 Arcade Daily #7 - Hexaflip

The last game I reviewed, Oceanhorn 2 is, as mentioned within, best experienced on the biggest screen you can, and ideally with a controller. Now that the weekend is over, I wanted to today look at a game that’s less time consuming and one that works well on the iPhone instead. Something fun for some short, weekday break bursts.

When I’ve seen anyone on Twitter recommending an  Arcade game that is good to use on the iPhone, particularly in portrait mode, I’ve seen todays game recommended more often than not. This game is Hexaflip: The Action Puzzler by Rogue Games. I didn’t realise this as I started to write this review, but this is the same developer behind another  Arcade game that I reviewed a few days ago, Super Impossible Road. The former title didn’t impress me all that much, as I wrote at the time, but thankfully Hexaflip was a bit more of an engrossing experience.

The aim of the game, which you’d never guess from the name is to … flip a hexagon. Yes, that’s right, you tap on the left hand side of the screen to flip your hexagonal avatar to the left and tap the right to flip to the right. To complete the level you just need to get to the end without dying. Along the way you will come across various obstacles like gaps to fall down, spikes, hammers, lasers and various other nefarious inanimate objects. Breaking up all the danger there are also various blocks that flip you in the direction they indicate, or moving hexagons that transport you around the map.

There are no time limits in each level, so if you wanted to you could crawl your way to the end of each level, as slowly as you like, just to get it done. In order to encourage some speed, and in turn more danger there are 3 gems in each level, with countdown timers that start as you start the level. Once the timer runs down the gems disappear. You’re encouraged to get to the gems as quickly as possible to collect them before they’re lost. If you collect enough over various levels you’ll unlock some skins for your avatar. Seeing as your avatar is just a hexagon, the skins are fairly uninspiring, so it’s not really going to be worth your time to push yourself too hard here. Unless you really like to put different colours on a hexagon … there’s always someone I guess.

On the face of it, Hexaflip is a pretty dull game. The setting is just a bunch of hexagons laying out on a map. It reminds me of Blockbusters which, for those of a certain age, isn’t a good thing. For a reason I cannot explain, however, and despite all of this, it’s actually a really fun, and addictive game. It’s very much a ’just one more go!’ type of game so I can actually see why it’s being recommended by so many people.

The game’s simple, yet good looking1 and fairly addictive. If you’re after something to pick up for quick sessions while you’re trying to pass your time in a queue, or waiting for your Costa coffee order, you can do a lot worse than firing up Hexaflip. Happy flipping!

  1. Well, as good looking as a game like this can look. I’m not sure it’s ‘console quality’ like the App Store listing says, however. [return]

🎙27: Give A Cat A Crayon

This weeks episode is all about goodies and games. I talk briefly about my initial thoughts after a couple of days with an iPhone 11 Pro Max and Series 5 Apple Watch, then move onto talking about  Arcade. Yes, I know, I’ve not spoken about that too much this week have I?

Give it a listen, if you can, because I have a question for you all in there also.

You can find links to the show below:

You can also find a direct link below.

 Arcade Daily #6 - Oceanhorn 2

It was, and is, my intention to keep these micro reviews true to their name. To keep them short and sweet, and to simply act as a quick guide to whether or not a particular title is worth your time amongst the fairly crowded  Arcade line-up.

A review for the game I want to look at today, Oceanhorn 2, should really just read: ’This game is fantastic and you’d be mad to not play it’, but I guess I should perhaps expand, just a little …

Oceanhorn 2, by Cornfox & Brothers Ltd. is the sequel to one of the best iOS games there has ever been, namely 2013’s Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. The original game took heavy inspiration from early The Legend of Zelda games, and this sequel has gone full on Breath of the Wild.

If I didn’t know better, Oceanhorn 2 could come across as a complete rip-off of Breath of the Wild, much like some of the older Gameloft classics, but while Oceanhorn 2 does, indeed, borrow very heavily from Breath of the Wild, it’s also extremely put together and designed in its own right.

