What's in a name?

One of the big questions I asked myself before moving my blog from Wordpress to Micro.Blog recently was ‘what would I call it?’ The name The Dent was kindly offered up to me by Zac Cichy after I tweeted about wanting to find some kind of identity to my tech blogging. The fact I didn’t come up with it myself frees me to say that I, personally, think it’s a pretty great name. While the name could mean many things, the six colour header and quote mark it as clearly Apple / Tech related.

The other alternative was to use AndyNicolaides.com, which I still own, but am not currently using. The unfortunate thing about this is my name is a bit of a mess1 and it would never stick in people’s minds for long, and if it did they’d soon forget how to spell it. It goes without saying that if you can’t spell a domain name, you certainly wont be going there very much2. The one benefit this name did have, however, was that it was clearly mine. I don’t say this because I need or want people to know the site is by me, but it does speak to a site that is fairly subject agnostic. While much of what makes me, me is technology based, I like to think there’s more to me. I like to read, I like to watch films, take photographs, listen to music to name a few. I would also like to share some of these interests and thoughts I have on them on my blog.

My issue, which is completely on me, don’t get me wrong, is that I feel I’ve painted myself into a bit of a corner with the name The Dent. While I have a love for technology, I don’t always want to talk or think about it. I feel that the name of this blog gives off a certain expectation, however. This feeling has held me back from posting more often, and of varying topics.

As you would have seen if you follow or subscribe to this blog3 I post very little currently. A lot of it has come down to the fact that many things I think about writing don’t get beyond a planning stage before I tell myself it just wouldn’t fit on my blog.

This rambling post is both my promise, and first step, towards breaking this self-imposed limitation I’ve put upon myself. Believe me, I’m well aware this is a very over the top way of doing such a thing, but like I said this is more for me, to just get a post up and to break the habit, or lack thereof, of limiting myself to tech posts.

While I still think the name I’ve chosen doesn’t really reflect a personal blog which will include book reviews, my publically shared photography4 and more, it’s what it is for now.

The thing I need to remember is that no one is really reading this blog and it’s not going to be anyone’s first port of call for hot takes, be they tech related or not. This is a blog for sharing a few things that interest me, nothing more or nothing less. I need to start posting and stop being concerned about what I post about.

Thanks for attending my TED Talk.


  1. It’s okay, I’ve had the name long enough that I can admit to that. [return]
  2. Yes, I know most people use RSS and / or bookmarks, but that’s beside the point for now. [return]
  3. Which I’m both humbled, and mystified by if this is the case. [return]
  4. Now that I’ve essentially dropped Instagram, this is my main way of sharing photos online. [return]

📚 American Gods - Micro Review

I’ve had American Gods in my  Books backlog for some time now, but now I’m on a bit of a book / audiobook kick1 I finally got around to listening to it.

The preface to the book, read by Neil Gaiman, stated that most people tend to love it or hate it. I’ve got to say I found myself in neither camp. I’ve read a lot of Stephen King recently, so I’m both used to, and happy with, a lot of detail and expansive descriptions. This book, however, was wonderfully detailed, but ultimately the story didn’t really go anywhere until the last chapter or two. By the end I could have happily listened to more, but the journey to get there was a bit laborious. I’d be interested in a follow up book, but I definitely don’t think I’d read this one again and I would be hesitant to recommend it to many.

image I found this interesting image from a Verge article

The world and character building was incredible and the characters themselves were interesting and diverse, I just wish the story itself had more substance. The premise of old Gods, from various pantheons throughout history, being brought to America by various cultures over the years and, essentially, making a life for themselves after they are forgotten was very interesting to me and it somewhat pays off.

There’s something of a twist near the end of the book, but there’s no real fanfare to the revelation, it just sort of happens. No build up and no real groundbreaking changes of pace or circumstance really comes from it afterwards.

I was both happy to get to the end of the book so I could read something else, but also sad that I had to leave that world behind, knowing there is nothing else in that world to continue my journey with.

