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!
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, 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.
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.
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.
it had to be in the folder of another random app because you can’t create folders manually here, before iOS 13.
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
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.
Okay, this may be a bit of a stretch / exaggeration, but some of the Arcade games shown off so far do look very interesting.
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!
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.
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.
As in the short, tweet like posts that are not shown in the main feed for my blog.
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.
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.
I replied to the first one, but once I received the second it struck me that there may be others reading that also had queries, but didn’t want to ask, for whatever reason. To that end, I thought I’d share some of the queries I’d received and answer them here for everyone to access. If you’re interested in learning more about Reminders in iOS 13, read on. Please bear in mind again this is an early beta build, so much of the below can, and likely will, change as the summer goes on.
Here are the questions I received:
I’ve seen folders. How does that work?
As far as I can see, you can’t add any folders per sey. The app includes the Lists that the old version had only, so I assume this is what the reader was referring to. You can add and manage these much as you did before. The 4 blocks at the top of the app, seen below, can’t be amended.
How do you add sub tasks?
This, also, is handled much in the same way it was done previously, but it might be easier to explain this by simply showing you:
Does completing a parent task complete the sub task?
Strangely, no, it doesn’t. At the moment at least, in developer beta 1, completing the parent task leaves the sub tasks uncompleted. I’ve raised a radar for this, because it doesn’t sound like it’s intentional, so I’ll keep an eye on if that changes as the betas go on.
Is there still a Notes field on the task?
There is indeed. This hasn’t changed since the old version of Reminders, however. It’s still a basic text box with no formatting or multi-line support etc.
Is there just one level of subtasks or can you go deeper (like add a subtask to a subtask?
No, I’m afraid you can’t do that. You can only create a sub-task, not a sub-task to a sub-task.
And can subtasks contain deeplinks?
From what I can see, no. When you trigger Siri and ask it to remind you about something you create a task at the top level only. I don’t have my iPad with me at work today, but I will test if you can create a deep link reminder and then drag it into a sub-task manually.
Can you only add one attachment or more?
Yes you can add multiple photos (that you take whilst in the app or from the Photos app, or scan a document to add it). From what I can see, right now at least, you can’t add files from Files.
What kind of attachments can you add to a reminder? Only images or files as well? Is there a file picker menu?
As mentioned above, you can only take a photo, add a photo (from Photos, not Files) or Scan a document but again you need to scan it there and then, you can’t add a pre-scanned item.
Can you create a deeplink from the Files App/iCloud file? (This was not possible before)
No, it doesn’t appear to let you do this still / currently. You can create a public link and add it there in the notes of the Reminder, potentially, however.
If you have any more queries, please feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to get back to you ASAP.
Whilst digging around in the iPadOS beta, I noticed a small little feature in iCloud Drive that I’ve been hoping for for a long time …
I’ve long replaced the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive with iCloud Drive, but a big annoyance with doing this for me was that if you store a file there that you want to download, use, then remove from your device, such as a video or audio file, there was no way to actually remove it! The only option you had was, weirdly, to remove it from iCloud Drive / Files completely. Not only this, but the reverse could happen. You could download a file, but if iOS needed the space in the future it would simply remove it, without your knowledge. All in all, it was a frustrating experience.
This looks to have finally been fixed in iOS 13, however. A long press on a file or folder presents the following interesting menu:
As you can see from the highlighted line, you can now simply remove the download when you’ve finished with it, leaving the original on iCloud Drive. While this is, obviously, an extremely basic feature, it’s also an important one and one that’s been missing since iCloud Drive and Files. This, along with some of the other options enabled here, such as Quick View, make moving all of your cloud storage to iCloud Drive more viable than ever. I’m certainly pleased I bided my time on this and didn’t move back to Dropbox.
I’ll continue to dig around in the iOS beta and share any new little gems I come across.
Well, against my better judgement, I upgraded my iPad Pro, iPhone Xs Max and Apple Watch Series 4 to the latest iPadOS, iOS and WatchOS respectively, the moment they were available post WWDC.
Bad judgement aside, things are going reasonably well so far and I’m impressed with what I’m seeing. Over the coming weeks I’m planning on writing up a few thoughts and views on some of the plethora of new fixtures and fittings.
We’re very early on into the beta lifecycle, obviously, and things are viable to change over the Summer, so I wont be going into any in-depth reviews or how-to’s at this point. You’ll need to hold your horses a bit longer if that’s what you’re after.