Much like the Zelda franchise, Oceanhorn 2 plays fast and loose with timelines, and is actually set 1,000 years before the original game. If you’ve played Breath of the Wild, or any Zelda game really, you’ll be instantly familiar with the game-style as soon as you fire it up and you’ll certainly notice the borrowed aspects, from a Link like roll, climb, fighting style, treasure chest opening style, jumping grunt noise, stamina reducing climbing … I really could be here all day with this …

Like I said, however, Oceanhorn 2 isn’t just some Zelda rip-off, it really does stand on it’s own as one of the best games I’ve ever played on an iPad. The graphics, music and general aesthetic are gorgeous, the world is immersive and I can’t wait to get through the entire (15 hour approx.) journey.

Another unique part of Oceanhorn, further setting it apart from The Legend of Zelda franchise, is the team you can form quite early on into the game. You can join forces with Trin and Gen, a pretty cool looking robot, who fight along side you. You can even issue commands to them to help you out with various puzzles which is a really nice touch. The light steam-punk aesthetic of the world is really quite cool as well, from the hero’s unique looking gun, to the robots and, from what I’ve seen in the trailer, motorbike like devices and airplanes.

One of the problems with attempting this, frankly stupid, daily  Arcade review challenge I’ve set myself, is that my limited free time is being spread very thinly. Because of this, I’ve not been able to dig through as much of the game as I would have liked, and I’m now going to have to move onto the next game to try out before I can come back to more, but I will certainly be back to it as often as I can until I’ve completed it. The other games I’ve reviewed so far are nice to dip in and out of, but Oceanhorn 2 is definitely one to settle down with a nice cup of tea, dim the lights, fire up the Xbox controller and get adventuring.

If you have an  Arcade subscription you owe it to yourself to jump into Oceanhorn 2 with both feet and soak it all in.

iPhone 11 Quick Tip - Wiggle Mode

Since people started getting hold of their new iPhones 11, I’ve been seeing a lot of complaints or concerns about how fiddly it is now enter ’wiggle mode’ to rearrange icons.

This is probably known to most people, but I just thought I’d share this quick little tip to make it a bit easier. If you long press on an icon and as the menu pops up, start to drag away and you’re good to go. Like I said, not ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it may be helpful to someone.

You can see an example of what I mean by this below.

 Arcade Daily #5 - Super Impossible Road

Merriam Webster defines the world ‘impossible’ as something which is:

Incapable of being or of occurring

With that in mind, the next game I’ve chosen to look at in my daily  Arcade daily reviews, could be written up under the Trades Description Act. Not only was the first game not actually impossible, neither is this reimagining of an App Store classic, Super Impossible Road. While it may not really be impossible, it is a bit bloody hard …

Super Impossible Road has been created by Rogue Games Inc. If you check their page on the App Store, you’ll see that Rogue Games are a very prolific developer. They’ve been a staple in the store for some time, so it’s perhaps suitable that they’re part of the initial launch group for  Arcade with Super Impossible Road.

While the game does have a loose story1,it really is irrelevant. All you need to know is that Super Impossible Road sees you speeding down a twisting and coiling track set against some very nice looking intergalactic backgrounds. There are, currently, five different game modes to play through, which are:

  • Career - This mode tasks you with taking part in a plethora of different races, involving simply finishing in the best time, crossing X amount of gates etc.
  • Race - This mode includes only offline races against AI opponents.
  • Online Race - This is, you guessed it, races but … online!
  • Time Gate - this is, essentially, a time challenge. You must cross each gate before the time runs out. Each gate will grant a few extra, precious nano-seconds.
  • Classic Mode - This seems to be a survival mode, where you simply have to survive as long as possible.

Super Impossible Road is fairly unique in that the game appears to be equally as playable with touch controls as it is with MFi / Xbox / PS4 game controller support. Xbox controller support is very important to me with this  Arcade lineup, so that’s a bit +1 from me.

In each review, so far, I’ve mentioned how impressed I’ve been with the  Arcade line up. Super Impossible Road is my first disappointment. The only reason it’s a disappointment, however, is the strength of the competition. Taken in isolation Super Impossible Road is great fun to play, runs well, looks even better and once again the lack of IAPs helps to elevate a title that would definitely have been riddled with them in the past. For me, however, the game is a little too retro and, if I’m being completely honest, boring.

