the trackpad is excellent.

What about the deep footprint? Well, when I’m using in my lap I’m almost always in my tiny house with pillows nearby and my general habit is to have a pillow in my lap. This works perfectly with the kickstand folded all the way back to it’s lowest position then propped up on the pillow in my lap. If I need to adjust how I’m sitting or move the pillow or my legs it’s easy to just reach up and adjust the angle of the kickstand to keep it stable and at an angle I want. It’s not as sturdy as I would get with the laptop style of the Brydge but it does work very well though I can imagine scenarios where it does not work as well due to more limited space.

I love the iPad as both a tablet and a laptop. With this case and keyboard I can very easily pull the keyboard off the screen and still have my iPad sitting up on it’s own and still protected in a case. This is often what I’m doing when I just want to read or watch video. I can set the keyboard off to the side or even flip it backwards and reattach it as a base but with the keyboard deactivated. This last point is one of the most important of all because with this case the modularity of the iPad as tablet and laptop is at it’s best.

WWDC 2021 Wishlist

I generally avoid doing this kind of post each year as so many others do. I’m not sure I see the point really as we’ll get what we get. Also, the truth is I’m not at all unhappy with iPadOS as it is. If none of these happen I’ll still happily continue using my iPad.

  • Improved Mail app with Smart Folders, share sheet, improved searching
  • Proper external display support
  • Improved Files app (generally make it as close to the Mac Finder as possible). The main thing would be indexing of text content, Smart Folders, copy progress indicators
  • Multitasking – I’m actually pretty happy with it as is but I’m sure it can be improved.
  • Widgets on the Home Screen
  • Would be great if iPhone apps, when iPad is in landscape orientation, could be displayed as slide overs or some other way from the current method of taking over the whole screen in portrait mode.
  • Settings app support of split screen. (Lol, is there a reason this app does not support split screen??)
  • Health app
  • Smart Folders in Photos, Contacts, Notes and really, everywhere it’s possible to do.
  • Editing and creation of groups in the Contacts app.
  • Home App improvements
  • I don’t use FaceTime but from what I hear it could stand to be improved.
  • I actually really love Siri. Make it better.
  • Voice dictation is great. Make it better.
  • iCloud Diary – Setting this aside from the rest. I’d love to see Apple do something more with Messages to move it in a direction that might allow for people to more easily quit Facebook. That might just be a chip away at it sort of thing whereby each year more features are added that allow it to more fully replace FB. In particular, I’d love to see some sort of timeline feature along the lines of what Micro.blog offers. A sort of iCloud diary or iCloud journal. Make it easy for anyone to do some of the things they might otherwise go to Facebook for. I don’t think it needs to be an immediate replacement, just a step towards that. Maybe a new app with tie-ins to Photos, Messages, etc.

A few notes on Apple’s Spring 2021 hardware releases

So, this week Apple’s latest, the new color iMacs and the new iPad Pros are shipping to customers and of course the reviews have come out. Also, the updated AppleTVs and AirTags. The only thing I’ll say on the last two is, great, good to see! The AppleTV needed an update and the AirTags look very cool and useful.

The 2021 iMac

I’ll start with the iMac. I’m loving Jason Snell’s post about the new M1 iMac and the original iMac G3:

It’s hard not to look at the new 24-inch iMac, which I’ve been using for the past week, and not feel at least a little pang of nostalgia for the original iMac. Introduced in 1998, not only did the iMac G3 save Apple, it injected a blast of color into the beige world of personal computers.

In his nostalgia filled post he offers some delightful comparisons between the iMacs of the past and today’s new colorful iMacs.

I had the lime iMac and loved it. I would later buy the first generation of the white G5 iMac but then moved on to the Mac Mini for my desktop Mac. This new colorful iMac? I love it. These colors are fantastic and I’m really digging the new design. The perfect desktop Mac for a lot of people and so beautiful! And contrary to all the critique of Apple keeping the chin, I’d say the chin is iconic at this point. It’s a part of the design and I hope it doesn’t go away. It’s what an iMac looks like and differentiates it from a plain display.

In short, like the other M1 based Macs, this is a powerful machine and it’s a beautiful, fun design.

