An Apple Morning

apple_sept_9_2015

Of course there are plenty of other sites to give you the run down on this morning’s Apple event, and the following sentiment from Benny Ling writing at AppleTalk Australia summed things up for those in this fair country:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I will proceed to light my credit card on fire, thanks to how poorly the Australian dollar is doing

So, although this is not the blog for in-depth analysis, I did have a few thoughts as things unfolded, and here they are.

Order of Appearance

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is a non starter for me at the current time, therefore no big excitement here. With my current priorities and the status of my tech world, it just doesn’t really have a place. Of course that doesn’t necessarily infer it isn’t a great product, with some love given by Apple in the form of watchOS 2 and some updated watch colours and bands. I’m sure watch owners – current and future – will be pleased come OS 2.

iPad

Well the iPad Pro looks like a powerful monster, however is just a little on the large side for how I tend to use mine. All that power? Well, probably wasted on my text editor, web browsing, email, social media and an episode of The Americans on my afternoon commute. As I do write more and more on my iPad, an Air 2 is looking like a reasonable upgrade from my iPad mini 2 for a little more screen and iOS 9’s split view.. I’d imagine going from mini to Pro would be rather…well…jarring. Not a common transition path in any event though I expect.

Apple TV

The new Apple TV? Yes, thank you. Our second TV has been crying out for some content assistance in the form of a little streaming, and what better opportunity than to grab a new model Apple TV. The Siri remote looks pretty handy, as does the revamped UI which will now include Apps. I can confidently say this will definitely be a starter in our household in the not too distant future.

iPhone

Then there were the iPhones of course. Having upgraded to an iPhone 6 last year – that is where I’ll stay, however my wife’s 5s is due for handing down to the kids, so I certainly had an interest in what is in store. The usual improvements in camera and phone internals, along with more enticing features such as 3D Touch (with an awful lot of Peek and Pop going on) and Live Photos1. Of course the new Rose Gold colour also made its debut, so eloquently described on a special early morning edition (by geographical necessity) of the Reckoner Podcast:

…the new colour pink – they call it Rose Gold but its pink

And finally, lets face it – my complexion is crying out…just crying out I say, for the new Retina Flash on the front facing camera. I’m sure I’ll look a lovely shade of rose gold.

So in the end, given the pre-event rumours, you’d probably say not a lot of surprises, however nice to see it all finally unleashed.

In Short

Australian Release Dates:

  • September 12; 5:01pm: iPhone Pre Orders
  • September 16: iOS 92 & watchOS 2
  • September 25: iPhone on sale
  • September 30: OS X El Capitan (?)
  • October: New Apple TV
  • November: iPad Pro

Pricing? Well apart from the iPhones, nothing to report here as yet, although I would add the paid iCloud storage tiers will improve in value — though where exactly they will land in $AUD per tier is still to be announced.

Further reading

Of course anyone can rabbit on precisely in the vain I have done above, however might I point you towards some more seasoned analysis (emphasis indicates sites which carry the Australian flag):

Reckoner: Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program Dissected (A new iPhone every 12 months – hmmm… the possibilities)

AppleTalk Australia: Apple’s September 2015 Event Wrap Up, Never-Have-I-Ever Edition

MacStories: iPad Pro: Our Complete Overview

MacStories: The New Apple TV: Our Complete Overview

six colors: Notebook: Apple’s newest product announcements

Or, if you prefer – by podcast:

Reckoner: Special Episode: Apple September 2015 Event

Upgrade: #53: Everything is Off The Charts

Clockwise: #103: TV Sandwich


 

  1. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d say a little more storage space will be required for photos; I might as well use Apple Photos and iCloud; better upgrade my iCloud storage plan to cope; Apple makes up the drop in iCloud pricing at each tier through increased volume. Um…but I’m not. ↩︎
  2. I am hopeful the revamped Notes app will relieve me of my increasing disillusionment with Evernote ↩︎

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In Use – Vesper 2.0 for iPhone

Although I use Evernote for storage and archiving of longer notes, articles, web clippings, PDF’s and the like, many quick notes are just that, short and quick. The type of notes which don’t require any further action, sharing or archiving until I need to refer to them again. When I’m standing in a shop, I don’t want to be searching through my filing cabinet for the pen refill model number, I simply need the notebook in my back pocket where this information is written. To me, if Evernote is my digital filing cabinet, Vesper is the digital notebook in my back pocket.