Standards have been set so high, right now, and options are so vast, the  Arcade games are going to need to be something special to keep me playing. In a normal world Super Impossible World would be a strong entry into the App Store. As it stands, it’s fairly mediocre. All that being said, it’s presence in the  Arcade lineup is welcome and while it’s not a game I will dedicate time to right now, while there are so many to work my way through, I’m sure I’ll spend some time with it in the future.

  1. Something, something future, something, something racing … [return]

 Arcade Daily #4 - tint.

After a manic week of work, family and digging through endless  Arcade games I needed a break and a little relaxation and, luckily I didn’t even have to leave the Arcade to find it.

The next stop on my whistlstop tour of  Arcade is the ’relaxing col(u)or-mixing puzzle’ game, tint., by Bangkok based developer Lykke Studio.

tint.1 requires you to solve a multitude of different puzzles through the power of watercolours. In order to solve each puzzle you’re required to match your paint strokes to the colour of the origami pieces on each page of a book. This starts off simple enough, matching red paint to red origami and blue paint to, you guessed it, blue origami. This quickly moves on, however, requiring you to mix the paint trails together as you go along to match to non-primary colour origami pieces.

While this premise is very simple, the execution is absolutely stunning.

You select the level, or page, you want to play in my leafing through a gorgeously rendered art book whilst being serenaded by some superbly relaxing and soothing music and sound effects. Each section of the book is themed around different seasons, from crisp autumnal colours and aesthetics to bright summer tones and everything in between. It really is a gorgeous looking game, and experience.

Not only does the game look beautiful, it also sounds it. According to the  Arcade listing the full binaural audio experience has been crafted by hand using real objects found in nature and in an art studio. I’m not sure what sort of sounds you get inside an art studio, to be fair, but if this is what it sounds like I may need to visit more often …

I’m going to keep todays review short and sweet, because I think simply reading about a game like this cannot do it justice one little bit. All I will say is that if you have an  Arcade subscription, and I imagine you do if you’re reading this in the first place, you owe it yourself and your mental well being to give this game a try. Get home from work, have a bath, make a cup of tea, put your feet up, pop in some headphones and unwind with this beautiful, entrancing and soothing game. You can thank me later.

  1. Yes, the lower case name and full stop is the way the studio write it, it’s not a typo, but thanks. [return]

 Arcade Daily #3 - Bleak Sword

The previous  Arcade reviews that I’ve written have been for games that, in my opinion, are best experienced on a larger screen1. In order to bring a little balance to the force I wanted to try a game that’s more at home on the iPhone.

To that end, today’s  Arcade Daily micro-review is for Bleak Sword from Devolver Digital.

The  Arcade listing for the game describes it as featuring Dark Fantasy Dioramas which is a perfect description of the graphical style used in the game. Bleak Sword sees you facing off against a myriad of increasingly dangerous and powerful beasts and monsters across some compact, yet beautifully designed diorama battlefields.

The controls are easy to pick up, yet difficult to master. With a simple tap, hold, and swipe you’re able to direct your avatar to roll, parry, attack, and counter-attack the various creatures that populate each small level. Controller support is also available, which is always welcome, though as mentioned before, is certainly not necessary. The  Arcade listing doesn’t actually indicate controller support is included, but the developer description does. With a little practise you’ll soon be rolling around the screen and slashing your sword around like a pro. Once you get the hang of it it’s very satisfying.

The aim of the game is simply to defeat each levels monsters, whilst taking as little damage as possible. Remaining health rolls over into the next level. Between levels you have a chance of finding various items that increase your stats, such as a sword that adds +1 attack power, or a bracelet that adds +1 health and +2 attack. You get the idea. If you should die along the way you will lose everything you’ve collected and all experienced points you’ve earned so far. You are given an opportunity to get it all back, instantly, by clearing the level out that you last died in. If you fail to do so it’s gone forever. This is essentially a mini Dark Souls and it’s great.

The art style is sparse, but strangely beautiful. The level design, whilst small, still looks oddly detailed, despite the 8-bit graphical style. The dioramas feature a quite hypnotic parallax effect which works really well in my opinion. Each battle is fairly quick paced, so you will often get little time to stop and appreciate just how cool looking each level is, which is a shame really.