2021 iPad Pro

Processor
Not surprisingly, the M1 based iPad Pro is a very fast computer. Of course, the 2018 iPad Pro was also very fast. Day to day interactions are instant (as they were with the 2018). Where I expect to see differences is when I’m working with LumaFusion projects or Affinity documents in Designer or Photo. While those apps are very fast in use, while editing documents or video timelines, there is a noticeable delay when exporting.

Memory
With the added memory, now 8GB and 16GB, apps do a much better of holding onto content. I’ve got an 8GB model and in several days of use I’ve not noticed any reloading of any app content. A welcome change.

Screen
The screen is indeed beautiful and it is better than the previous generation.

5G
Lastly, one of my reasons for upgrading was 5G. T-Mobile/Sprint has excellent coverage in my area and my 5G iPhone has been great. I wanted that for the iPad too and it’s been great. That said, set-up was a pain. With my previous LTE iPad Pro set-up was a breeze and took only seconds to accomplish via the Settings app. This time around it ended up that I had to order a physical SIM card from Sprint/T-Mobile as the built in eSim is not supported by Sprint anymore. After several phone calls this became apparent but was not immediately obvious. Activating that sim involved 2+ hours on the phone which I suspect was also unnecessary and probably reflects a shortcoming in Sprint’s preparedness. But, once activated, it’s excellent.

Logitech Combo Touch Keyboard Case
I debated between 4 options for the keyboard case:

  1. Logitech Combo Touch Keyboard Case
  2. Apple Smart Keyboard Portfolio
  3. Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad
  4. Brydge Max+

I won’t go into all of my considerations and will just say I went with the first. I’ve only had it for a day so it’s hard to say how it will play out but it’s very well made and feels nice to carry. The fabric cover is very nice though some may not like it. It seems very sturdy and I’m really liking the fact that it is fairly easy to pull the iPad off of the keyboard for hand held use. That said, the magnets connecting them are very strong so they won’t come apart on accident. It’s not as thick or as heavy as I thought it might be. The keys and trackpad feel fantastic. That’s my quick review. I suspect I’ll have more to say after a few more days of use. But, all in all, off to a great start!

The story of the iPad Pro 2021

On April 20th Apple announced it’s 2021 update of the iPad Pro and it’s a doozy of an update with all new screen technology, the M1 chip with 8 or 16gb of memory, 5G, Thunderbolt port and of course the usual improved cameras.

And, like clockwork, all of the Apple pundits have come out with their predictable “The iPad hardware is too powerful for the software” articles. They’re not entirely wrong but I do think the echo-chamber is over emphasizing how bad the problem really is. The various articles point out the usual iPadOS shortcomings (currently groupthink is focused on Files, lack of proper 2nd display support, and limitations of multitasking), the lack of Apple’s pro software such as Xcode, Final Cut, and Logic. The story is that the hardware is plenty powerful and that what it needs are updates to OS and pro apps.

Let’s break it down.

The Hardware
I’ll start by saying that the 2018 iPad Pro that I’m currently using has been a fantastic work computer for 2+ years. I’ve used it everyday and after 2+ years it is still very fast for my daily work. From Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo to the occasional LumaFusion video project, it has handled it all with relative ease. From booting up, waking from sleep, authenticating, to app launching, it all is nearly instantaneous. I consider myself a “power” user and make my living with this device.

The only area where the hardware has lacked is in memory which was stuck in the 4 to 6GB range for the past two releases (2018, 2020). This limitation shows up when I do a lot of switching between apps. While most apps do a great job of holding their previous state the more demanding apps such as the Affinity apps will sometimes need to reload if I’ve been away using other apps for awhile. The new 2021 iPad Pro will have 8GB and 16GB of RAM so I expect this problem will be greatly reduced.

Too few pro apps
It’s true that Apple’s own professional apps such as Xcode and Final Cut Pro are not available on the iPad. But it’s also true that, at least on the video front, at least one very powerful solution exists: LumaFusion has grown each year into a more capable application for increasingly complex video projects. Why not give more credit where it is due? The same should be said of Serif’s incredibly powerful Affinity graphics apps. Over the past three years we’ve heard countless complaints that Adobe’s apps are not available (Photoshop now is with others on the way at some point). But Affinity brought it’s two well regarded and powerful image/vector design apps, Photo and Designer, to the iPad several years ago and they’ve got the third app in the suite, Publisher, headed to iPad sometime in 2021 (expected, not announced).

