On HomePod mini with a screen - STOP!

Consider this recent article from 9to5Mac: Concept: How Apple could turn HomePod mini into a delightful and adorable smart display - 9to5Mac.

Please, stop thinking that a screen on the HomePod mini makes sense because it just doesn’t. Why? Well, by looking at where we put these devices in our house, most of the time, you wouldn’t be able to see the screen from a distance. What Apple really wishes is that you buy an iPad mini with a Smart Folio cover for that purpose.

MP3 Files and the iPhone — Harder Than Necessary

I find it surprisingly hard to find a simple MP3 player for an iPhone these days. I mean, just a simple application capable of downloading an MP3 file locally on the device with good playback controls, simple library management, nothing fancy. Readdle’s Documents (which I know very well) and EverMusic seem to be popular options. Documents offers a good user experience, albeit its multipurpose mission with documents management.

(I’m a moderate consumer of Soundcloud (paid subscription) and use Downie to download files from the service. Those files are stored on my DS720+ Synology NAS.)

What’s your experience in playing MP3 files on your iPhone? I’m curious.

It’s the Time of the Month to Start Crafting the Next Edition of My Monthly Newsletter

Well, it’s the time of the month where I start to work on the next edition of my monthly newsletter (it’s free BTW). I spend about ten to fifteen hours each month to put this together using my past readings and discoveries, Craft and Ulysses. Each time, it’s a pleasure to create. I think I should put together an article about the workflow I use to create each newsletter. Would you find this interesting?

Yep, Notion is Bad

I’m nearly done with my Notion to Craft migration. I know I’ve been lazy; I’ve been using Craft for many months while my old content was still sitting there in Notion. While doing the migration, I realized, again, that I don’t really like Notion’s handling of a document. It just feels unnatural and quirky. Export options are very limited, which makes my job much harder. I’m also losing some metadata along the way (and database content too). I don’t have high hopes for a Craft eXtension to support Notion’s API to help users do this kind of rich content migration. I expect to finish the migration in the coming days.

Give Me Some Time…

…and I’ll move out of 1Password. It’s on my to-do list for 2022. Gruber’s article is a reminder that time is ticking. I’m just being too lazy to move my stuff out of 1Password and put that in Apple’s Keychain. It takes time, which is a rare resource for me.

I don’t like 1Password’s direction. It seems to me that going the enterprise way is counterproductive for the average users. Corporations and individuals don’t share the same objectives. Why do you think Microsoft is making Teams for personal use?

Dear Apple: Bring Back the Dashboard

I want this so much. We have to voice our desire to get back the Dashboard on macOS. As explained by 512px a long time ago:

Jobs pitched widgets as mini-apps that let you look up a quick bit of information without ruining your workflow or train of thought. They allowed for quick interactions. They were present when you needed them, and disappeared when you didn’t.

Why try to imagine new solutions to fix the widgets conundrum on macOS? The Dashboard was the only good solution where you could put widgets anywhere on the screen, then invoke them as needed. Dear Apple, are you reading this? 🥺🙏🏻

Let’s enjoy one more time the Dashboard in its full glory.

Taking Advantage of the iPad Screen

Consider the previous annotated screenshot from Matter. Way too many applications have the same design issue. Why, in 2022, developers cannot fix these wasted space? I see that the content is of the same width if the iPad is used in portrait or landscape orientation. Why not adjust width dynamically? Is it that hard?

About iMessage - Again

Apple’s Messages app, why does it only support iMessage and SMS? iChat had support for AIM, Yahoo Messanger, ICQ, and XMPP. Why hasn’t Apple gone beyond the blue and green bubbles, introducing support for additional protocols with more message bubble colors?

Apple likes control. They didn’t have it with those protocols. How could they implement things like CSAM?

Source: The Green Bubble Myth - Initial Charge

I’m a Big Fan of Craft But…

As you probably know, I’m a big fan of Craft. This application is really at the center of everything I do online, as thoroughly documented in my blogger workflow. That being said, I always keep an eye open for competing services, thanks to my Twitter list “Apps & Services”. Notion is one of them. Before Craft, there was Notion, which I loved too. But it felt too complicated or overkill for my needs. Craft is nowhere near Notion in terms of features. There is no comparison, even though I wrote one. Really. Yet, according to their recent tweets, Notion has been on a roll lately, adding features, tweaking things or rewriting a portion of the user experience like the text editing engine. So, where am I going with this?