Vesper_Notes_ListVesper_home

I love Vesper, and it has been on my home screen for the past 4 months or so, being a fast and reliable way of taking quick notes with a minimum of fuss inside a great looking interface. If we go back to the notebook example above, Vesper is the book you grab when you may not necessarily need to write down a note, but simply enjoy writing in the pages with your favourite pen anyway. Yes – in my opinion the user interface is that good. I have never been a fan of Apple’s native Notes app, pre or post iOS 7, and if you are in any way similar, go and have a look at Vesper.

Vesper_settingsVesper_in_settings

Vesper supports tags, photo and text notes, has gesture based (L swipe) archiving, and the usual email/message or copy all actions. Notes can also be reordered or “prioritised” through a tap and hold to drag up or down the list.

Vesper_NoteVesper_Share

Have I mentioned Vesper is a beautiful app? From the design, colour scheme and font (love the smallcaps option for note titles), not to mention the understated icon on my home screen. The icon, incidentally, sits right beside Drafts, another app I use extensively for longer form note taking (e.g. notes while listening to podcasts; email drafts), which usually end up being archived to Evernote, Dropbox, or sent to other apps such as Omnifocus for further action. Of course, I acknowledge a great looking app is virtually useless if it does not have the functionality you require, however for the times I use Vesper, I don’t need anything else – and that is precisely it’s strength.

Why write about Vesper now? A recent free update to the app has now added Vesper Sync for your notes, a missing feature pointed out by any as a downside of the original release. Although the sync is essentially a back up as there are no Vesper iPad or Mac apps yet, Vesper will run at 2x on the iPad. Set up for a free (optional) Vesper Sync account is a simple process using an email address and password, and you are up and running. For those suspicious of a “free” syncing service, John Gruber on the Vesper blog:

Vesper Sync is not a free lunch, because Vesper is not a free app. Sync should be a feature, not something you have to pay extra for.

Although my note collection is very small, (I tend to delete or amend the 20 or 30 notes I have on the go), the syncing is fast and unobtrusive, both key aspects for my continued use of Vesper as a primary quick note/recall app (from what I understand the app scales well with larger note collections). This added feature now bodes well for the development of companion apps, and I believe the Mac app is first in line.

Read more on Vesper Sync and future plans on the Q Branch blog, and you can follow Brent Simmons engineering diary at Inessential.

Vesper 2.0 is currently available on the iOS App Store for AUD$6.49 (or the update is free if you already own the App).

Life by Alt+Tab

Alt+Tab (Or CMD+Tab as the case may be depending on your platform).

For the purposes of this post we’ll go with Alt+Tab, given my office job ties me to a Windows PC. Alt+Tab being the keyboard shortcut which instantly takes you to another open programme, and one I use dozens of times per day.

I mentioned in a previous post how the concept of work life separation resonates with me far more than that of work life balance. All day, five days week, I sit and peer into two monitors, hopefully make a difference, get up and go home. I’m certainly not alone in this. Whether or not you sit, stand, walk or crawl(?!) around all day, you also get up, go home, then come back and do it all again.

How do we separate the work day from everything else? More importantly, how quickly and how often can we switch off from work and into…well, something else. It may seem counterintuitive to suggest my iPhone and iPad mini help me switch off from work. They’re just another screen right?

Not so much.

Morning

My morning commute generally involves listening to my favourite podcasts and a bit of music prior to walking through the office doors.

[Alt+Tab]
Once I hit my desk it all begins, with my focus on work and generally not much else. Though my iPhone is close at hand, it is rarely used, other than to reply to an occasional text message or to check either my calendar or Omnifocus.