And I’m just pointing to three that I have experience with. There are many, many others, especially in the area of graphic design. I would suggest that there might be a bias in the coverage because it’s podcasters and writers whose voices are most amplified via publishing in well known publications and podcasts, but these folks perhaps lack the experience with this category of applications so they go unnoticed. People out doing other kinds of work with some of the more powerful applications such as those I mentioned above are not equally amplified.

A simplified OS
While Apple has continuously pushed the iPad forward it is still a different experience. Given it’s foundation as an intentionally simple, easy to use computer, those differences are often viewed as shortcomings by advanced, “power” users. The most often repeated complaint in the past year is multitasking. Apple has steadily improved it but advanced users still consider it to restrictive, likely because they come from the Mac with it’s unlimited windows. An iPad limited to displaying 2 app windows and a third in slide over is never going to please power users. Previous to that the loudest complaint was the Files app which could not display external drives attached via usb.

Another prominent example being discussed online are the limits when displaying to an external screen, namely that it’s mirroring only and, when attached to a widescreen display, it’s got the black pillar-boxing on each side. No doubt this is a shortcoming and, as the new iPad Pros have Thunderbolt, will need to be addressed by Apple. Some apps do take advantage of the full screen but not many. With the increased power of the iPads it should be improved in the next version of iPadOS and likely will be.

But as the story goes, these apps and features are all present and more powerful on the Mac. But of course the Mac OS is far older and more mature. And it’s also an OS, given it’s power, maturity and complexity, that many people can’t use. Again, it’s important to remember the origin of the iPad as an easier to use device with a focus on more casual computing.

I’ll point out that with each year we get improvements. Some years they are big improvements, others just more iterative refinements and fixes. In 2020, even before WWDC, Apple added a huge mid-year feature, full trackpad/mouse cursor support, something no one saw coming. It was widely praised as it should have been. But at WWDC the iPad was given fewer features and iPad OS 14 looked to be more of a bug-fix, refinement release. It’s notable that many users had complained about the bugs and had called for a bug fix type release. But many of them still complained at the lack of features and the focus on bug fixes. Basically, Apple will be criticized either way.

In short, people tend to focus on what they didn’t get rather than what they did get. It’s easy to focus on the negative. I’ve thought for several years that much of the problem lies with the culture of tech punditry and the over emphasis on critique. And, another aspect of this, the insular nature of tech enthusiasts that are focused on what they want as “power” users often forgetting that the iPad was really pointed at people who are not tech enthusiasts or professionals. So, yes, now we’ve had the iPad Pro for 6 years and iPadOS for 2 years, the iPad is maturing as a platform and needs to serve the original user base as well as the more advanced users that have grown in numbers over the years.

I recently came across Matthew Panzarino’s review of the 2020 iPad Pro on Tech Crunch where he concludes:

It’s insane to have a multi-modal machine that can take typing, swiping and sketching as inputs and has robust support for every major piece of business software on the planet — and that always works, is always fast and is built like an Italian racing car.

Who can argue with that?

I think that sums it up really well.

A small sampling of posts below.

Andrew Griffin at the Independent had an interview with Greg Joswiak and John Ternus, two Apple Execs to discuss the new iPad Pro, iPad Pro: How Apple Made Its New Tablet – And What Exactly It Is. They cover a lot of ground including ongoing speculation that the Mac and iPad will eventually merge which again Apple denies.

Jason Snell, writing for MacWorld,
The iPad Pro is a killer machine but its software is killing me:

And yet, in 2021, it feels like the same story: Apple killed it on the hardware side, and the software…well, the software lags behind, to put it nicely. Apple built a spectacular sports car, but where are the roads to drive it on?