I’ve never written a review of a book beyond a short sentence or two on GoodReads, and after reading this you’ll probably see why. I do usually know very clearly if I like a book or not after reading it. That was not the case here. I liked it enough to write a review of it, however, so that’s got to be worth something, right?

Have you read American Gods? What did you think about it? I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on it.


  1. Thanks, in a large part, to the dire state of many tech podcasts at the moment. [return]

Get Your Site Ready For Dark Mode

As is usually the case with me and this blog, I’ve been procrastinating recently. Instead of actually writing up some real content for the site, I’ve been playing around with the design slightly.

If you’re currently running the latest version of macOS, or the beta versions of iOS / iPadOS 13, and you’re in dark mode, you may have noticed the change already.

With the help of the always fantastic Micro.Blog community, both on the site itself and the Slack channel, I’ve been able to update the site to support dark mode across iOS 13, iPadOS and MacOS.

Light vs. Dark

It turns out the process of doing this is, at its core, extremely simple. In my case, on a micro.blog hosted site at least, I just had to add a small bit of code to my custom CSS, as seen below:

  @media (prefers-color-scheme:     dark) {
  body {
color: #fafafa;
background-color: #1a1a1a; 
}
.blog-title a {
color: #ffffff;
}
  .post-title a {
  color: #ffffff !important;
} 
   blockquote p {
  color: #ffffff !important;
}
}

The biggest challenge, for me at least, was working out what I needed to change to amend the blog title, the post title and also the block quotes. I’ve fiddled around with the custom HTML and CSS a fair bit, way outside of my usual comfort zone, so it’s become a little bit unwieldy.1

The switch between states is effortless and I’m really impressed at quite how simple it is to add support for something like this.

As I said, I received a lot of assistance with this along the way so this post is intended purely as a way to pay it on and hopefully help others adopt the same change. As someone that lives in dark mode currently, on my iPhone and iPads, the more support for dark mode around the internet the better in my opinion. I’m really hoping Micro.Blog itself adds it soon too, though I imagine that’s a lot more complicated to do than my small site.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, please let me know.


  1. As Chris rightly points out, please be aware that the specific CSS classes used in your theme, or blog, will likely vary to that which you see me referencing above. My blog currently uses a modified version of the Arabica Hugo theme. Actual milage may vary. [return]

🎙Appearance: BYOD 101

The Bring Your Own Device podcast recently hit a huge milestone, of 100 episodes, which is pretty impressive. It’s a show that’s a relatively new addition to my subscriptions, but it’s very quickly become one of my favourites. Greg and Nati’s informed, yet relaxed and humorous approach to tech podcasting really is a breath of fresh air in a pretty crowded space. Hitting their centenary is a great achievement, but it looks like things may be going downhill come episode 101 …

I joke of course. I was very honoured last week to be invited onto episode 101 to speak with the guys about our experiences with iOS 13, iPadOS and what the future looks like for the Apple Watch.

You can find details about the episode on the BYOD site, or listen in Overcast. I hope you enjoy the episode.

🎙24: Two Weeks With iOS 13

Well, it turns out I’m a thrill seeker and I’ve downloaded iOS / iPadOS / watchOS on ALL THE THINGS.

Join me in this episode as I take a brief look at how the last two weeks on Apple’s latest beta software have been, along with my recommendations about whether or not you should also jump on the beta train. Choo-Choo!

You can find links to the show below:


You can also find a direct link on the podcast page, or listen via the inline player below.

Sherlocking in iOS 13

I mentioned that iOS updates always seem to kill off at least one app for me, as it’s built in functionality increases. iOS 13 is no exception, the Sherlocking knows no bounds. This time around, however, it feels like I’m replacing far more than usual. I’ve long preferred stock iOS apps and services where possible, and this update provides even more options. Here are a few apps that are being replaced, at least for now, in my workflow, thanks to iOS 13:

GoodTask

My relationship with todo apps / task managers on iOS has been a tumultuous one, where I’d switch around a fair bit, but GoodTask has been my go to for some time now. It may not have been a Things competitor in terms of looks, but GoodTask is an incredibly power app and is constantly being updated. One of its key features was that it sat on top of the Apple Reminders database, essentially allowing me to keep the stock service whilst gaining some increased functionality.