Whatever you may think of “multitasking”, or the fact that replying to a text message only takes a few seconds (please tell me you realise how long it takes to regain the same level of focus you had prior to a minor disruption) – tasks that are not work and disrupt focus are the true productivity killers of the modern office. Don’t even get me started on the design flaws of the modern open plan office where “collaboration is king” – well yes, if you accept that 90% of all collaboration occurring is about the latest concert, Game of Thrones episode or why someone just needs to get out of that relationship.

I digress, so let’s just say I’ve been hard at work for a couple of hours by this point.

Middle

[Alt+Tab]
I exit my office building at approximately 11am for a mid morning coffee, call my wife to see how things are going, then open Tweetbot and catch up on my Twitter feed, check Instagram, or what my family are up to in Path. I may search or stumble across some articles to save for later in Pocket or ‘flip’ into my Brew magazine on Flipboard.

That is, an immediate transition from my office role into another virtual space where the interactions are all about my other interests and passions. Family, pens, coffee and technology being some. Some of these interests lead to interactions over the web and social media, with like-minded individuals both in other parts of the country, and around the world. There is nothing quite like providing feedback to a pen blog in the UK, or backing a Kickstarter project in the USA to instantly take your mind off the emails, phone messages or Excel spreadsheet waiting back at your desk.

[Alt+Tab]
Coffee break over – back into work for another couple of hours through to lunch time.

[Alt+Tab]
Lunch time. Again I leave the office. With iPad in hand, walk for bit, order some of the finest filter coffee you will find, sit, and draft the next post for this site. Once I’ve given a fair effort to something productive such as a blog post, then it’s on to personal emails and social media.

[Alt+Tab]
Lunch break over, and my focus switches back to work for the long haul through to the end of the day.

Done

[Alt+Tab]
Once I physically “clock off”, again it’s a quick switch back to my iPhone at the bus stop (usually a quick catch up on Twitter and Instagram whilst keeping half an eye out for the bus), and once on it, sink into watching a TV series on my iPad until home.

An Easy Escape

Each change of focus outlined above involves a physical change in my environment. The coffee break, the lunch break, the bus stop – all times I have left my desk and escaped outside, not simply to another screen. I suspect it is not by chance that these physical location changes greatly contribute to switching my thoughts away from work and into my personal areas of interest so quickly. Heading into the lunch room at work with my phone or iPad has no appeal to me.

Not only is it great to have outside interests, it is amazing the ease in which we can access them – whether on a break or walking across town to a meeting. It is this instantaneous shift in thinking which not only keeps me sane, but also provides the break I need to sharpen my work focus on returning to my desk. To me, the personal technology I use is therefore not simply another screen, but a powerful way to delineate work and personal boundaries, much like Alt+Tab is a powerful keyboard shortcut to access another programme in an instant.

Closing Thoughts

Are we really all slaves to technology?

Perhaps at times, however depending upon how you use it (I admit we are not all lucky enough to exert total control), it can be an extremely powerful means of breaking out of the mundane work mindset at various points during the day, and escaping into something that allows you to feel that each weekday is not just work. There is a portal to your world of other interests, communities and knowledge, and if used wisely, can add a significant amount of value to your life.

Outlined above is the digital perspective of my day. Any interaction with my digital devices is trumped (and often is) by human conversation. If you find me on one of these breaks feel free to chat – just don’t ask me to talk about work.

Wiser Web Wednesday

This week’s links of note I’ve collected from around the web.

Informal Scribble
What’s not to love about a great blood orange fountain pen ink with an equally good drying time:
Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki

The Newsprint
Do you use the little red badge icon in the Drafts App? It appears there may be a few of us around who track unprocessed notes this way:
On My Screen: Drafts for iPhone

Quartz
Further to my recent post which touched on coffee pods, Nespresso have come to an agreement with French anti-trust authorities to honour the guarantee on its coffee machines for consumers using non-Nespresso branded capsules:
Someone is finally forcing Nespresso to open source it’s coffee pods

CRS Coffeelands Blog
As a coffee consumer, I constantly hear about traceability and farm/roaster relationships. Just what specific grower incentives produce the most reliable results for both the farmer and the consumer? US-based Counter Culture coffee propose a model with what appears to have considerable merit:
Counter Culture’s new approach to quality incentives

Macstories
Federico Viticci outlines the new features in the update of Unread, my favourite RSS Reader for iPhone. The best new feature for me? Mark as read on scrolling – if I’ve scrolled past I’ve seen it. Consider it read unless I say otherwise:
Unread 1.2 Adds Image Viewer, New Gestures and More

I hope you find something of interest in the above.