Harry McCracken, noted for his use of an iPad as his main computer for a decade chimes in with
The iPad Pro just got way more pro. Now it needs pro software:

Apple clearly envisions the iPad Pro serving some of the world’s most demanding users. During Tuesday’s launch event, most of the applications the company referenced for the new models were heavy-duty tasks such as shooting movies, creating augmented-reality content, designing buildings, and editing vast quantities of 4K video. The kind of stuff, in other words, that people do for a living—and for which no tablet is yet the most obvious mainstream choice.

But while Apple’s hardware strategy for making such folks happy seems to be a smashing success, the software side is as murky as it’s ever been.

Experiments with Markdown Editors, Saving Content and Obsidian

Background

This post began as a post over at this thread at the Mac Power Users Forum. I started with Obsidian a couple months back but a funny thing happened. Because I do most of my computing on the iPad and there was at that time no Obsidian mobile app (it‘s in beta now), I started with my trusted iA Writer for the back-end editing of files but it does nothing with Wiki links. So I moved to experimenting with a couple of other Markdown apps, 1Writer and Taio as they both do well with wiki links (more on these two apps later). I figured I’d just hop onto the Mac occasionally to use Obsidian. A couple months in and I’ve hardly touched Obsidian but I’ve been much more proactive in writing of daily notes (a new practice that I’d long pondered) and more writing generally as a result of starting the day with daily notes.

Another result is that it’s got me thinking more actively and critically about what/how/where/why I save files. In yet another post at Mac Power Users, the topic of saving web pages as html rather than pdf files also got me thinking about file format as it relates to what I do with stored files. As a part of considering my intent, I’m also considering the saving process and the information I actually want to save. To put it plainly, I’m trying to be very deliberate about my accumulation of information I may never need. Be it whole files, text, or images embedded in pdfs, etc. The deliberation and a slightly different process adds a bit of friction but that’s good in this case. I’ve generally been pretty good about not saving everything just because I have the thought this might be useful someday. It’s a trap a lot of people seem to fall into.

An example, a few nights ago I happened upon a recipe and considered whether I wanted to save it. Recipes are a new thing for me to bother with but I am starting to save a few. Rather than just save to pdf I used a shortcut to save a markdown/text file to Files in my 1Writer folder. I hop over to 1Writer and open the new document, clean out any cruft and tag it both in the text and also in the Files app. Within just a minute or two I have a very tiny, tidy, portable text file that works in 1Writer and Obsidian and also fairly easy to find in Files/Finder. I’ve since created a Shortcut that outputs nice, clean markdown via reader view which I’ll mention later.

So, rather than dive into DEVONthink (which I had been considering) as a catch-all tool my plan is to go the opposite way. It’s also got me looking at how I use Apple Notes… largely, I’ve been far too lazy and sloppy in throwing stuff in there and not cleaning up after myself when notes are no longer needed. So, avoiding the trap of over-collecting via DEVONthink, cleaning up Apple Notes, and now…

Markdown Editors

Gah!! I consider this useful fiddling but I try to keep app jumping to a minimum as that seems to be a huge time suck. That said, I’m experimenting just a bit. As I mentioned, iA Writer is the app I’ve been using for the past couple years. Love it for compiling podcast transcripts, writing and blogging. But it falls short on Wiki links. So I did a little poking around and found Taio and 1Writer. Here’s how they compare.

Overview

  • In general, I prefer the Taio interface as it always shows the sidebar of files. If I want to go full screen I can but I like seeing the files all the time.
  • Taio does nothing with hashtags for searching whereas 1Writer recognizes tags and a click to a tag brings up other files with that tag, showing them in the sidebar as an auto-populated search which is fantastic.
  • Search in 1Writer is generally much better as it also searches file content. Search in Taio is nearly useless as it basically searches titles.
  • When it comes to editing vs previewing Taio creates a mess of tabs along the top of the document window. Open a file to edit then switch to the preview and you get a new tab showing that preview. Tap on a link in that preview to another document? New preview tab of that document. Want to edit that document? New tab. Now you’ve got 4 tabs open! It can get out of control quickly. By comparison 1 Writer does everything in one window. Much tidier. And if I want nearly real-time html preview with clicking to other files I can bring up a second window of the file I’m editing and put it in preview mode. Works very well.

