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New habits and hobbies for 2018

I’m not generally one for new year’s resolutions. But I do pay attention to those times one has to draw a line in the sand to start something new. I’m going through a few of those times right now, so I’d like to share some thoughts and tools that might help you with your goals.

More journaling for me

I highly recommend journaling. Learning to catalog more of my life for me, not social media, has been great for posterity, being honest with myself, and when I need help remembering how far I’ve come or grown. I occasionally feel stuck, personally or professionally, and I find that my journal entries increasingly help me get unstuck.

Speaking of getting unstuck, I need to get in a better habit. I’ll admit to sometimes thinking I don’t have time, or punking out because I thought I need a cohesive thesis or “have it all thought out.” Maybe it’s ok to have a stream of consciousness entry or even just notes about an event. I can always clean it up later. Or not.

Toward this goal, I put Day One in my Dock on both iPhone and iPad. I’ll also tinker with a couple reminders to help me get in the habit.

Another tool I added to my first home screen is One Second Every Day. It’s a clever app that collects video clips and even Live Photos. It can then build a video overview of a week, a month, or the past year of your life. Neat idea.

Temper news in and out for my health

The United States, indeed the world, are a mess right now. I don’t want to unplug and shut it out. But for the sake of my emotional health and sheer productivity, I can’t stay plugged in all the time either.

I deleted my Facebook account last year (more on that in a minute). I’m also going to try four things over the coming weeks and, likely, months:

  1. Unfollow a few news-heavy accounts on Twitter – Some people and publications use their Twitter accounts as a 24-hour play-by-play of the nightmare unfolding in the U.S., and that’s fine; I still like Twitter for some news. I also feel there’s a time and place for everything, but “always” and “Twitter” for news and politics aren’t quite my thing right now.
  2. Stop posting so much of this nightmare – People know how to find news when they need it, and I’m not Rachael Maddow. I don’t need to contribute to the nightmare, but from time to time, maybe I can contribute to spreading positive help.
  3. Filter my newsreaderFeedly is my reader of choice, and Pro accounts have the option to filter all feeds for keywords and phrases. I’m going to start using them. One catch: filters can only be set in the web app, hopefully just for now.
  4. Find a healthy way to stay informed – I don’t know if that will be some kind of periodic roundup service or what. But some balance is in order.

More conversations with people

Social media can be fun (can), even useful. But I’ll cop to letting it nudge out some of my personal, direct conversations with friends and peers. I want to reverse that this year. More real conversations. More face-to-face time, or at least FaceTime.

To that end, I have a tip I’ve started to use and want to share. I like sharing things directly with multiple people, but not always in a group chat. I use iMessage for most conversations, and there is finally an iOS app that makes it easy to send the same individual message to multiple people.

Interact Contacts for iPhone and iPad is a contact management and messaging app from Agile Tortoise. It has a number of great tricks, including actual contact group management! A handy one is its app extension, which can send just about anything you select to multiple, individual conversations. Yeah, it’s pretty great.

  • Use the Activities/Share Sheet on something, pick Interact
  • Select a few friends, use the search option if necessary
  • Tap the multi-message button at the bottom (the icon of multiple chat bubbles, not the individual icon)

Write more

Like this post. I’m going to write more on personal and professional levels. I want to help more people with tech, explore how all this stuff is affecting us, and try to share a little more about some personal struggles.

For a while now I’ve written nearly every word in Ulysses for iPad (and iPhone). It’s great for writing, organizing, and publishing directly to WordPress and Medium. Like this post.

Create art, even if it’s just for me

IPhoneography. I really enjoy mobile photography. It’s a great way to explore Chicago, I love that I can do it anywhere, and it’s a little cathartic.

These days I post more to EyeEm and my personal blog. I also just picked up a Moment Photo Case and wide lens for my iPhone X, which should make things interesting.

Tinkering with pixel art has also been surprisingly fun, and this year I want to spend more effort and maybe even create a few things worth sharing. I use Pixaki for iPad with an Apple Pencil.

I hope that helps

Even if you don’t have much more than a loose idea for something to start in 2018, I hope this can help move you one step forward.