Now, however, in iOS 13, the stock Reminders app has had a complete overhaul. It’s gained both a new look, and some vastly improved functionality with new Smart lists, nested ‘projects’ and folders quick actions (as seen below) and more.

Reminders

I can now enjoy the stock Reminders service and the app itself and all the benefits that entails.

Scanner Pro

Scanner Pro, by Readdle, is a relatively niche product. The byline on its website reads ‘a scanner in your pocket’ and that’s exactly what it is. I’ve been using iCloud Drive as my cloud storage solution for some time and Scanner Pro works excellently to analyse a document, crop to a perfect scan and save directly to iCloud Drive in seconds. While this isn’t something I do everyday, I do find myself doing it fairly often to store important documents for reference later.

Even this fairly niche task is going to be achievable without the need for a third party app on my device. There is an option to do this, built right into the stock Files app.

FilesScanner

Scanner Pro still does a far nicer job of organising and presenting your scans, but for quick tasks this option will do the job perfectly. It’s not the easiest option to find within the Files app, however, which won’t aid its adoption.

Documents by Readdle

Poor Readdle isn’t having a good time of it in iOS 13, at least in my world. Another casualty is their really quite good Documents app. What this app offers over just using Files isn’t immediately clear to some, but it provided me with some important functionality missing elsewhere in iOS, until now. This included things like unzipping files and the it acted as a download manager. These are now things, again, built into Files and the newly improved Safari.

There’s a new sub-menu found in many places across iOS 13, such as the below example in Files, which adds the option to unzip.

Files

Safari has also gained a downloads manager that you can use to download files anywhere you want in the cloud, or locally, which brings me onto my next example.

Local Storage

The Files app has always had a local storage location available, but it’s functionality was weirdly limited. This did indeed store files locally, as you’d imagine, but it was just a location that certain apps would use by creating their own folder. You couldn’t just create a folder here yourself and drop stuff in you wanted to keep just on this device. This lead to another very niche product, literally called Local Storage. This app essentially creates its own Location in Files which allows you to save whatever files you want into it, which are kept locally and not synced back to the cloud. You could always achieve this by just dropping your file into the folder of another app1, but Local Storage provides a far better solution allowing you to see how much storage you were taking up etc.

This very niche functionality is now built into iOS 13, as it should have been from day one.

iCab Mobile

While iCab Mobile offers some very advanced features when compared to Safari, even in iOS 13, my main uses for it are also being replicated. I used iCab for two main tasks. iCab allows you to force a specific user-agent on a website, so it thinks your iPad is actually using a desktop browser, for example. This then, at least tried) to display the desktop version of a site whereas before it would usually get the mobile version. The other use case was when I needed a download manager.

As you may have guessed, there are also both now possible with stock options in iOS 13. Safari now contains a built in downloads manager, which you can setup to download to true local storage, iCloud Drive or any other cloud storage you have setup as a Provider in Files.

Downloads

Safari, on iPadOS at least, is now desktop class which, among other things, means it appears as a desktop browser by default, allowing for desktop versions of pages to load. The previously mentioned long-press sub menu returns here too, giving you quicker access to change between mobile and desktop view if needed.

SubMenu

YouTube

Okay, I’m not really replacing YouTube here, but the added functionality to Safari does mean I can happily ditch the terrible YouTube app on iPadOS and just use the site directly instead. This not only looks lot better, but videos now work with picture in picture finally. What more can I say here?

While, for me personally, I love the fact I can do even more with my devices in iOS / iPadOS 13, using less apps, it’s also a little bittersweet. I like not having to jump around between 100 different apps to achieve some relatively simple task, I also really like third party apps and I don’t like to arbitrarily harm, or see harm come, to the income of hard working independent developers that are working on apps with very specific uses.

These apps come into being in the first place to plug gaps that Apple hasn’t gotten around to yet, so it’s understandable that as the OS’ functionality grows, the need for these specific apps will diminish. There will always be more gaps to fill, however. Plenty more opportunities and plenty more talented developers to fill them.