Exporting

Both apps offer a variety of export options though with a very different interface. With Taio I’m presented with a simpler interface to export files to markdown, pdf, html, Docx, RTF and web archive or by copying text to clipboard as markdown or html. After selecting the standard share sheet interface comes up.

1Writer has a preconfigured set of export options with similar formats:

  • Copy plain text, formatted text or html
  • Email plain text, formatted text, pdf attachment or plain text attachment
  • Print as plain text or formatted text
  • Open in plain text or pdf which then goes to the standard share sheet

Nearly equal but Taio offers Docx and web archive, neither of which I need but might be useful to some. 1Writer allows for creating new actions for sharing but I’ve not explored what’s possible there.

Shortcuts and automation

Taio is much better in this regard! It offers a variety of actions to the Shortcuts app as well as it’s own built-in shortcuts like action editor. It’s not even close. 1Writer offers 1 action for Shortcuts which is to create a new document. Better than nothing! Taio offers 11 actions. Most important of these in my use thus far, I’ve got a shortcut that takes a web page I want to save, generates cleaned up markdown with a link to the page at the bottom. The Taio version of this shortcut results in an actual file containing content. The 1Writer version creates a new file for me with the text copied to my clipboard. All I have to do is paste it in. But it seems silly that there’s no way (that I know of) to create the file with the content already intact.

The built-in action editor in Taio seems very powerful. I’ve not explored it much just yet but I did create 1 automation to create a daily log file with a pre-populated template and ready to go. I’m looking forward to using it a bit more.

Extras

Last, Taio offers an interesting clipboard saver. I’ve not used it much and I’m not sure I will but it’s there and might prove useful. I’m not really prepared to offer any thoughts yet.

Both of these are excellent markdown apps that will create a folder or folders of markdown files that will play well with Obsidian. Not only are they feature rich in terms of editing they are excellent for viewing, interacting with and exporting documents. For the moment I’ve currently settled on 1Writer and expect that to stick for awhile.

All this to say that it’s great that we have so many apps/tools but I’m recognizing how easy it is to get lost in them, jumping from one to another looking for the perfect tool with all of the exact features we need or think we need. It’s easy to focus on the new shiny tool rather than actively engage with and use the information in a meaningful way. I suppose that’s one of the pitfalls of being a geek.

I guess that was a bit of a sidetrack but I think in looking at the bigger picture it can be helpful to ask what it is we’re hoping to do with apps. I expect I’ll get around to actually using Obsidian more often and it’s feature set will prove helpful when I need them. But for the most part I’m currently just enjoying the focus on writing and more active engagement with information processing for a more tidy and deliberately curated set of open, accessible files.

Thinking about Internet publishing

In my last post complaining about the complexity of posting and especially editing WordPress posts, I had a reply from Pete which led me down a rabbit hole. I tapped Pete‘s name to view his profile… I get so few comments here that I usually do this to see if commenters have their own blog which I might follow. I ended up on Pete‘s Micro.blog which found me reading through a conversation over there and an hour later I was checking out TiddlyWiki. Funny how easy it is to fall down these rabbit holes! I‘m not going to delve into TiddlyWiki here though I might in a future post. My interest in this post is frictionless posting, internet community, and publishing silos.

In my reply to Pete I wrote this bit which I‘m just going to paste with a bit of minor editing:

I’m just longing for an interface that is more simple! I’ve got my other blog tied into micro.blog and have used that app for posting on occasion. Actually, I think the micro.blog app and platform is a step in the direction that I’m looking for.

Thinking about micro.blog, as a specific platform and kind of community, it hasn’t been sticky for me. I visit and engage a little every so often but then stop. I think, in part, because it feels secluded. In a strange way, I both like and do not like that feeling of seclusion. Every time I pop over and try to use it I end up feeling like I’m in a kind of gated community. I suppose I’m longing for some sort of internet home that is connected in a more meaningful way to my analog life where I use Messages for family communications and Slack for local friends.

So, in total, my current internet experience, in terms of sharing with others, is this blog you‘re reading, my less tech focused Beardy Star Stuff, Twitter, Instagram, Apple Messages and Slack. In short, I have lots of silos, none of which are connected. Actually, some of my friends and family are also on Instagram so that is one connection. To my knowledge none of my friends or family read either of my blogs. For many people Facebook is a primary internet home but I quit it long ago and even back then it never felt like an internet home.