It is tempting to think: what if I came back to Notion? I still have my account, after all. Things always look better on the other side of the fence, right? The thing is the speed of evolution of Craft, while being considered at a fast pace by some, I’m realistic, and I would argue the contrary. The team behind Craft is surely a fraction of Notion’s. Basic things are hard to come by. Said another way, my expectations aren’t met as fast as I wished. Take this week’s update, which was released earlier this week. While I’m happy to see improvements, there is not much to talk about. The release notes starts by the possibility to “star” a document, so it is easier to find in the navigation bar on the left. The second thing on the list is some improvements to the display of backlinks at the end of a page. While being welcomed by many, it’s not exactly mind-blowing. Sure it is a dot dot release (v2.0.3), but I was expecting so much more, as documented in my Craft wish list. Craft eXtensions, announced with the 2.0 release at the end of 2021 sure looks full of potential, but my expectations lean toward Craft’s core experience, which I find somewhat lacking.

I think I’m being overly demanding. Patience is a virtue.

Exploring the World of DJing

I always liked electronic music, but I’m not a musician. In recent moths, I’ve been exploring the world of DJing. It’s a way for me to feel that I can do music without deep knowledge of musical theory. It’s a fascinating world.

Last year I bought a Pioneer DDJ-400 controller for use with my Mac mini. There is two major roadblocks in my experience so far: finding good quality tracks to mix and selecting the best DJ app. I want to draw your attention to the software side of my story.

Some well known DJ apps are Rekordbox, Serato and DJay. My understanding is that in recent years, software makers all switched to subscription models. Application like Rekordbox will “unlock” some of its features while being used with certain DJ controller models, but to get the whole thing, you have to subscribe to some plan. It’s irritating for someone like me who’s just trying to learn and experiment. But there is another problem: applications design sucks. Rekordbox and Serato are visually terrible. On the Mac, these apps really feels like aliens coming from… I don’t know… even on Windows they probably look aliens. The best looking application is Algoriddim’s Djay, by far. Problem is, the application is lacking many features. For now, my conclusion is that It appears that we cannot have both fully featured applications with a great design.

Green vs Blue Bubbles: The Definitive And Honest Point of View

A few days ago, I wrote a small commentary post regarding the WSJ article on Apple’s iMessage, its effects on the crowd of young iPhone users, and how Apple is being evil. Man, it’s a pale and superficial perspective compared to Gruber’s view of the article, and the controversy that followed. Must read, if this short-lived controversy is picking up your curiosity.

On iOS 15 Update Conundrum — Why Apple Is Changing is Mind

Apple finally published the numbers of people who upgraded to iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. While the percentages show the vast majority of users upgraded their devices, there are more people than with previous years who didn’t. It’s probably Apple’s fault.

With iOS 15, Apple is no longer forcing users to adopt the latest release to get the latest security updates. A user running iOS 14.7 can stay there as long as he can apply the security patches made available for that version. It’s an entirely new approach for Apple. I wonder why Apple made that change. I think I found one big reason.

If you compare Apple’s ecosystem to Android, Apple has a clear advantage here by being able to move the needle much faster for releases adoption, until now. In a single year, Apple can transform its ecosystem of users by adding features that are quickly making their way into people’s devices. By allowing users to stay on previous releases, Apple is shooting itself in the foot. Now they seem to change their mind, though. Apple could be changing his mind. As reported by MacRumors:

iOS 15‌ used to be listed as an optional update on devices running iOS 14, but now it is front and center on devices that still have iOS 14, and it is the only available update option as Apple has now stopped making security updates available for devices running iOS 14. Those who want the latest security fixes need to upgrade to ‌iOS 15‌, as all devices capable of running iOS 14 also support ‌iOS 15‌.

I think it’s the right move for Apple, since they tend to support old devices longer than other manufacturers. Apple could tweak iOS to be less aggressive is upgrading to the latest release by introducing delays in a random manner. Users eager to upgrade can do so manually, others would randomly get a notification suggesting the availability of the newer release. As time passes, those notifications would increase in frequency. This new behaviour will probably never come to like and not be enough. Here is why.

There might be another reason behind this change of mind on Apple’s part. Look at antitrust regulations looming on the horizon all around the world. Apple is probably making sure that all users adopt the latest release faster to comply with possible new regulations imposed by lawmakers, which would need to trigger changes to the operating system.

Bye Bye 500px

It was written on the walls: my subscription to 500px is coming to an end next week, and I won’t renew. It was a nice ride for sure, but Smugmug + Glass took over. Sure, comparing those services isn’t fair. For my needs, 500px doesn’t fit anymore. Another reason is the fact that I’m not taking as many photos as I used to, thanks to the pandemic.

