June 5, 2017

As excited as I am for the new iPad and iOS features: Affinity Photo!!!! Fantastic and a bargain at $19.99

June 5, 2017

Wowza. That was a crazy #WWDC Keynote! Looks like iOS for iPad is everything we wanted. New iPad 12.9″ ordered!

June 5, 2017

WWDC in 28 minutes. Going to be a big one for the iPad both in terms of iOS and hardware. 🤓🍿🙏

Pre-WWDC Apple Nerdery

Wow. So much going on in the run-up to WWDC. As most have said, it looks to be a big one with likely hardware announcements. Apple seems to be releasing bits of news this week that would normally have been in the keynote prompting many to suggest that they are making way for a jam-packed presentation.

I’m not an educator but if I were I’d be very excited about what Apple is doing with Swift Playgrounds. The next update, due Monday, expands coding education to robots, drones and musical instruments :

Apple is working with leading device makers to make it easy to connect to Bluetooth-enabled robots within the Swift Playgrounds app, allowing kids to program and control popular devices, including LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3, the Sphero SPRK+, Parrot drones and more.

That’s going to be a lot of fun. On the topic of Swift, Fraser Speirs has an excellent post about teaching Swift over the past year.

I’m looking forward to new iPads being announced and hopefully the long rumored and hoped for “Siri Speaker”. And of course all of us iPad nerds are hoping for big iPad features with iOS 11. We never know until Apple announces it but I have a feeling (as do many others) that we’re going to see some great stuff Monday!

June 1, 2017

Spent far too much time this evening trying to configure micro-blog posting.

iPad Journal: To-do or not to-do

Last week the Apple nerdery got very excited with the release of Things 3. I took a look and realized that I’m not as interested in to-do apps as I used to be. Mostly I just do the things I need to do as they come my way. Making lists generally doesn’t help me. Perhaps it’s a limitation of my imagination or an indicator of a less active life. I’m just not so busy that I really need an app to keep track of tasks and projects. I’ve tried many of them over the years and none of them ever really stuck. The closest I got was using Wunderlist but that faded as well. Am I doing it wrong?

With the introduction of “Hey Siri” I found that Apple’s Reminders app was sufficient for my fairly limited needs. In fact, I actually found that do to the convenience of Siri I actually used Reminders consistently for very quick, location-based tasks. For example unusual things such as returning a bucket I borrowed from a friend when I know I’ll be driving by their place the next day prompts me to say: “Hey Siri, remind me to return Karen’s bucket tomorrow morning at 9am” or perhaps I need to make a phone call but only at a certain time, that also would get a request to Siri. But those kinds of things don’t need complicated to-do apps, just something basic that will allow me to ask Siri to create a reminder which will pop-up a notification at a specific time or location.

Here’s how I tend to do around-the-house chores. Some repeating weekly or monthly tasks are set-up as repeating reminders. Most notably I have monthly reminders for flea/tick/heartworm meds for my cat and dog. I’ve also got a reminder to change the cat litter. I don’t need such reminders for most other tasks. When the grass gets high I cut it. I’m outside everyday so I can see when I need to water the garden. When my recycling pile starts to overflow I drop it off.

I do my shopping list via Hey Siri and Reminders and the AnyList app that imports anything it finds in my Shopping List.

If I have a larger project such as painting or staining a structure I will just add the things I need to get to my shopping list. Then I get them and then I do the job. I don’t need to list out the steps because they are usually self evident.

When it comes to client projects, again, these are generally straight forward. I get hired to to a brochure or a business card or an annual report and I just do the job. The steps involved are not so many that I cannot easily just do them. With a new website or brochure: Create project folder. Collect text, images and graphics which are placed in project folder. Open or create html file or InDesign document, etc. I rarely have more than one or two projects at a time and have no problem dealing with that kind of activity level. I recently did an annual report. The tasks were largely the same as the last time I did such a document and they flowed from my email exchanges with the client which evolved from instructions then questions then gathering of text, images, graphics. I did a first draft then a back and forth with suggestions and edits then a second and a third. At no point did I need a task list. The same might be said for a recent presentation design and a website re-design. My projects evolve along with email, text messaging with a client and at most a few notes that I might take in the Notes app.