So, I come back to my desire for a different internet where more people post to a timeline of their own which they can share. Something as easy to use as Facebook but without all the ugly. Or alternatively, a version of Messages but which posts to a timeline rather than to a private chat. Thinking about Messages as it is and I can imagine a “My Timeline“ tab where I could just tap or click that tab to post. To see others that I follow, just tap another “Timeline“ tab. Well, at least it‘s easy to imagine!

I don‘t really know what the answer is. In so many ways it would seem to be a syntheses of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Messages and Slack. The danger of course is that such an integrated experience, is difficult or impossible to bring under one umbrella. Or possibly not desirable. The internet is meant to be decentralized.

In thinking about it I can see how Facebook has become so dominant as it offers much of this experience as a very easy to use portal. Of course we can see the danger of this as it has manifested in the practices of Facebook (the company) and the manifestation of Facebook the website/platform. Would it be possible to have a more ethical version of Facebook both in terms of the company and the created platform? Could a company like Apple build such a thing? I think, technically, yes. But, it would come with it‘s own set of problems. Apple already faces accusations of being too big and having too much control. So, perhaps not Apple.

But I can imagine some sort of standards-based consortium. A cooperative effort to build a new platform. Safer, more ethical, less susceptible to the propagation of misinformation but still valuable as a place for free expression. Is such a thing possible or is it too contradictory? And what about some sort of verification to cut back on unaccountability and anonymous posting? It would seem that there should be some way to create a standard of verified user that might serve as a filter to remove bots or accounts created with fraud/spam or other mis-use as the intent.

I doubt it would be easy but it would seem that it is doable.

Publishing to WordPress is too messy

I published a post this morning and was reminded that this is too messy. Depending on the app I‘m using, it may not be too difficult to push the text, as html or markdown to WordPress via the WordPress share extension. But where It really falls down is in any editing I have to do in either the WordPress app or WordPress websites. The new editor, which comes in different flavors: Rich Text, Blocks, or HTML is just… eeeewwwwwwwwwww. Too complex, too messy. I sometimes think I‘d post more often if it were easier. Perhaps.

Also, I long for a day when there is some sort of easy timeline solution… easy for anyone. I sort of imagine an Apple service and app, call it iCloud Diary or something. Make it fun with a few custom themes. But easy to post to, something like Mail in terms of composing… super easy to post and edit, for non-techies. And like Messages for following friends, family… a sort of simple presentation of RSS, also for non techies. The point is safe, secure, trusted sharing. I guess a sort of Apple-based Twitter/Facebook. And perhaps make it easy to share from Apple services… Music, News, etc. And an easy to use, safe, secure alternative to Facebook.

Mac OS X Turns 20!

I missed this by a few weeks but wanted to mark the occasion anyway. When Apple released OS X twenty years ago (March 24, 2001) I was there on day one. I‘d actually been running the public beta on my lime green iMac. Exciting days! Like many I really loved the classic Mac OS which I‘d used from 7.x on my Color Classic all the way thru to OS 9. It was a beautiful, fun OS to use when it wasn‘t crashing! To be fair, it was mostly stable and I did a lot with my Macs before OS X. But my oh my, OS X was a thing of beauty! In hindsight we might look back on it as a bit overdone but in the moment I loved it. In the early days it was slow but even then it was fairly stable, especially in comparison to Mac OS 9.

Image courtesy of 512pixels.net Image Archive

Apple made no secret that OS X was the future of the Mac OS. There would be no turning back and really, it did feel like the future. It was similar enough to the classic Mac OS that one could use it without feeling lost. But, with the new Aqua interface it also felt very different. Add to that the new Finder, the Dock, Mail and a few others. Then there was the new ability to create pdfs from any application via print to pdf which felt a bit like a super power.

Fun fact, in contrast to today‘s free, downloadable os updates, back in those days the os was delivered via DVD and cost a bit, in the case of OS X 10.0 it was $129.