I’ll keep my 500px account but in “read-only” mode for the year to come.

Carriers vs Apple

Om Malik writing on the iPhone fifteen anniversary and the carrier companies at the time (emphasis is mine):

These were wireless walled gardens crammed with absolutely rotten apps, games, and everything from mobile backgrounds to ringtones. They were an opportunity for carriers to nickel-and-dime their customers and extracted mafia-like fees from startups. Source: Looking back: iPhone & its impact on mobile industry & us. – On my Om

I have great admiration for Mr. Malik, but a lot of people, especially developers, would jump in right here and use the same paragraph to describe Apple and its App Store today. You may agree or not with them. I mostly don’t.

Working from home since March 2020. Over the months, I made quite a few tweaks to my home office. I’m so much more at ease at home than at the office with a desk, a chair, a lamp, and devices that I chose, instead of being imposed on me.

“It’s not just how things look, it’s about how things work.”

Somehow, I missed David Sparks' observations regarding the Wallpaper feature of Apple’s Design Team (emphasis is mine):

Instead of quoting Steve Jobs, I would have preferred an explanation from Alan Dye about his philosophy of user interface design and what his north star is when he does his work. I’d like him to make his case. If he explained the thinking behind this minimal approach, it might make more sense. Maybe this article was never meant to be that kind of deep dive on design philosophy, but it feels like a missed opportunity.

Indeed. I’m not fond of Alan Dye’s work.

Source: The Wallpaper* Feature on the Apple Design Team and a Missed Opportunity - MacSparky

One More Gripe Against Apple’s Photos Memory Feature

Jim Novell & Stephen Hackett both have valid points against Apple’s Photos Memory feature. I would another one: memories are created on a very aggressive schedule. There are way too many; I miss most of them. I don’t know if this is related to the fact that my library contains more than 42K images or if other factors come into play here. There should be a way to reduce the frequency.

Blue vs Green Bubbles — Blue is In, Green is Out?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal created a concerted reactions chain from news sites and people on Twitter. In “Why Apple’s iMessage Is Winning: Teens Dread the Green Text Bubble”, the WSJ article paints Apple as using highly questionable tactics to keep its users locked in iMessage messaging service. I want to share my thoughts on this.

Peer pressure among teens isn’t a new phenomenon, far from it. Way before the Internet became accessible, when I was a teen myself, I vividly remember the feeling of not wearing the same brand of clothes as my friends. The problem here is teen’s social behaviour, not the technology. They are the one to blame if they reject people using non iMessage messaging service. I would argue that Apple as nothing to do with this. Sure, they like the stickiness of their platform, but I wouldn’t say it’s the defining goal when they add features to it.

Of course, Apple can’t provide the dot-dot-dot feedback showing people who are actually writing a response to a text message because the SMS standard doesn’t provide that. Duh.

When Mr. Hiroshi Lockheimer from Google refers to “standards” in one of his tweets to fix the interoperability issues of messaging platforms like iMessage, I wonder what standards he is referring to, Google’s RCS. And if this standard is actually a standard, why is it so hard to take off? Why are messaging services like Discord, Telegram, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, etc.?

I would also argue that, for a company like Apple, the ecosystem stickiness is part of their differentiating factor. Of course, iMessage plays a major role here. For a company like Google, where massively providing free services with ads, the more people who get to use your services, the more revenues you get. It’s their differentiating factor. It’s easy to say: Apple should open up their messaging service.

My anecdotal experience is to the effect that when something breaks in the conversation between an iPhone user and an Android users, they usually go with Messenger or WhatsApp. People still have access to many alternatives.

WSJ’s article is a prime example that finding the right angle to portray Apple as the devil in the room attracts numerous clicks.

On Talent Retention Challenges

I’ve been working in information technologies for nearly three decades. Finding competent people has always been a challenge. Keeping them too. But, in recent years, the situation has become simply critical, to the point where businesses are deeply impacted: delayed projects, abandoned initiatives, high pressures on other people, stress, etc. Businesses’ bottom line if at stake here.

The news of the departure of one of the directors behind Apple’s transition from Intel to Apple’s own silicon, Mr. Jeff Wilcox, for its Mac product line is sad but probably just the tip of the iceberg. I wouldn’t read too much into this. I can imagine a team of many hundred engineers working on this program. People come, people go. Apple must cope with this. One could argue that when there are empty seats to fill, it becomes an opportunity for others to move in and try to be their best.