To kick things off, I wanted to share a quick peek at the new Reminders app in iOS 13.
Whilst introducing it on-stage (very briefly!) Apple said the app has been completely redesigned and this will be evident the first time you launch it post upgrade. The tired, old interface has had a fresh lick of paint and, while your lists are still front and centre, there are now 4 new subsections listed in a grid at the top of the app, namely TodayScheduled, All and Flagged.
Prior to using this new version of the app, I used to include Emoji’s in the name of my lists, to give them a little colour, but Apple have kindly taken care of that bit for me. By jumping into the customize view for each list you can change the glyph, and colour, for each of your lists. The available glyphs is fairly limited at this point, to be fair.
While the general UI looks a lot more modern and fresh, it’s the Add New Reminder area that has received the best update in my opinion. During composition a new bar of 4 icons can be seen just above the keyboard row. This allows you to invoke scheduling, location, flag tasks or to add photos / attachments.
The scheduling button allows you to set some preset times of Today, Tomorrow, This weekend or a custom date and time. This small step makes adding new tasks worlds apart from the old, labor intensive options you had at your disposal. The time that’s set for these predefined timeframes can be set within the app settings, which is also quite handy.
The Location options also provide some preconfigured options to trigger when you Arrive Home, Arrive at Work, Get in the car or at a location of your choosing via the Custom section. Again, these feel relatively minor, but really do make adding tasks to your specific needs and requirements a breeze.
The 4 views you have available on the homepage are pretty self-explanatory, but it’s nice that, whilst basic, there is an element of Smart List behaviour like you’d see in more advanced apps like the excellent GoodTask.
Speaking of GoodTask, since upgrading to iOS 13 I’ve deleted the app from my devices and am going all in on Reminders, at least over the Summer whilst putting the software through its paces. I’ve been enjoying the majority of the iOS default apps for some time, and beta season always gives me the itch to get into them even more so I’ll be sure to keep digging around.
If you have any queries about Reminders, or anything else in iOS 13 feel free to drop me a quick Email and I’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP. Keep your eyes out for some more small iOS 13 preview over the coming days and weeks.
There’s no app in the history of the iOS App Store that I’ve downloaded and deleted as much as Drafts. I think it’s an amazing app and it’s ridiculously powerful. Doing tasks in it, however, have often felt really convoluted and it feels like they’d be easier to just do manually most of the time.
That being said, I’ve downloaded it again and I’m currently writing this post in it. There are two reasons for this:
The official Micro.Blog app inexplicably doesn’t have an enter button, unless I’m being dense, so all posts you write directly in the app have to be in a single paragraph
The Actions, the powerful element of Drafts I’ve mentioned previously, allow me to post directly to my Micro.Blog account. Not only this, I can determine the Category of posts.
The second point is particularly important to me, because of the way I’ve setup my blog. The main homepage for The Dent only shows posts categorised as an Article or Podcast currently. Smaller posts, that I don’t want on the main page, photography and other non-article posts all appear within their own section of the site. Tucked away unless you specifically want to see them. I’m using an Action by Craig McClellan to do this.
Using Drafts to compose my Micro.Blog posts it also gives me some flexibility to write up a short microblog post which is kept off the main feed or, if I find myself rambling on a little longer, like in this instance, I can easily add a title, links, images and Categories from within the same app.
Until my jump back to Drafts I was really enjoying using iAWriter for my blogging needs, so I’m going to experiment with Shortcuts to see if I can replicate the functionality there as well. Posting to Micro.Blog is easy enough with an API call, but I’m not entirely sure how the Categories would be handled so, for now at least, I’m giving Drafts yet another try.
I wrote yesterday that I was struggling getting my podcast back off the ground and I’ve also mentioned that I didn’t want to post something for the sake of it if I didn’t have anything to say. To this end, I’m leaning towards cancelling my account with Podbean and removing The Dent podcast from iTunes etc. The frequency I’m doing it in, and the quality of the content, doesn’t really justify a full blown real podcast I don’t think. The show has achieved just over 2,000 downloads so far, which is about 1,999 more then I’d ever thought it would.
I do, however, enjoy recording a podcast occasionally. I record and edit it on my
iPad Pro which makes doing it even more fun. Any excuse to use my iPad more is a welcome one. There are also, from time to time, situations where I have an idea for a blog post that would just make more sense, or be clearer, as a podcast / audio recording.