I can’t quite sort out where a to-do app fits in to such projects. It would be like creating a to-do list for my day. Get up. Go to the bathroom. Make coffee. Eat breakfast. Feed the dog. Walk the dog. Refill coffee. On and on. I don’t need a list for such obvious things.

What about a larger non-normal project? Perhaps something large enough with many steps might need a project to-do list. When we were building our cabins a few years back we made weekend shopping lists for the needed materials. But again, this was more about knowing what we needed for the next phase of the construction. I suppose some might do a series of to-dos in this case. At the time (2008) I probably scribbled the list on paper as I didn’t have an iPhone. Were I to do be doing it again today I’d likely just do a shopping list as I do for groceries. But I wouldn’t do a list of to-dos for the actual construction process.

Special tasks seem rare in my life. Often such things are events that go on the calendar. I often take my granny to her doctor so those those appointments go in the calendar for a day and time. Events for family or friends also go to the calendar. If I need to check in with someone about a detail for such an event more often than not I just send a text when I think of the question. No need to remind myself to send a text. A few days ago my brother-in-law called to ask if I could design an invite and a slide show for my niece’s upcoming graduation party. I was out for a walk when he called so I opened up the Notes app to take down the details I needed. I suppose it could have gone into a to-do app under a task “Create Emma’s Party Invite”. Instead I made a note titled Emma and scribbled in the details of the event and a few things that I needed to include in the invite and in the slideshow. Perhaps that’s the key. More often than not anything that comes up that I don’t do immediately get’s put into Notes because of details that I need to do a task or project. Perhaps I’m using Notes in cases where many would use a to-do app?

I don’t know. As I said, maybe I just don’t quite get what to-do apps are for. Maybe my activity level is just very low. I’d like to try out Things 3 but chances are I’d buy it and it would mostly sit in a folder unused. Again, I ask, am I doing it wrong?

iPad Journal: A long overdue link round-up

Ha! Well, I’ve been busy with client work and have fallen a bit behind in posting weekly links. A couple of these are a bit outdated but I think still worth posting.

Just last week Federico posted his iOS 11 iPad Wishes story and video. Fantastic work, even better than last year’s. I’ll likely do a separate post on this but in summary, I like every idea he has suggested.

I don’t live near an Apple Store but I’m still very excited to see what they are doing with Apple Today. It’s a bummer that folks in rural areas largely miss out on this sort of thing. I suspect I’ll be posting more about this soon.

I very much agreed with Ryan Christoffel at MacStories that Apple’s services have greatly improved in recent years. Yes it’s true that, historically, Apple has struggled in this area. But with each year they have gotten much better. As far as I’m concerned they’ve gotten past that rough patch and now offer services that I do not hesitate to recommend. I trust them. Even better is the fact that their services are truly green and sustainable. They stand virtually alone on that.

Dispelling the Apple Services Myth – MacStories

The Apple of today has made services a core part of its business. Not only from a financial standpoint, but also in the area of user experience. The experience Apple sells is not merely one of hardware, or software – it includes services. And it’s that Apple experience that helped make the iPhone one of the most successful products in the history of the world.

You can draw your own conclusions from this story, but mine is that Apple’s services get a bad rap they generally don’t deserve; the company’s reputation for not doing services well is outdated. Are things perfect? Of course not. But they’re a lot better than the common narrative says.

Federico introduced a new website and podcast to cover the world of iOS apps. I’ve added it but I doubt I’ll listen to every show.

AppStories – A weekly exploration of the world of apps

Today, after many months of work, we are introducing AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps. Each week, Federico and I will discuss our favorite new apps and noteworthy updates, dive into the stories behind the apps we love, and explore the cultural and social impact of the App Store.

Another excellent iPad post by Federico:

iPad Diaries: Numbers, Accounting, and Currency Conversions – MacStories

Apple and the environment

I have, since around 1990, oriented the way I live my life around the question, “Is this good for the health of the Earth?” Those that know me would probably agree with the suggestion that I’m a bit extreme in that regard. The way I look at it is that it is, fundamentally, a question lived ethics and survival. What we do everyday impacts not only our future survival but the survival of countless other species with which we share the planet. Our choices thus far have been leading us to the extinction of other species and quite possibly our own. Our time on this planet does have an expiration date. One day humans will no longer exist on this planet. That’s a given. But will we end our time here prematurely due to poor behavior? Increasingly it looks as though we will.