I’m glad that iOS / iPadOS is giving me more options and opportunities to stay within the Apple ecosystem, which I trust with my documents and the like above others, but is also giving the all important independent developers community a huge amount of new APIs and functionality to embrace in their own apps.


  1. it had to be in the folder of another random app because you can’t create folders manually here, before iOS 13. [return]

Why Not Just Get A Mac?

You’ve probably seen far too many posts and microblogs about my affectation for the iPad recently. There’s some strange allure about the iPad for me, and many others. I can appreciate the incessant conversation about a simple device can be frustrating to some as well, but I’ve been enjoying experimenting with my iPad Pro recently to put it through its paces a little bit.

I’ve been experimenting using different input methods, external displays, mice, keyboards, all sorts of things. Whenever I do this I get the inevitable question of: “Why don’t you just get a Mac?” This is usually from people looking to pick a bit of a fight, but I’ve also heard from many people that were genuinely interested in why someone would prefer an iPad to a MacBook or similar. One such person wrote:

… okay. I’m going to go there. If you use mouse support and a fixed keyboard all the time…what’s better about using an iPad ove a MacBook with iOS apps and a touchscreen? I ask this as I suspect some people would prefer that, although there are no MacBooks with touchscreen…although those people don’t really seem to touch their screen either so 🤷‍♂️

There are a myriad of reasons why I use an iPad to do what I do versus a MacBook or iMac. It goes without saying that these reasons apply to me and I’m not trying to make the point that the iPad is better than desktop / laptop Macs. I’m just trying to explain why it is better for me and why I enjoy using them.

Flexibility

Chris opens his question, as others do when they see a photo of a very specific iPad setup I share a picture of / am experimenting with by assuming this is the way I always use the device. Generally speaking, across a week, I use my iPad across a plethora of different configurations and setups, all dependent on the task at hand.

configs

Since upgrading my iPad Pro to the first beta of iPadOS just some of the ways I’ve used my iPad include:

  • iPad and Smart Folio Keyboard on a desk, and sitting on the sofa
  • iPad and Smart Folio Keyboard with mouse
  • iPad connected to 4K monitor with Magic Keyboard and mouse (with the iPad off to the side / not touched)
  • iPad and Brydge Pro Keyboard with and without mouse
  • iPad with nothing connected at all, whilst reading / browsing

While there are certain flexibility options afforded to you with something like a MacBook you still have a fixed form factor to deal with which is too limiting to me. I can use the iPad as I would a MacBook if I choose, especially if I use the Brydge keyboard and a mouse, but I can also remove everything and just use it like a tablet whilst reading or relaxing on the sofa at night, and many configurations in between.

The addition of true game controller support is also pretty huge in this respect, as yet another possible option for what my iPad can transform into. With  Arcade just around the corner, my tablet / laptop / desktop computer device will then also be a pretty compelling games console.1

gaming on the ipad

App Ecosystem

I won’t go too in depth in this one, but the very fact that Apple is putting so much effort into giving developers options to port their iOS apps to the Mac speaks volumes. Apple knows what most of us also know, that a lot of iOS apps are incredibly good, compelling pieces of software. I really like the App Store and the multitude of great apps, and games, that are available within it, and I could never give that up for pure Mac apps.

Ease of use

What a lot of non-iPad users seem to not understand / appreciate2 is that those hoops they think we jump through to shoehorn an iPad into our workflow are not hoops at all. Just as switching from DOS to a GUI interface back in the day would have required you to complete your tasks in a different way, so to does using an iPad. It’s a paradigm shift, there’s no question about it, but once you’ve learnt how to do task X, Y and Z in this new world it’s then just as easy to do as it would have been for you before. It may even be simpler, if you just make the effort to learn and break old habits.

I’ve not used a Mac in any meaningful way for years now so I have no doubt in my mind I would be able to do any given task far, far quicker and effectively on an iPad than I could if I was forced to use a Mac. Again, this isn’t about me saying iPads are better for everyone. I am saying it’s better for me and I am better at using it.