My current desktop on my MacMini running macOS Catalina

Looking at OS X then and now I am still somewhat astounded by the fact that we‘ve seen so many transitions over the past 20 years. That OS X is the core OS of the watch on my wrist, my phone, and my iPad as well as the Mac on my desk in an amazing iterative achievement. And while the pinstripes of Aqua were transformed into a variety of textures over the years and are now utterly absent, replaced by light grays, whites and subtle gradients, looking at my Mac running macOS Catalina or my iPad running iPadOS 14, I can‘t help but recognize the many persistent similarities. I see OS X on my screen. From the Dock to Mail to Files, traces of OS X in it‘s infancy continue today.

My current iPad Pro Homepage

Looking through the excellent 512pixels image archive I can‘t help notice that as much as has changed over the years so much of that first 10.0 version is still so visible today.

Here‘s Steve Jobs at the MacWorld 2000 Keynote presenting OS X. A really fun video!

From the web:

Stephen Hackett of 512pixels.net has a brief post which consists of some great links. A fantastic screenshot library. Start with OS X 10.0

Jason Snell has these three articles:
From Aqua to Catalina: The evolution of macOS X

Mac OS X: An act of desperation that formed the foundation for the modern Mac

Mac OS X turns 20

John Voorhees over at Mac Stories: 20 Years Ago, Mac OS X Set the Stage for Today‘s Apple

Video Workflow

Last year when I started cycling a couple of family members suggested I get a GoPro. Partly to share with them but I think also because they were concerned with my safety and thought having a camera could be useful were I to have some trouble while out riding around. I eventually got one and have used it a good bit to record some of my rides. All for fun as I have no serious social media goals.

Of course I‘m working from the iPad and needed to figure out some sort of workflow. It‘s been messy! I‘m not sure if I‘m making it more complicated then it needs to be but I suspect that video workflows can indeed be a bit tricky. I expected to edit in LumaFusion. The question how and where to transfer files.

First, I started with the GoPro App and it‘s a terrible mess. It starts and seems inclined to work in portrait mode. Sometimes it can be coaxed into landscape but often goes back to portrait. Probably intended to be a phone thing. Only thing it‘s good for is letting it auto-create a few clips for a quick share. I made the mistake of getting in the habit of connecting to the camera wirelessly to transfer files to the app and then exporting. It took me far to long to figure out that it‘s a bad method as getting the raw clips out is overly complicated.

First, these clips should be accessible in the Files app but they are not. Second, any attempt to share a clip also seems to export the clip to the Photos app whether you want that or not. So I end up with the shared, exported clip but also a video in Photos. It‘s an extra file that I don‘t want backed up to iCloud photos so I have to delete it before that happens. So, if I come back after a bike ride with 10 video clips using the app to get those out for editing is more difficult than it needs to be if I‘m using the app. If I let the files accumulate in the app as I did then getting them backed up to an external device is really time consuming. I ended up saving them all to Photos then exporting to an SSD. Would have been great to open two Files windows and just drag and drop.

Okay, with that out of the way, my process going forward to skip the GoPro app altogether. I‘ll plug the GoPro into the iPad and import directly to Photos. Again, with I could mount the camera directly in Files as a storage device. At some point I might consider getting a new hub with built in flash reader which would allow for that. For now, I‘m importing to Photos and then saving to an SSD via the Files app. Now, just to point out, LumaFusion can access files directly from Photos so why not just work from there. Well, as mentioned above, I don‘t want all these files using up bandwidth and storage in iCloud.

Okay, so, GoPro camera to Photos to SSD. The last step with LumaFusion is to create a project and add media. For this I have to import media from the SSD to LumaFusion which, in turn, copies the files from the SSD to a local folder on the iPad. This works but, again, something to be aware of when thinking about iCloud back-ups and bandwidth so I‘ve excluded this folder from my iCloud back-ups. Problem solved! Mostly. My iPad is the 256GB version and really, now that I‘ve cleared out the accumulated media from the GoPro app I‘ve got plenty of space for any active LumaFusion projects, over 120GB of free space. It would be great if LumaFusion projects could link to external storage devices for media without copying over locally but to my knowledge this is not possible yet. But given my level of use I‘ll get by with no problems.