I have long argued (as many have) that capitalism is incompatible with the longterm health of the planet. As an economic system it is focused on profit and specifically short-term profit. Corporations have demonstrated time and time again that they don’t do well when it concerns the environment and questions of human social justice. In the past ten years Apple has begun to demonstrate that it is possible continue making a profit even as it undergoes a dramatic shift in it’s social and environmental impact from a negative to a positive. Apple isn’t just minimizing its negative impact but is attempting and succeeding at creating a significant positive impact.

In recent years as it makes these changes it has made an effort to communicate to the public what it is doing. On the face of it it’s pretty easy to dismiss as the usual greenwashing that many companies engage in when they care about that aspect of how they appear to the public. In other words, marketing. But here’s the thing, Apple has gone so far in changing the way it operates that it no longer appears to be trying to convince the public that it is a good corporate “citizen”. They have seemingly made it a part of their mission to set the bar of conduct at a new level. This is a sustained effort to shift the fundamentals of the company from one that prioritizes profit to one which puts environmental impact on an equal footing.

In the lead-up to Earth Day 2017 we’ve seen a push by Apple to share what it’s been doing in these areas. In past years they have done the same but with each passing year as the scope of their commitment deepens it seems to be a shift from corporate marketing to one in which Apple sees a “teachable moment” and is educating the public not for it’s own benefit but for the public good. They are setting an example not just for corporations but even for citizens and governments. They aren’t just meeting the too-low requirements and goals set out by governments. They are exceeding them and raising the bar and not just by a little. And then they are saying to the world, do better. Do much better.

A day or so ago John Gruber of Daring Fireball and The Talk Show published an interview with Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environmental Policy. I remember when Lisa Jackson moved over to Apple having served 4 years as head of the EPA under Obama. At the time I just figured, oh, the usual high-level corporate/government revolving door. I didn’t pay much attention to her. But listening to that interview I can only say that I am really impressed. She’s a fantastic asset to Apple as well as an excellent STEM role model who also addresses the connection between STEM and our social and ecological problems and needs. I’ve listened to it twice and might give it a third go. She offers some fascinating details about how Apple operates in relation to resources.

As an activist who protested Nike in the late 90s for it’s overseas labor policies I was keenly aware that Apple was having it’s own labor issues in the early 2000s (and probably before). I began paying attention then to both the labor and environmental practices of my favorite technology company with some hope that they would “Think Different” in their dealings with the world around them. They have not disappointed. While progress was made when Jobs was at the helm their move towards greater social and environmental responsibility really increased when Tim Cook took over. The focus on the social and environmental responsibility has intensified greatly over the past 5 years. This interview is an excellent summary of those changes. But what is truly breathtaking is the scope and depth to which they have gone.

It’s easy these days to become mired in a mix of hopelessness, despair, frustration and disgust. Our political system seems equal parts corrupt, inept, and circus. On the issue of climate change the U.S. has proven largely ineffectual and confused. From the public to government to business, we’ve made little progress at far too slow a rate. It seems very likely that we are past the point of no return and that all there is to do now is adapt and attempt to minimize what now seems to be inevitable. But I listen to this interview and not only am I inspired but I’m embarrassed that it is a company… a capitalist enterprise that is actually leading the way, that is setting the best possible example not only for other companies but for citizens. As someone who has long considered himself an activist (of sorts) I suddenly feel a bit ashamed of my despair. That might not be exactly it or quite the best way to put it but it’s close.

Also, Apple has put together four videos for Earth Day 2017. Good stuff.

And yet another bit of Apple and the environment bit of news, Macworld reports that Apple will return heat generated by data center to warm up homes:

Apple is building a new data center in Denmark, and it has some interesting ideas on how to power the data center with renewable energy, while also giving back to the community.

Excess heat generated by the data center will be captured and returned to the local district’s heating system, which will warm up homes in the community.

This is just one example of many that illustrates the scope of commitment that Apple is making to this effort. This is exactly the sort of project that Lisa Jackson is describing in the above linked interview with John Gruber.

Last but not least, Apple is set to move into it’s new headquarters, Apple Park. Much work is still being done but April was to be the month that employees started moving over. To say that I’m impressed with Apple Park would be a huge understatement. From native and edible landscaping to the heating and cooling to the local energy production, it is, by all accounts, the standard for large scale green architecture and landscaping.