A list of over 30 achievements to unlock and an Arena mode help add some further depth to the game as well.

Bleak Sword is great fun to play and works really well as a game to have a quick go on when you need to burn a few minutes2 in a queue or … when doing something else that rhymes with queue.3 Yet again, this  Arcade title is a winner, and well worth some of your time.

  1. Which, in my case, was the 12.9” iPad Pro. [return]
  2. Though longer sessions would work just as well. [return]
  3. It’s okay, we’ve all done it from time to time … [return]

 Arcade Daily #2 - Agent Intercept

Next up in our journey through the  Arcade catalogue is the excellent Agent Intercept by prolific development house PikPok.

Agent Intercept sees you take on the role of a James Bond come Austin Powers type secret agent tasked with completing various missions in order to stop the dastardly CLAW organisation. The missions all, conveniently, involve chasing, racing, destroying and otherwise generally bothering a plethora of bad guys in your souped-up secret agent vehicle from the start of the course to the end.

The graphics are quite pretty, especially on the iPad Pro where I’m doing most of my  Arcade gaming at the moment. The music is also suitably retro and ‘secret agenty’, which is a nice touch.

On the face of it, the game appears to be a fairly standard iOS game, but there are some features of this title that make it stand out amongst its non-Apple Arcade peers.

One of the major selling points of  Arcade is the fact that, in order to be included in the collection, the games have to be made fully available to the player. By this, I mean that In-App Purchases (IAPs) are not allowed. Agent Intercept is a perfect example of how a game that, without  Arcade, would have almost certainly been absolutely crippled by IAPs. As I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago, the lack of IAPs catapults Agent Intercept to a really enjoyable game that you can dip in and out of. If IAPs were allowed, it would almost certainly be something you’d play once or twice, until you hit the inevitable blocker or paywall, at which point you’d be hounded by requests to buy some agent bux or the like.

Games with IAPs always feel like they’re out to get you. They walk a fine line between making sure you’re enjoying yourself, whilst also working against you to prevent progress at every turn. Agent Intercept feels so much better for the fact that you’re left completely free to just enjoy the ride, whilst taking out some CLAW scum along the way.

While it’s not necessary (or possible) to monetise the game in the, now, standard way of IAPs, PikPok have come up with a smart way to keep you coming back to the game. I’m not sure what the monetisation model is for inclusion in  Arcade, but I can only assume that the more your game is played, the more you get paid. To this end, the game has a daily rotation of missions available to you. Are you finding todays mission too hard? No problem, just stop playing and come back again tomorrow for a new challenge. I think this is a really smart way to keep eyes on your game, whilst also giving players a genuine, none manipulative reason to keep coming back.

Another high point of the game for me is the fact the game includes controller support. While Hot Lava, which I looked at yesterday, was pretty unplayable without a controller, Agent Intercept works very well with touch controls. Controller support does, however, really take things up to 11.

I’ve been really impressed with the  Arcade line up so far, and Agent Intercept is another strong offering. While it doesn’t really offer anything all that unique, the lack of IAPs, allowing the game to be just that, a game, is a unique selling point unto itself. I think this game, along with its peers amongst the other  Arcade titles, is really going to change the App Store paradigm and I can’t wait.

 Arcade Daily #1 - Hot Lava

With the (early) launch of  Arcade to iOS / iPadOS beta testers, early adopters now have access to an impressive library of some really fun and interesting new games. While, right now at least, the list of available games is somewhat shy of the promised ‘over 100’1, it’s still an ample launch catalogue.

Since it was first announced at this years WWDC I’ve been looking forward to trying  Arcade, so as soon as I spotted it had launched I jumped all over it. I’ve since downloaded all of the available games to my iPad Pro and am slowly working my way through.

I’ve been enjoying gaming on iOS more and more over recent months, so this has come at a perfect time for me. To celebrate the launch of this service I’m planning on writing a series of posts, one each day, looking at a different game in the catalogue each time. Some micro reviews as it were.

To this end, I’m going to start with the title that’s impressed me the most so far2, namely Hot Lava.