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A guide for developers who bring Mac apps to the iPad

“What do you want our iPad version to do?”

is the general question.

Even though an increasing part of my business is helping developers to answer this question and choose a path forward, I’d like to toss out some potentially self-sherlocking advice:

If we can do it on Mac, we want to do it on iPad.

It’s really that simple.

Yes, where iOS makes it possible and practical. But you really could just think of an iPad as a second laptop when it’s time to get work done. Alternatively, we could do a thought experiment:

Let’s say your Mac inexplicably disappeared right before your eyes, and was magically replaced with an iPad (Pro) and possibly a keyboard (where relevant). Your app also magically appeared on the first homescreen, and that’s all you get to use for the rest of today, this week, and this month to solve whatever problem your app tackles.

What do you want it to do?

Exactly—everything your Mac version does. And more, when you consider whether a MacBook can replace an iPad.

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An update on my Brydge Keyboard for iPad

A little while ago, I tried out a Brydge Keyboard for my 10.5-inch iPad Pro. TL;DR: It’s a nice, solid keyboard that works well for its intended purpose. I returned mine because I often use my iPad for different things, but I still recommend the Brydge Keyboard if your main goal is to laptop-ify your iPad.

The good

It really is a solid keyboard. Weighing just over one pound, it’s a sturdy chunk of aluminum with a good overall feel. The two hinge arms are lined with rubber gaskets to help grip your iPad, but not so much as to make it difficult to remove. Coming from a rigid Smart Keyboard, it certainly is nice to be able to adjust the angle of my iPad like a real laptop.

Now, I’m a fan of low-travel keyboards like in the current MacBook (reliability problems notwithstanding) and even the Smart Keyboard. The Brydge Keyboard keys travel more than I’d like, but I still got used to it pretty easily.

Unlike Apple’s keyboard, the Brydge has a welcome row of shortcut keys for things like Spotlight, display brightness, volume, and more. It’s also backlit, which was handy.

Why I returned it

I want to be clear about this: I really like the Brydge Keyboard, and I recommend it. If you mostly or only want to use your iPad as an actual laptop replacement, the Brydge Keyboard is a great option.

But. I returned mine because I often use my iPad in that ‘slightly propped up by a Smart Cover’ configuration for stuff like reading, gaming, drawing, and music tinkering. There isn’t really a way to do that with the Brydge Keyboard, outside of perhaps keeping a Smart Cover on hand and switching to it, or awkwardly using my wallet or other items as a makeshift prop. I tried it, didn’t like it.

Apple’s Smart Keyboard has a few drawbacks. But it’s noticeably lighter, a bit thinner, and has that ‘Propped Up Mode’ that I want readily available. I also like that it uses the Smart Connector for power, which the Brydge Keyboard lacks. It’s a good ol’ fashioned Bluetooth keyboard, complete with the little annoyances of Bluetooth.

As I write this, it occurs to me that most laptop-style iPad keyboards probably have to be on the heavy side in order to act as a counterweight to balance the iPad. The Smart Keyboard probably gets away with its relatively light design because of the way it props up the iPad from the back.

Anyway, there’s my story. The Brydge Keyboard is really nice, but it just isn’t what I need.

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The daily App Store

A couple months into the major iOS 11 App Store redesign, it’s become a daily “thing to check” for me.

The stream of content on the Today tab is consistently interesting, even if I don’t want every app. I enjoy the variety of pieces and roundups, especially the developer deep dives where they put a face to an app, so to speak. After all, there are humans behind all these little round squares.

My only minor complaint is that I wish the Apps tab would update more frequently. Rotating the entire thing daily sounds a bit much, but perhaps some parts could swap out more often than they do now.

Anyway, hats off to the App Store team.

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Thoughts on the Mac mini, running a business, and long teeth

Parts of the Apple community have been upset lately about the Mac mini left in update limbo for nearly three years. I get that the mini has a following. But at the end of the day, I don’t blame Apple for spending so much of its attention elsewhere. It’s a business, after all, and businesses have to spend time on things that are either important now or show strong signs of being important soon.