To this end I think the best middle ground option for me is to upgrade my Micro.Blog account so I can start posting audio and video on the blog. This will allow me to post a short podcast episode, as and when appropriate, but I won’t list it in iTunes or any other podcast directory. It will take away the issue of me worrying about trying to post content regularly to retain subscription numbers, but it will also leave me with an RSS feed someone can use to subscribe to the episodes I sporadically post, should they want. It will be a true supplementary option to the blog as a whole, rather than its own thing. An audio blog post for want of a better term.
What do you think? Does this seem like a reasonable compromise?
I keep trying to restart my podcast for The Dent, but also keep making excuses not to do it. That’s probabaly a good indication I should just not bother, right? I’m finding it hard to find interesting things to write at the moment, let alone do a solo podcast about it. With no one else to bounce off of it can be a bit of a challenge.
I think this is a big reason why I’ve been enjoying using Micro.Blog as a hosting option recently. It feels a lot less formal than Wordpress did so, in turn, I feel like it’s more appropriate to share more honest posts like this one. I’m not a real blogger and I never will be. I’ll never make money from it (and I’m not interested in doing so), I’ll never be a big name, I’ll never have a hide following. That works for me, however. I’m enjoying writing small posts like this. I almost stopped my blog recently also, yet Micro.Blog and the community has put some more wind in my sales.
While the blogging will continue, to some extent or the other, it may be time to admit podcasting isn’t for me. I’m not very good at it, I’m not interesting to listen to alone and perhaps most importantly I rarely have anything interesting to say that’s not been said by plenty of people, better. It’s not a failure, in my eyes at least, to give something a try and then to stop if it just doesn’t turn out as expected. It’s okay to know when to quit.
I love WWDC. Part Apple event, part conference, but most importantly an enormous celebration of the developer community surrounding Apple’s platforms. I had the pleasure of attending the conference back in 2014 (the year of Swift!), and came back excited and fully inspired (and also quite tired).
However, not everyone is able to actually attend WWDC in person. Not only do you have to win the “lottery” in order to qualify for purchasing a ticket, you also need to have the monetary means to be able to fly to, stay at, and attend the conference. So for a huge amount of people, WWDC can feel a bit out of reach.
I wanted to do something about that. This website is for everyone who wants to closely follow WWDC, but from anywhere in the world. Starting right now, this site will be updated daily with articles, videos, podcasts, and interviews, covering all things WWDC — from recommendations on what session videos to watch, to in-depth looks at new APIs, to interviews with people from all over the Apple developer community.
As you’ll no doubt see over the coming days, I’m really looking forward to this years WWDC. More so than I have for a long time to be honest. As John says above, the vast majority of us will be following all of the fun from afar and his new project, WWDC by Sundell, looks like an ideal aid to help you digest all of the news coming out of the event. I love the design of the site as well. I’m sure I’ll be checking this a lot next week and beyond.
Write blog posts. Use RSS. Use micro.blog. Use Mastodon. Use Pleroma. Use whatever you want, as long as it isn’t manipulating you with algorithms or selling access to your data to advertisers.
I’ve been using Twitter for years now it’s become a bad habit. I don’t remember the last time I actually learnt anything or got anything of value from browsing the site. It doesn’t stress me out, or work me up like it does some people, but it’s such an incredible waste of time. I’m going to aim to stay clear for a while and see if I can do something more productive with my time.
I tried Micro.Blog a year or so ago, but at the time I just couldn’t get it to stick. I loved the idea from the get go, but I found that, by default, it wasn’t ideal at either of the things it was trying to be.
I had initially thought that it wouldn’t work as a blogging platform, because any content you share there that isn’t a blog post would also appear on your main page. I also felt that it was a bit pointless as a Twitter replacement, given the relatively small community behind it. Fast forward twelve months, however, and I’ve had a complete 180.
As I mentioned previously, I liked the idea of Micro.blog more than the implementation, at least that’s what I thought. After getting frustrated with Twitter one too many times, I popped back over to Micro.blog to check it out again and signed up for a new account. I started a Wordpress.com based blog about 10 months ago, which was going reasonably well and I had not intended to replace it, but whilst digging around into Micro.blog things started coming together.
The Micro.blog team recently added a couple of new themes to the service, one of which included a dark option, in a theme called Hello. I really liked the look of this one and, long story short, I made the decision to use this for my blog, The Dent, instead of the original Wordpress.com option. I found Wordpress to be pretty sterile and, despite the fact it really is quite basic, still a little more than I needed for such a light weight blog.