According to the  Arcade listing:

Hot Lava transports you back to your childhood imagination.

If any child has an imagination this extravagant then all the best to them!

The game is, essentially, a digital The Floor Is Lava game, on steroids. The aim of the game is simple, get to the end as fast as possible. As is often the case with any (good) game that appears simple, however, there’s more to it than that.

Firstly, each level you enter has a set of goals you can aim for in order to really master the level. These goals range from completing the level under a certain time, finding hidden golden poles, or avoiding certain platform types, which in turn forces you to find a more complicated or hidden path through the level. Earning stars unlocks various cosmetic items such as avatars, clothing and tags you can use to stand out from the crowd a little.

The world of Hot Lava can also include other players that are currently online at the same time, which adds a competitive element to the proceedings. You can compete with these strangers, or your friends, to get the best times or scores throughout each level.

One word of warning I would give before you jump into Hot Lava is that, personally, I think a gaming controller is a must to play this game properly. You can play without one, of course, but the gyro controls are very fiddly and tedious. I’d go so far as to say if you don’t have a controller available to use, give this game a pass. I’ve been playing it with an Xbox Controller which works perfectly. Once you get into a decent rhythm, and get an understanding of the map, you can really fly through each level.

I’ve found Hot Lava to be fun, yet challenging game, and one that I’ve found myself coming back to over and over again for a quick game. This is a perfect game for a service like  Arcade. It’s simple enough to pick up and play for short bursts when the mood takes you, but also deep enough to sink hours into while you try and perfect your time in a given level. If this first game is anything to go by,  Arcade is going to be a fun ride!

  1. There are about 51 games as of right now. [return]
  2. After some albeit it very limited time across the library. [return]

🎙26: The iPhone 11 Pro Max Super Hyper Mega Phone 3000

You’ve heard the best, now hear the rest … or something.

This years iPhone event has been and gone so I wanted to share a few (brief) thoughts I had about the event, and what was announced over in the Steve Jobs theatre on Tuesday.

I should just mention, as I do in the episode itself, that I was experimenting with a different mic setting / location so audio quality is questionable at best this week. Please let me know what you think on Twitter, but my intention is to move back to the old setup from next episode, so apologies for any inconvenience caused to all 3 of my subscribers!

You can find links to the show below:

You can also find a direct link below.

🎙25: The iPhone Event 2019 Preview

The Dent podcast is back … again

In this weeks episode I have a quick cyat about a few of the things that I’m expecting, and am looking forward to, with the upcoming ‘iPhone event’ to be held in the Steve Jobs theatre on the 10th September.

Grab a cup of tea, have a listen and enjoy!

You can find links to the show below:

You can also find a direct link below.

An Unexpected Benefit To Mouse Support in iPadOS

I’m in a very lucky position in my life that, generally speaking, I can usually keep up to date with the latest Apple / tech products and trends. As I’ve mentioned in the past1 my main device at home has been an iPad, and I have been, and am, very happy with this setup and have never regretted the move.

Something did make me question this a little recently, however. My daughter, in her first year of real school, has been learning to use computers at school. The basics they are learning involves using a mouse to navigate around some basic learning apps. My daughter has always been quite good at using an iPad2 and other Apple based mobile devices so it broke my heart a little when she came home to tell me she needed help at school with the mouse. I know this is a bit over the top, but you never want to think you’ve not given your child every opportunity to do as well as possible.

Fast forward a few months after that conversation and Apple launches the first iPadOS beta and with it, albeit it a bit hidden … mouse support. I took to this instantly and have been loving it ever since, but it didn’t strike me initially that this may be perfect for a child too. The quite large pointing target seems a bit too big for many able bodied users that I’ve seen talk about it, but it’s great for the visually impaired, as it’s originally designed for, but also as it turns out, kids!

Now, thanks to iPadOS and some great CBeebies, and other applications, my daughter can wiz around my laptop as she calls it3 like an old pro. As soon as we’ve stopped the lessons she very quickly reverts to using touch to get back to YouTube for some crappy princess videos, however!