Here are a few things that might bring context to the situation.

Intent

Tim Cook recently answered a customer email about the Mac mini. Without offering any details of a forthcoming update, he stated that the Mac mini is “an important part” of the Mac’s future.

Some dismissed it as empty promises, claiming that Cook simply said what any CEO would about a current product. But here’s the rub: it’s a great bet that Tim Cook’s (public) address gets a ton of email. He—or more accurately, Apple’s marketing department—could simply have sent that email to the circular filing bin with so many others. They knew responding to that email would spark media coverage and expectations.

Numbers

As for why Apple hasn’t updated the Mac since December 2014, let’s do some fuzzy math on its sales over the last few years. Starting from a bird’s eye view, Apple sells around one Mac for every 6-10 iOS devices, at least in the low or normal quarters. By itself, the iPhone is a majority of Apple’s revenue.

Among those Mac sales, the various flavors of MacBook take a whopping 85 percent. That means desktops—iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro—are just 15 percent of Mac sales. Apple does not get more granular than notebooks vs desktops, so the mini’s portion of that 15 percent is anyone’s guess. My guess is the iMac takes the lion’s share of that 15 percent, followed distantly by the Mac mini and Pro.

In its most recent quarter (non-holiday, mind you), Apple sold 46.7 million iPhones, 10. Million iPads, and 5.4 million Macs. That means Apple sold, at most, around 810,000 desktops last quarter. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mac mini sold in the very low six figures, or less.

Priorities

Businesses spend time on things that are either important or show strong signs of being important in the future. Retail employees spend time on assigned tasks. Actors focus (mostly) on projects that further their careers. Small business owners like myself spend most or all of their time on things that will help the business and support themselves and/or their families.

When we look at the numbers, and take a guess at what Apple knows about how and how often the Mac mini is used, I don’t fault the company at all for spending its attention elsewhere. Even if we get more speculative and try to look at products which experience big upgrade cycles, I have a hard time believing the Mac mini ranks anywhere significant. It sure seems to me like people swap out their smartphones, notebooks, and even tablets more often than Mac minis.

Sum

Looking at Apple’s numbers, perceived priorities, and statement of intent, I do buy that the company still cares about the Mac mini and plans to update it. If I were a gambling person, I’d bet it would be within the next year, give or take. A mention at WWDC 2018 would be convenient, but so would an addendum to either the iMac Pro event later this year or Mac Pro event early next year.

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Introducing the Finer Things in Tech Patreon

I’ve been running this site for a few years now, and back in March I launched a weekly newsletter that’s received wonderful feedback. I want to take both of these things to the next level, and I need your help to do it. That’s why I’m introducing the Finer Things in Tech Patreon.

A while ago, I removed all advertising from the site. The newsletter hasn’t had any ads either, and I want to keep it that way. I also want to bring you:

  • More web writing – I want to publish more tips and articles on the site, including reviews, explorations of tech, app recommendations, and more. I also want to expand beyond blog posts and into a resource.
  • Voices from others – I want to commission a truly diverse array of writers, developers, and others in tech about their journey, how to improve the industry, and other topics requested by you, my readers.
  • Newsletter exclusives – My articles, good reads from elsewhere, commissioned pieces from others, and some surprises if we reach my goals.
  • Even more – I have a few more ideas, but I also want to hear yours. Get in touch and tell me why you supported my Patreon or what it would take to get you there. Would you prefer to support the site another way? Want a higher tier with unique rewards, or to see different topics or resources? I want to hear it all.

I’m open to adding other ways for you to support the site and/or newsletter, including Memberful and others. Let’s see what readers prefer.

The weekly newsletter is going supporter-only

One big change is that the weekly newsletter of tips and my recommended good reads from around the web is going supporter-only. All current subscribers will still receive it; I’m not dropping anyone. But if you are a current subscriber, please consider joining my Patreon newsletter tier to support my work.

Thanks for reading

I want to bring you even more writing, articles from great, diverse voices in the community, and some future surprises I’m working on. To make it happen, please support this site and the newsletter on Patreon, or let me know what would bring you on board.

As always, thank you for reading.