Once the blog part was sorted, I had assumed I’d be leaving it at that. The other issues I mentioned previously were still in place. That was, however, until I saw Manton Reece, the creator of Micro.Blog, write a short post about adding a guide to creating a custom home page for your Micro.blog site. After some further discussion with Manton on the Micro.blog Slack channel, he very kindly provided me with some sample code that would allow me to do exactly what I really wanted to do with Micro.blog, namely display only my main posts on the front page of my blog. This code was optimised for the Marfa theme, and did cause a few issues with the Hello theme. I made some small tweaks my end, but also received some much appreciated help from a Micro.blog community member by the name of @jsonbecker. He helped me fix a large formatting issue I came across, for which I am very grateful indeed. You can find my final version of the code on my GitLab repository.
Any posts that I create that are not categorised as Article or Podcast are simply not visible on the main page of my blog. I can then share anything else, including the short tweet like posts as much as I want without contaminating the main feed. This has now snowballed into my single Micro.blog account providing a multitude of self-hosted and independent options for a variety of services I’ve been using and I couldn’t be happier with it.
The Micro.blog service now covers the following:
A Blogging Platform: The most obvious service for Micro.blog to replace was Wordpress. I like the simplicity of Micro.blog and the extremely clean theme, along with the native Markdown support and excellent Support network.
Twitter: Now that I can include my short notes / tweets in a separate page on my blog I’m finding I’m enjoying using it far, far more. While I don’t want a very formal blog, I also don’t want one that is filled with a variety of the inane waffle I spew in a day to day basis. Now I don’t have to.
Instagram: I’ve been using Instagram for years, but over the last few months I’ve been regretting any time I spend there. I like it to both store and share my images but browsing the timeline is just painful. With Sunlit, Micro.blog’s answer to Instagram, I can both share my own images to a service where I retain the full ownership and rights of that which I share, but I can also enjoy a feed of fantastic photography from the community. This is photography to be enjoyed, not photography from celebrities aimed at selling me some diet pills or some other guff I have no interest in.
Beyond the items above, Micro.blog has also proven to be a bit of a gateway drug into a world I didn’t know existed until recently, namely the IndieWeb community. A community that, in it’s own words, is a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web”_. While that sounds a little hipster I’m finding it all pretty fascinating. The IndieWeb community has spawned open services like Indiepaper, a read later service and Indie Book Club, which is a simple app for tracking books you’re reading. I’m only just scratching the surface of this community, so I will save any more discussion for another day / post, but if you’re at all interested in alternatives to the likes of Facebook and the like absorbing all of your data, I’d highly recommend looking into it.
While I have jumped around blogging services a lot over the years, and I can’t say I wont do it again, I can certainly say that I am currently going all in on Micro.blog and taking ownership of the various things I put out there on the web. I hope those of you reading will continue to follow along with me and The Dent blog and enjoy the ride along with me.
Gaming on iOS has been given a hard time for years now. Apple is forever being criticised because the Apple TV, and the rest of their product ecosystem haven’t made all other gaming platforms obsolete. In this sense, Apple is a victim of its own success to a certain extent.
Unless Apple is completely dominating the market it’s in, to many people, they are instantly a failure. Gaming here is no exception it seems.
I, personally, think people need to reconsider iOS gaming and appreciate it for what it is. No, the Apple TV wont replace your Xbox One, or even your Switch, but it doesn’t have to to still be a very compelling platform.
I’ve been gaming a fair bit on iOS recently, in particular on my 2018 iPad Pro 12.9”. On it’s own it’s a really compelling device for gaming, and there are some very impressive, console / PC quality games (see Civ VI for example). When you pair the iPad with an MFi controller, such as the SteelSeries Nimbus many of the already fantastic games on iOS are improved exponentially. When you consider the prices of such impressive games, it’s even more mind blowing.
Some examples of some great games that a controller helps move to the next level are the fantastic Oddmar, which is an insanely cheap £4.99 and Grimvalor. These are both, at their heart, platform games, which have never played all that well via a touchscreen, but quickly hooking up my Nimbus and they are very impressive, deep and engaging games. They would probably be a bit out of place on an Xbox, but I can totally imagine playing, and spending twice the amount on these games for my Switch any day of the week.