There are an infinite number of reasons why people leave a company. For Apple, the challenge is probably to stay attractive in a sea of opportunities for engineers. Apple cannot please everyone, all the time. I guess salaries is one of many other factors that come into play here. Apple is a legendary company where countless people would like to work there, me included. Pressure most be high in many key positions. Yet, the reward must be satisfying. I guess Mr. Wilcox has done what he thought could be done and succeeded. It’s often the good time to move on, and try something else while being at the top of their game.

Those Curves…

I’m a big fan of curves, but up until now, I didn’t really know how to take advantage of them. 🙃 Enter this short tutorial for Pixelmator Pro. 😂 You’ll learn how to use the curves adjustment to tweak colours and luminance of any photos. I usually prefer to use sliders just because up until now I didn’t really get how to use the curves. Now, thanks to this tutorial, I have a much better idea. Many more tutorials are available on the Pixelmator Pro YouTube channel.

The production quality of these tutorials is impeccable. I really love Pixelmator in general, and I always thought this photo processing application could have been done by Apple, when they cared enough about making one, back in the days. This isn’t a paid advertisement. I’m just being enthusiastic about great native macOS applications. 😌

On iPhone 14 Pro Max Pricing

Kuo has also said that the iPhone 14 Max, or whatever it ultimately ends up being called, will be priced at under $900. For comparison’s sake, the current iPhone lineup’s “Max” only includes the 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, which is priced at $1,099.

I highly doubt that Apple will reduce the price of the top-of-the-line model of their iPhone line-up. Why would they do that? This would put pressure on lower-end models to go down in price too. Non sense.

Surprise Me!

The Surprise Me! plugin for Micro.blog is undoubtedly a lot of fun to play with. It will pick a random post from this blog out of 1578 posts published since 2018. It’s a fun way to resurface old yet still relevant content. Try it! I wonder how many hours of my life were used to write and publish all that stuff?

Beyond the iPhone

Remember when people claimed Java would replace all computer languages? Maybe you remember when tech pundits told us that network computers would replace Windows PC? Or what about those who said that netbooks would replace laptops? Why some people consider the tech world to be a place where technologies always get replaced with another one? I tend to view the tech world as a space where several waves hitting the shores. Not everything disappears with each wave, and most of the time, technologies keep adding up.

What will replace the iPhone, you might ask? For me, nothing will replace the iPhone. But, according to Kelly Evans, the iPhone is going away. I don’t think her article will age well. Is she really thinking that a vast majority of people will wear goggles and stop buying smartphones? Really? Is she serious, or am I missing something in her writing?

As much as I despise articles who pretend to predict a product failure on day one, I hate articles who predict success of an unannounced product like Apple’s AR headset.

I should create a Craft document where I store those articles with a date attached to them, like five years from now, and get back to them to see how well the prediction came to be.

On NFTs: What Am I Missing?

First, consider this announcement from Samsung:

“In 2022, Samsung is introducing the world’s first TV screen-based NFT explorer and marketplace aggregator, a groundbreaking platform that lets you browse, purchase, and display your favorite art — all in one place.”

What? Why is there so much talk around NFTs these days? What problems do they solve? What am I missing? This short Twitter thread makes me think that I’m not missing a lot, and that I should probably move on. Nothing to see here. Yet, how long before platforms like Unsplash steps in? 🤦🏻‍♂️

COVID — Did He Really Got Me?

Here is an update following yesterday’s post about getting caught by COVID. I thought that I had been infected because of my symptoms. We all did a quick test after posting my article. The results came up positive for one of my friends, but everyone else was negative, including me. It could be false negatives, but I highly doubt it, except if we didn’t do the test correctly.

How am I feeling 24 hours later? I had a not-so-good night with a sour throat. It was like if I had a fever, my body felt heavy. That’s a strange feeling. We still have two quick tests on hand, which we’ll probably use before going back home today. We’ll probably go to a clinic to get a PCR test, but long lines of people are waiting to get tested, which is discouraging. I should probably just declare myself as positive.

The thing about COVID is that not everything is clear-cut, far from it. There is a lot of confusion, especially in this fifth wave with Omicron. We didn’t really know what to do with a single test coming out as positive. We spent the last week together, with the Omicron variant, It’s pretty sure we would become infected. My friends thought of leaving early but changed their minds because we all had very mild symptoms because we were all fully vaccinated. So we didn’t feel the need to panic or worry too much.

Our holiday vacation is ending on a sour note, to say the least. 😒