  1. A few too many times, I know! [return]
  2. Only for short spells, occasionally. Don’t get angry with me Mumsnet folks! [return]
  3. Interestingly she started calling it a laptop as soon as I added the mouse. Before that, it was just ‘the iPad’. [return]

Dark Noise - Simple, Powerful, Beautiful

After so many years of operation, there are rarely completely original app ideas anymore. Most categories are extremely well represented, from email clients to white noise apps. To truly stand out in a fairly crowded market you need to make your app something special. It needs to look good, or perform better than the competition. Luckily, Charlie Chapman, first time iOS developer and all round great guy, has been meticulously crafting one such app that I’d like share with you today.

This app is called Dark Noise, a white noise app with a difference. Before diving into the app itself I’ll let Charlie describe himself1 to those of you that don’t know him:

I’m a software engineer in St. Louis, Missouri by day, and a designer, motion graphics artist, podcaster, and indie dev by night.

If you want to hear a little more about the actual design process behind Dark Noise, or where it may go next, you can hear Charlie talk all about it on the latest episode of the excellent The Outpost Show with Daryl Baxter. It’s well worth a listen, but don’t forget to come back here if you go and dive into your podcast player of choice right now …

So, what sets Dark Noise apart from other white noise apps? Quite simply, it’s crafted with love. I’ve been lucky enough to have been beta testing the app for a few months now, and I’ve never known another developer be so receptive to feedback and also so quick to make tweaks, improvements and enhancements on the back of it.

As you launch the app you’re greeted with a great looking, yet simple, list view of various available sounds. Included in the one time purchase price are over 30 sounds, across large range of areas, from traditional white noise app favourites like Thunderstorms and Waterfalls to more unique offerings like Lawn Mower and even Snoring2

Dark Noise Main View

Tapping on any sound in this list will, as you’d imagine, start your chosen sound. When doing so, you aren’t taken into a kind of ‘now playing’ screen, however. You instead get a nice tan of sorts at the bottom that tells you what’s playing with a play / pause button. This is a nice design choice as it allows you to continue browsing the other various sounds without interrupting the current one. By playing a sound you’re also treated to your first example of some of the beautiful little animations sprinkled around the app. Tapping the pause button makes the icon morph into a play button and vice versa when pressed again. This may seem small, and an odd thing to call out, but it really is quite pleasant and just adds onto a long list of small things in the app that, again, highlight the care and attention Charlie has put into his app.

Speaking of animations, another real treat are the simple, yet affective animations each of the sounds icons have. While the Dark Noise app is about white noise you can listen to to help you sleep, or focus, the animated sound effect images are so mesmerising I will often just want to stare at them to relax as much as I want to listen to the beach sounds.

While a large Now Playing screen isn’t the default when playing a new sound, you can press the Now Playing bar at the bottom of the page to jump into a dedicated view, should you want to.

Dark Noise Now Playing

This view gives you some further options not previously available. From here you can AirPlay the sound to other devices, such as a HomePod, which works very well indeed I might add. You also get a volume slider and a timer option so you can set the sounds to stop after a set period of time. This is, as you’d imagine, very useful for an app you’re likely to fall asleep listening to. This page also gives a much better view of those gorgeously animated icons again.

Back on the main view, you have an option to favourite your, well, favourite sounds. When pressing the heart outline next to a sound it becomes a favourite and it bumped up to the top of the list. When you have a few here you can quickly rearrange them into whatever order you’d like, via the grab handles along the side.

In terms of core app functionality, that’s it. It’s a simple premise, and it’s not alone in the white noise space, but Dark Noise sets itself apart from the competition with a great design aesthetic and wonderfully intuitive UI flow. It’s extremely easy to navigate and use, and a real joy to do so. It’s also blazingly fast.

If you dive into the settings area you’re once again treated to a real plethora of options. For a one time payment app, that is quite frankly criminally low, you also get a large range of customisation options you’d usually expect to pay various levels of in-app purchase prices for. Firstly you can customise your widget settings which allows you to select up to 4 sounds to display there. This is a nice touch and looks particularly good on the iPadOS beta, now that you can pin widgets to the Homescreen.