An Easter Trip Disconnected

After a trip to visit my parents in northern NSW (usually about a 2 hour trip south from Brisbane), a particularly appalling traffic jam on returning home highlighted a couple of things to me regarding how I use my phone on journeys like these, and the limitations still presented to us when doing so.

Lets just say I am very pleased for those people who were visiting the town of Byron Bay over the Easter Weekend (our destination was a little further south), however these were not my thoughts when stuck in northbound traffic for close to two hours over a stretch of the Pacific Highway approaching the Byron on-ramp (which we usually cover in 10 minutes), thus making the trip home a leisurely 4 hour drive.

Getting There

So how was my phone involved in all of this? Firstly, the day before I had sent my mother an invitation to share my location in the Find my Friends app on her iPad, allowing her to have a reasonable idea of when we would arrive that morning. All worked well for most of the journey, with the exception of a request by the app for a login which was at the time unknown to my mother. Minor aberration soon fixed upon my arrival. During this trip, I streamed my music collection though iTunes Match for a little over two hours (I have a generous amount of data on my current plan), with the connection dropping out just the once.

Trip rating 9/10

Getting Home

The return journey and technology – not such a great pairing. The almost two-hour traffic jam where we moved only a few kilometres occurred where our 3G signal was fairly poor, leaving us without any connection throughout the entire period we were stuck. A disaster? No, however it did get me thinking about how I tend to use my devices when traveling, and the possible ramifications of this.

Starting with the Find my Friends app. It was all well and good to download this for my mum on her iPad and set things up to enable her to track our journey when we visit. When we lose connectivity? A couple of concerned parents who wonder why the location is showing a position 2 hours into a journey we should have passed in the first half hour. A breakdown? Accident? They were not to know.

Relating to the above, we were also out of range when trying to send messages. For iMessage? Forget about it, and it was difficult even getting standard SMS through. My mother’s attempts to send iMessages (as she often uses her iPad for messaging not her phone) both to myself and my wife were obviously not received either. So, again, from their end – breakdown or accident? This was ultimately resolved by eventually getting an SMS through to my mother’s mobile phone.

Of lesser importance in the connectivity side of things, we were also unable to check maps (Apple, Google or otherwise) to see if any of the side roads afforded an alternate route; check the web traffic updates to confirm if what we expected to be the source of the problem was actually the problem (and hence should be resolved once we passed that particular point); and obviously no music streaming was possible to pass the time (heaven forbid should we all actually talk – kidding, we did plenty of this).

The alternatives? Listen to CD’s (remember those?), albeit the 6 CD’s loaded into the 6-stack in-car stereo afforded a little less choice than the 6000 or so songs in my iTunes match library, however got the job done; the kids watched videos on laptops or listened to music actually on their phones; I could have listened to the podcasts I had downloaded, however didn’t necessarily see the need to subject the rest of the vehicle’s occupants with my own niche interests. As far as knowing what was going on and alternate routes? We did exactly as we used to do 10 years ago, and just waited it out along with the other few thousand motorists doing exactly the same

Return journey rating 6/10 (well we made it didn’t we – there has to be some score for that right?)

Lessons Learned

In summary, although we arrived home safe and sound, the above occurrence did highlight a few shortcomings of this “all connected” world we live in (I do acknowledge those who live in areas who experience these problems every single day). Much of what occurred above I admit were classic “first world problems” and did not really significantly concern me at the time, however when they affect others in your family, you do begin to consider how worthwhile these bits of technology are without 100% reliable coverage to ensure they work all of the time.

In future? Perhaps the case for a fully loaded dedicated car iPod; actually using the phone to call (go figure) my family rather than hopelessly trying to reach the iMessage server or get an SMS through; and resurrecting such classics as I-spy and car cricket.

By the way, had a great day with my great family. Hope your easter weekend was just as good (and fully connected).