There are also a likely a lot more games that support controllers on iOS than you’d think. I found the list below on Reddit which gives you a good idea of some of the gems. The lists include:
Galaxy on Fire 2
GTA: San Andreas
Modern Combat 5
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
Multiple Final Fantasy games
If you have an iPad, which I assume you do if you’re reading this site, I would highly recommend you give gaming on iOS another look if you’ve been avoiding it for a while. There’s a lot to love here, even if Apple hasn’t put the rest of the gaming industry out of business. Why anyone would look to that as a reason to put value in something I have no idea.
If, like me, you jumped on a eSim when the latest iPhones launched in 2018 and you’re on the iPhone upgrade program, you might want to find out how you actually move that eSim to a new phone come September. I asked the EE Twitter account and it sounds like there’s possibly not a plan in place to do it as yet. It sounds like you may need to do the transfer before you hand the phone back, so just be careful and plan ahead.
** UPDATE **
As you were, it seems it’s much easier then I feared. Thanks Greg!
Due to a recent Nintendo Switch update, you can now re-order your game library in various different ways. One that I found interesting was ‘Play time’ order. I’ve had my beloved Switch since launch day in the UK, so I thought it was quite interesting to take a look at what my top 5 most played games have been so far.
1) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
What else could take the top spot but the Switch’s flagship game? I played this for hours on end when I first got my Switch, but then my buying bug took over and I ended up being distracted about ¾ of the way through the game. Fast forward almost a year later and I finally went back to it and finished off the main questline and the two DLC additions that came post-launch.
I’ve always been a massive Legend of Zelda fan, but this game really reignited my love for the franchise. I’ve since picked up another Wii U (after selling my original one) with copies of Twilight Princess and Windwaker HD so I can continue getting my Zelda fix.
While my number 1 spot was an obvious one to me, and likely you, my second most played game surprised me. Close behind Zelda is the Free-to-Play objective-based team first-person shooter from Hi-Rez Studios, Paladins: Champions of the Realm.
While this is, as said above, a Free-to-Play game, I spent £20 on the Founders Pack that unlocks all of the many characters and, while I’m awful at the game, I have an absolute blast playing it. I don’t know how popular the game is, but amongst my small circle of online friends I very rarely hear many people talk about it, which is a shame. While it’s competative nature likely puts a lot of people off, I can highly recommend giving the game a try.
An issue with team based games like this, however, especially on the Switch with its lack of decent voice communication, is that it can be quite difficult to find a decent team. Running off and trying to kill the enemy team alone wont cut it, you really do need to work together. If you end up on a team full of teammates doing their own thing, it wont matter how good you are, you’re going to have a bad time. If, however, you can either play with some buddies or you can find some random people that understand how to work as a team, it really can be extremely fun.
3) Super Mario Odyssey
After the unexpected inclusion of Paladins, we’re back with something far more expected, namely the fantastic flagship Mario title on the Switch. The time spent in the game to get it to number 3 was, essentially, the time spent to complete the game on its initial playthrough. I’m yet to revisit all of the lands to find the various extra Moons that are added after finishing it once. To this end, there is still a lot more to get out of this game, which is great news for me. I’m looking forward to forgetting about it a little and then jumping back in to experience it all over again, now with added challenge.
4) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim was released early on in the Switch’s lifecyce so this time has built up over this time due to me dipping in and out as the mood takes me. While the game is looking fairly dated now, in modern terms, it’s still pretty incredible how good it looks on such, relatively, underpowered hardware. I remember owning this game on the PS2 (or maybe the PS3, I can’t quite remeber) but what I do recall is that the loading times were atrocious. On the Switch, however, they are far better, which is a nice added bonus.
I’ve no idea where I am with the story in Skyrim, I’m just moving from quest to quest knocking them off. It works really well as a game to just dip in and out of. Like Mario Odyssey, I think I’ve got many hours left on this particular game.
Smite is an Action MOBA or an Action Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game. This is the newest game on my top 5 list, so it’s impressive how I’ve racked up so many hours on it already to be honest.
In Smite you pick a God (from various pantheons) ranging from Ancient Greece, Norse, Egyptian, Roman and many more and join a team of another 4 Gods, fighting an enemy team of another 5 Gods. Much like Paladins, I’m bad at the game, but find it very enjoyable. Also, and once again much like Paladins, if you’re stuck with a bad team you may as well give up from the start, but if you get into a good team you can really have a great time in this game.
I, again, paid an upfront cost to unlock to 100+ Gods from the start, when it was released a few months ago. It is quite daunting trying to learn a game with so many characters to get your head around, but it’s well worth your effort to give it a try.