🎉

This is a bit of a silly one, but for me using an iPad / iPadOS / iOS is just more fun than using a desktop or laptop. I don’t know if it’s because those things have always been associated with work to me, and the iPad was traditionally about consumption / entertainment, but there’s a weird feeling I get when I use my iPad. It’s not just me, I’ve heard a lot of people express a similar pleasure. I’d love to see some kind of research into what makes it so enjoyable to use, but there it is regardless.

At the end of the day, as it always has, it not only comes down to preference it comes to what you need to actual do on your device. For many, a simple iPad is definitely not capable enough to do what you do. If you require specialist software, for example, like I do with my day job, it just can’t replace your real computer however much you try to shoehorn it in. For many, however, I think it’s more capable than they know, but I think the message is starting to get across now.

You do you, and be happy while you do it. It’s the best any of us can do, and hope for. Thanks for attending my TED Talk.


  1. Okay, this may be a bit of a stretch / exaggeration, but some of the  Arcade games shown off so far do look very interesting. [return]
  2. I’m looking at you The Verge staff! [return]

🎙️ Appearance: iPad Pros Episode 54 - iPad OS

If you think I love the iPad, wait until you get a load of the excellent Tim Chaten and his equally great iPad Pros podcast. I featured on episode 31 of Tim’s podcast, and was lucky enough to be invited back on1 to discuss my early impressions of iPadOS during the beta phase.

iPadProHomescreen_062019

If you’ve read any of my recent posts recently you will know I’m a big fan of it so far, and it was great fun to dig into some of the specifics of what’s changed since iOS 12. Apple doesn’t recommend anyone installs the first beta of iPadOS, so if you’ve been wanting to try it but aren’t brave2 enough to jump in quite yet, this episode is for you!

You can find details about the episode on the iPad Pros website along with links to get the episode in Apple Podcasts or Overcast.

You can also watch the podcast, via YouTube, below:


  1. I’ve joined an illustrious list of guests that have appeared on iPad Pros more than once. [return]
  2. Or stupid [return]

🔗 Initial Thoughts on iPadOS: A New Path Forward

Federico Viticci:

What truly matters, however, is that the message Apple is sending with iPadOS is the kind of trajectory I wanted to see for the future of iPad. There are functionalities such as multiwindow and file management that the Mac figured out decades ago; in bringing them to iPadOS, however, Apple isn’t simply copying and pasting the same features from one platform to another: instead, they’ve taken those features’ underlying concepts and fundamentally rethought them for the iPad’s touch nature and iOS foundation.

It goes without saying that Federico Viticci’s latest ode to the iPad is a must read, especially for fans of the iPad. The excitement Federico has for the platform is palpable throughout and it’s something I can completely appreciate. While the current iOS 13 beta is extremely buggy, it adds so many huge, yet subtle enhancements to iOS / iPadOS that I can’t help but enjoy every moment I’m using it. The debut iPadOS release doesn’t revolutionise iOS on the iPad, but it truly is tackling so many niggling little problems many people have had over the years. These niggles are suffering from a death by a thousand cuts, small yet important updates that set iPadOS up for some very powerful and exciting changes to come over the next few years. I, for one, can’t wait to see where Apple take iPadOS next.

iOS 13 titbit: Remind Me When Messaging

There’re a lot of nice improvement in the redesigned Reminders app in iOS 13, but one really nice touch is the option to Remind me when messaging. With this option on, you can receive a notification about a particular reminder each time you send a message to the selected person.

This is a really good idea and works very well. I’ve tried quite a lot of Todo apps over the years and I don’t recall seeing that particular feature before. Great stuff from Apple on this one.

This short article was supposed to just be a microblog post 1, but while I have you here it’s a good time for a short PSA. If you upgrade to iOS 13 and try to use the new Reminders app, please be aware that it will upgrade the database your Reminders backend works on and you will no longer be able to see your current tasks in older versions of Reminders on your devices or on iCloud.com.


  1. As in the short, tweet like posts that are not shown in the main feed for my blog. [return]