Dark Noise Widget View

The app also includes extensive Siri Shortcuts support which allows you to set a shortcut for any of the sounds in the app, so you can trigger any of them with your voice. All available sounds are available from the get go, you don’t have to have played one of them first, which is another nice touch and one other app developers often don’t take the time to implement. There are also some quite extensive appearance options from various themes to a very impressive choice of custom app icons. At last found there were over 20 to choose from, ranging from alternative colours of the default icon to some inspired by various well known podcasts and bloggers such as Cortex, Accidental Tech Podcast and Jason Snells Six Colors. This is yet another example of Charlie’s efforts on making this app the real best in class.

One of the things I’ve found most impressive about Dark Noise is the fact that this is Charlie’s very first app. Most app developers could create 100s of apps and never come up with a product as well designed, and implemented as Charlie has managed to do with his very first release. While people’s need for an app like Dark Noise will vary, and not everyone will need it, I still think this is a must buy. If you do need a Dark Noise app then congratulations, because you’ve now found the best one I’ve ever tried. If you don’t think you need one, for the price of a coffee you can still help support an indie developer that has poured a whole lot of time and effort to create a real gem of an app. I have a lot of affection for this app, after seeing Charlie take on board thoughts and suggestions from friends during its development cycle, and I’m really excited to see where both this app goes, but also what project Charlie decides to turn his hand to next. With design skills like this I’d personally love to see him try his hand at a podcast app …

Not only is Charlie now a great app developer, it seems he’s also a great video producer, because he made this excellent launch trailer for Dark Noise as well. If I’ve not yet convinced you this is a great app, perhaps this will help:

  1. The following excerpt has been taken from the About section of the Dark Noise app. [return]
  2. The sound of someone snoring is one of my pet hates, so I’ve got to say I avoid this one and can’t understand anyone that could enjoy that sound! [return]

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 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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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]

🔗 Being Honest With Myself

Jeff Perry:

It is much more satisfying for me to comment on the smaller things that I’m comfortable speaking on instead of trying to get my share of the pie with what the rest of the big Apple blogs are commenting on. There are times where I may add my feelings and opinions on something but only when it is something that I am comfortable with.

Jeff’s sentiment above, and pretty much everything else he writes in this article struck a cord with me, and it’s exactly where I’m coming from with what I want to achieve with The Dent and the writing I do. I’m under no illusions that my blogging will make me some kind of Internet personality, in fact I couldn’t think of anything worse. I write about things that interest me because I enjoy occasionally writing about them and that’s it. Nothing more or less.

Much like Jeff I’ve settled into a very laid back form of Apple / Tech / general interest blogging and I’m very happy with that.

Jeff’s more casual and personal blogging style is exactly what attracts me to his work, and other similar bloggers such as Matt Birchler who writes at The Birchtree and Lee Peterson are further examples of people who’s work I enjoy reading not because they necessarily know everything about what they blog about, but they share stories about their passions and what drives them. That is far more interesting, and appealing to me than someone that feels the need to blog constantly about nothing at all in particular just to keep clicks up.

Much like Jeff, I’ve also embraced the Micro.Blog community and the blogging style this service allows for. By it’s very nature it invites you to share things in a more informal way and I feel much more comfortable doing so there than I did with a Wordpress blog. My blog is not only a home for my posts and a place to share podcast episodes it’s also now my own personal, IndieWeb Instagram alternative and replacement Twitter feed, plus so much more, in one neat package where I own all of my content. The lack of any kind of analysis, such as reader counts etc. is also a very important factor in feeling far more liberated to write what Iwant to write, not what I think other people would like me to write.

🎙️ Appearance: The Outpost Show WWDC 2019 Special

I was kindly invited onto Daryl Baxter’s now annual (well, it’s the second one, so that counts!) WWDC round up show. The show, The Outpost Show WWDC 2019 Special is now available in the Apple Podcasts App and also in Overcast or your favourite podcast app.

It’s always a pleasure to chat with Daryl, and this episode was no exception. We mainly focus on iPadOS, as you’d imagine, but we also touch on WatchOS 6 and even the Mac Pro. There are also segments from the excellent Chris Lawley and Dave Wood so I’d definitely recommend you check it out.