What does your top 5 list look like? I would imagine Zelda has to be up there for pretty much all Switch owners, but the other 4 slots could go anywhere.
I’ve been a big fan of photography for some time now and, while I’m not particularly good at it, I love to look at some of the works of art people around the world often share online.
I used to enjoy Flickr quite a bit, back in the day, but that died a death when Yahoo acquired it. Eventually, most of my online photography browsing ended up happening on Instagram. The content there, however, quickly switched from real photography to pictures of peoples dinner and ‘Influencers’ trying to sell me some garbage food supplements. A lot of my current issue with Instagram (apart from the fact it’s owned by Facebook) is a little self inflicted, to be fair. I do follow a few celebrities, to be fair, but even without this my timeline would still be full of irrelevant ads every 2 posts. It’s just not an enjoyable experience anymore.
To this end I’m aiming to spend my Instagram time browsing another site I’ve enjoyed for some years now, called EyeEm. The site isn’t new, in fact it launched almost 10 years ago now, but it seems that everytime I mention it to someone it’s the first time they’ve heard about it. I wanted to put this short post up to do my small part in raising awareness of a great photography community.
At a very basic level, if you’ve used any photography sharing / social networking app you’ll be instantly familiar with the process. You open the app (or site) and upload any pictures you have on your device. You’ll be instantly familiar with the basics, but there are some interesting aspects of the app and service that make it stand out to me.
Firstly, when uploading your images, the app utilises something it calls ‘EyeEm Vision’ which uses machine learning to analyse your image and suggest a handful of meaningful tags. From past experiences it does a fantastic job of understanding what’s in your image. This tagging is not only beneficial to you and the rest of the browsing community, but it helps a lot with the next part that I find interesting.
EyeEm also offers the completely optional ability to list your photos in their ‘Market’, via a small ‘Sell on Market’ toggle when uploading photos. The EyeEm Vision tagging helps you tag the images appropriately so they show up in relevant searches by potential buyers. While I wont be retiring anytime soon off the back of my sales, and it’s been building up over a few years, I’ve made just shy of $1,000 so far. If you look at the quality, or lack thereof, in my profile, that’s fairly impressive.
The last selling point of EyeEm, to me, is the community itself. Unless you look very hard there are very few selfies to be found, just a lot of really great (but also some terrible of course) photography in a clean interface, with no ads and a fair bit of interaction from real life accounts. There is little benefit to be had from running a bot on EyeEm I imagine, so there doesn’t appear to be any.
This isn’t supposed to be a full on review of EyeEm, but I have seen a fair bit of dissatisfaction with Instagram amongst my Twitter timeline in recent years, so I wanted to share some details about a network that seems to be growing, yet remains relatively hidden to many. If you’re into Photography, you could do far worse than giving this site a try.
I picked up the 12.9” iPad Pro 3rd generation in November 2018 and haven’t looked back. The iPad, in one form or another, has been my main computer since getting an iPad Air 2 back in 2014 and I’ve worked my way through various shapes and sizes.
Up until recently, my iPhone had covered everything I need to do, in a day to day computing sense, that my trusty iPad Pro wasn’t suitable for such as reading or browsing in bed, or on commutes and lunch breaks etc. I thought going back to a 12.9” device, after downsizing to a 10.5” for the 2nd generation (from the original 12.9” iPad Pro) was going to be too much of a stretch and that I’d be bound to my desk when using the device. Thankfully, I was very wrong and the 12.9” fits my life perfectly.
I was content, and then it happened. Apple resurrected the iPad Mini in March 2019 and, while initially dismissing it, an unexpected bonus left me with a little spare cash so I went for it …
Seeing as this post is being written over a month after its release, this isn’t a review of the device. That’s been well covered by now. All I will say is the hardware itself does feel extremely dated after using the new design of the current generation of iPad Pros. The new Mini has bezels for miles and the screen, which lacks Pro Motion, among other things, is also looking very long in the tooth. That being said, however, I’ve found myself really liking the new iPad mini. That’s not something I thought I’d be saying in 2019.
It turns out that the smallest iPad fits amazingly well into my particular use case alongside the largest iPad. It’s the perfect Robin to the Pro’s Batman.
Finding its niche
Now, for the majority of the time I need an iPad, I’ll be using the iPad Pro. This device, which I’m using right now to write this post, is still my favourite bit of Apple hardware I’ve ever owned. It brings me great joy to use, regardless of what I’m doing on it, being personal or professional uses.
I have, however, started finding a few areas where the iPad Mini, despite its many shortcomings,really does still shine above its bigger brother.
On a few occasions I tried to use my 12.9” iPad Pro to read books and comics in bed. I have a weird problem that, even when I’m not tired to start with, as soon as I start to read I get ridiculously tired. This condition paired with an iPad that’s bigger and heavier than some light aircraft, hovering above my soon to be sleeping face, is a recipe for disaster. I’ve drifted off in the past and it felt like I’d just been sat on by Godzilla. The iPad Mini, on the other hand, is barely noticeable when it slaps me across the face …
In seriousness, the iPad Mini is, and always has been, a fantastic reading device. The few comics I read still, generally, work better on the larger screen, but Apple Books looks great on the smaller device and it really does feel like carrying a small and light book around with me. I very rarely now read anything on the bigger model.
The Mini is also great for some YouTube / Apple TV (TV and films I’ve purchased) viewing whilst in bed as well. I really do occasionally do things not related to me being in bed, I promise.
I’ve found myself taking the Mini to work a fair bit as well, not to do any work on it, but to use during lunch break walks, or lunch itself, to again watch some films or read a book. It really does fit a niche as a great little media consumption device.
Another use I’ve found for it is to help keep my little one entertained in certain situations. I still have my now ageing iPad Air 2, which has been my daughters iPad for a little while. She’s still young, so I don’t let her (and she doesn’t want to) use it very often, but it was used for long car journeys and the like. Even though the Air 2 is still fairly light, and runs really well, the Mini is, unsurprisingly, much better for small hands. It’s been loaded up with a few emergency games and films, ready to roll at a moments notice. With a 4 year old prone to sulky moments, this can be worth the price of admission alone.
So, all in all, the Mini hasn’t set my world on fire, and it likely wont yours, but it has proven to be the perfect companion device for this particular iPad lover. I really hate the term ‘multi-pad lifestyle’, but it’s late and I can’t be bothered to think of something less cringeworthy, so I’m going to have to go with that when I say, thanks to the Mini, I’m now living my best multi-pad life …
The article quickly did the rounds with the usual entourage, with everyone seemingly being in agreement with the setup Jason proposed. If you’re interested in the specifics, feel free to jump straight over to Six Colors and give it a read. It’s okay, I’ll wait …
The TL;DR, however, can basically be summed up by the image below, that Jason shared (and presumably created) in this article.
The thing that struck me about this setup was the seemingly over complication of the setup. I can appreciate that podcasting, to some extent, pays Jason’s bills, so quality is important to him, above convenience. To this end, the following short post isn’t a criticism of this setup, but is instead intended as a tip / bit of advice to the hobbyist Podcasting audience out there.
While my own podcast is on a very extended hiatus (if by hiatus you mean essentially dead and buried), I did have what feels like a bit of a simpler, and cheaper, setup that may be of interest.
A setup I’ve used in the past, for my solo podcast, was to simply use an iPad Pro with a Blue Yeti microphone directly connected to it. This would work with different devices, of course, but the Blue Yeti is often recommended as a good beginner mic. For Lightning iPad’s you’d need an Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adaptor to connect the Mic to your iPad, or a hub of some kind for the USB-C toting iPad Pro’s.
When it comes to recording, and editing, you’d need to look no further than an app called Ferrite. I wont go into how this is done here, just suffice to say that with simply connecting a microphone directly to your iPad, and using this app, you have an incredibly powerful podcast recording and editing tool.
The spanner in the works comes when you get to the point when you need to move beyond a simple solo podcast, and start talking with multiple people at once. This is the point when Jason, and Federico Viticci it seems, requires the use of an external recording device, reducing the iPad Pro to a glorified phone. When I’ve guested on a few podcasts in the past, my solution to this has just been to use my iPhone. The setup here essentially remains the same. I would hook up a mic to my iPad Pro to record my voice talking. I would then simply call the shows host on my iPhone with some headphones attached and have that conversation separately. When I mentioned this to Viticci being a possible solution, his reply was that he didn’t want to use another device in the process, but he already was by using the external recording device. If you’re reading this site, the chances are you own an iPhone anyway, and you’d have it with you. I know Viticci certainly does, so to me using the iPhone isn’t another device you have with you like the recorder, but what do I know?
I’m clearly not implying an iPhone is cheaper / easier to get hold of than an external recording device. If you have no phone, the option of using the iPad to make calls and recording elsewhere seems sound. Like I said, however, I’d be very surprised if that was the case.
So, with the above being said, I guess the whole point of this post was to say that if you’ve been thinking about starting a podcast, you may find that it’s far easier to do than you thought, and also that you have far more of the required hardware to do it also!
For some time now I’ve been a big proponent of the default iOS apps. By and large these apps are fairly basic, at least in comparison to specialist third party offerings (think Mail.app vs Spark Mail for example). Shortcomings like this, however, are easily overlooked because of the unparalleled integration many of these apps and services enjoy in comparison to their third party cousins.
I still use Mail.app, Calendar.app and Notes.app, for example, though I do still greatly enjoy third party apps to cover holes where integration with the OS isn’t as important. One such area is, or at least was a Read Later service. I’ve used Instapaper a lot in the past, but recently Pocket releases a killer new feature. This feature allows you to setup Pocket to read the articles you save there aloud to you. At first glance, this seemed like a feature I could really get behind. I’m a big podcast listener so I already enjoy a lot of audio content, so this felt like it would fit right into my way of consuming content. For all intents and purposes it does a good job. I’m not, however, using it anymore.
In keeping with my aim of staying first party when I’m able to, I did find it difficult to move away from Reading List which is, again, just so nicely integrated into the system.
The 233 words above, essentially, a largely redundant preamble just to, essentially say:
Hey, did you know you can replicate the Pocket ‘read aloud’ functionality within Reading List?
Allow me to, finally, cut to the chase. This isn’t a feature so much as it’s a simple utilisation of a fairly hidden away part of iOS. This utilises an Accessibility setting called ‘Speak Screen’. You can replicate Pockets Read Aloud service with Reading List by following these simple steps:
Firstly you’ll need to activate the ‘Speak Screen’ function by navigating to General > Accessibility > Speech and toggle on ‘Speak Screen’
Once activated, open up your Reading List and pick an article to open up.
Once this is done, press the button on the top right of the screen to turn on Reader Mode, which strips out most of the formatting and leaves you with a basic fact article.
Now, all you need to do is swipe down from the top of your device screen with two fingers to activate the iPhones own Read Aloud service. Upon doing so you will see a great little floating control panel that allows you to change the pace of the speech and pause it etc.
The nice thing about this UI item is that it collapses when not in use and floats on top of the screen, ready for you to tap when needed. The UI element allows you to pause, resume and change the speed of the narration. The audio playback also remains active across the device, in that you can close Safari and open another app whilst the narration continues in the background.
Don’t get me wrong, the feature on Pocket has obviously been designed with this specific use case in mind, so the voice itself it arguably better there but, for me at least, this is a far more flexible solution. You can utilise this on the fly as well, so you don’t need to send an article to Reading List, of course, prior to firing off the Speak Screen feature.
If you enjoy reading various articles, particularly long form, but often find yourself without time to actually read it, this is a really great option for when you’d usually tackle your podcast queue.
I don’t often share link posts here at The Dent, but a video came out today that I just had to share with you all.
YouTuber, Podcaster and all round awesome guy Christopher Lawley dropped a video he’s been working on for some time, that aims to tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about working off an iPad. While this may sound like a bold claim, Christopher does indeed do a fantastic job of detailing some of the common, yet powerful use cases of an iPad, but he also unearths some real gems.
I consider myself a bit of an iPad Power user but there were things here that I didn’t know were possible, such as dragging an address bar to the side in Safari to open a split view (two Safari pages open on screen at once, not across two or more tabs). Whatever level of iPad user you consider yourself, I can almost guarantee there will be something in this video for you.
The thing that impressed me most of all about Christopher’s video, beyond the excellent production value, is that he was able to explain some, at times, complex operations in a very concise and easy to understand way. The beauty of the iPad, whether you’re using a ‘Pro’ device or not, is that you can use it for such a wide range of tasks. You can keep it very basic, if that fits your needs, or pull off some impressive productivity tricks. I don’t like the patronising term some bloggers and podcasters use to describe normal / non-techy users, but I do believe you could show Christopher’s video to the full spectrum of iPad users and all of them would both fully understand, and appreciate the excellent tips, advice and guidance. I would highly recommend you share this with anyone that uses an iPad from day to day, whatever their use case or level of skill.
You can find the video on Christopher’s YouTube channel or via the embed below: