After discovering it via Colossal a couple of days ago, I have become completely enchanted by Alphaputt, which is a quirky mini-golf game for iOS that is superbly designed. You can find it, of course, on the App Store.
Some Things I am Enjoying
Here are some things I’ve been enjoying recently, in no specific order. I am not compensated in any way, even referral payments, for these links. Hope I turn someone else onto something they enjoy.
After years of being a devoted user of Paprika, I have completed converted over to Mela as my digital recipe keeper. Mela is from the same developer as Reeder, which is the RSS reader I have used, in conjunction with Feedbin, as my newsreader or choice for a long while now. Why did I switch? First, Mela just has a much cleaner user interface, feels more current and modern than Paprika, and is more in keeping with my personal taste.
Second, because this app comes from the developer of a feed reader, it has the same concept built into it. This allows me to add my favorite recipe sites to the app, and quickly be able to see the recipes that they have posted recently, then easily add them to my recipe collection in Mela. I like this workflow better.
Migration from Paprika was very fast and I haven’t found any issues with my collection of recipes. Once I purchased both the Mac and iOS versions, my recipes appeared everywhere via iCloud sync without issue.
Mela is $4.99 for iOS and $9.99 for the Mac.
I’m a big fan of sports. I’ve also worked in sports for the vast majority of my professional career now. I’m not sure where I found it, but The Sportsletter is just an absolutely great and completely free daily sports email newsletter. It hits my inbox every morning about the time I get out of bed, and they do a phenomenal job of giving a sports fan the news, notes, stories and schedules for the day. Here’s an example newsletter for your perusal. I think maybe the best thing about it is that it’s not junked up with ads.
The Week: 10 Things You Need to Know Today
While I am suggesting email newsletters that hit your inbox in the morning. I have to suggest this daily news email from The Week. They are a credible source of daily news headlines without a lot of bias. You can subscribe to this one here. It’s exactly what the title says, ten things in your inbox, linking to credible news organizations about the stories if you want further information. If you’re interested in getting a bit more information every morning, this is a good way to do it.
Notorious EDC Beer Bomb
I wouldn’t consider myself a big EDC guy, but pens have been sort of a gateway drug for me into this world. The moment I saw the Notorious EDC Beer Bomb, I knew that I had to have one. (I borrowed this image from their site, sorry Tom.) It’s a bottle opener, a pry tool, and just a delightful little guy to carry around. I’m finding all sorts of uses for mine, and I kind of can’t wait for it to get beat up with use. Here’s a great little history of the object.
Now the bad news, getting your hands on one of these isn’t super easy, and it seems like it’s getting harder all the time because they have gotten so popular, come in different color ways, and have attracted a bunch of avid collectors who congregate over on a private Facebook Group. Your best bet, if you want to take on the challenge of purchasing one of these, is to follow them on social media, and get into the Facebook group.
Do you remember LePen? When reading my weekly Pen Addict member newsletter a couple of weeks ago, there was a link to a blog post from The Stationer about the tools Tessa currently uses. Lurking in that list was a pen that I had totally forgotten about, LePen. I remembered how fun these skinny little pens are, and decided to order some from her shop. These pens are just as fun to have around I as remembered, and I am now using them to add color to my Bullet Journal spreads. I especially like their Olive Green color.
Well, that’s enough for this post, more to come soon.
Apps: What worked for me in 2018, an update
I’ve heard a lot of people say on podcasts in the last few weeks, as they wrapped up their app usage for 2018, that the mobile app market is mature, and that, while they wish there was a lot of new stuff to share, or a lot of change from 2017 to 2018, there just isn’t a lot of new stuff.
I wish I could say that I don’t agree with this, but, looking at my post from 2017, I don’t see a lot in my app usage that has changed a year later. This isn’t to say that I’m not perfectly happy with my devices, and I do like some of the quality of life improvements that Apple made this year at the OS level, especially Shortcuts and Screen Time. Aside from those, and you can almost just read that post from last year if you’re interested in what apps I’m using the most across my Apple Watch, iPhone and iPad. There are a couple of additional app high points that I will point out as additions below.
I am really happy that Darkroom, which was already my photo editor of choice on iPhone, has made it’s way to iPad with a really nice version. In combination with my original Gnarbox, I now have a full portable workflow solution that is just camera and iPad Pro. I’d love to upgrade to the SSD Gnarbox this year, but I just bought the existing one, and feel like I need to get a little more out of it before spending more money. I like this solution better than directly connecting a card reader to my iPad because it’s backing the photos up to the Gnarbox at the same time. I do plan on spending more time with Lightroom on iPad this year too. I’ve been a long time Lightroom user on my Mac, and it’s still my primary solution there.
I am using Encrypt.me to automatically VPN my devices when I connect to untrusted WiFi networks. For a variety of reasons, but mainly because my Instagram account was hacked using a SIM Swap on Halloween, I have gotten more security conscious over the last few months. I’m also using Google Authenticator and have acquired a Google Titan device and a couple of Yubikeys. I still need to write up my tale of sim swapping woe at some point. Those aren’t apps, but have an impact on the way I access things. Over time, I would like to have almost everything in my online life locked down with one of them.
My Quick Take: Vesper, Adieu
What went wrong was very simple. We never made enough money.
Source: Vesper, Adieu
I really like(d) Vesper, but it never stuck for me. I was a day one user, mainly because I am huge fan of all three of these guys, and also consider their QA lead an internet friend.
I don’t know what they could have done differently, especially with only three of them, I do think that, for their core audience, there are three platforms that matter:
- Desktop Mac
I think to be successful in the market segment they were in, you need to have solutions for all three. Other solutions, like Apple’s Notes app and SimpleNote, while they might not be as elegant as Vesper, win based on the utility on multiple platforms. That’s why Vesper never stuck for me. Having said that, even Evernote, which appeared to be a juggernaut in this market, are having their own issues with a subscription business model.
Only Brent, Dave and John know for sure, but from my outsider’s view, this was a part time job for all three of them. I suspect that if even one of them had made this more of a full time job, it might have generated perspective and possibly drive to succeed. Just guessing on that bit, and I could be completely wrong.
I’m currently using Apple Notes as my primary phone/tablet/desktop text tool. iCloud sync has worked great for me.
Initial Observations: iPhone 6s Plus
Up until a week ago, my main carry phone was an iPhone 6. I replaced it with an iPhone 6s Plus, which arrived on launch day, but, due to some work travel, I have only had it since Sunday, for five days. Here are some high level observations from those five days of using this new device.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with the new device itself, especially the obvious hardware improvements. Having said that, and I have had every iPhone to date, this was the least smooth transition from one phone to another on the software side. I am still working on getting my new phone to the place my old phone already was. This is not intended to be a comprehensive review, I don’t have the patience or time these days to do that.
This phone feels ridiculously fast, faster than my iPad Air 2 even.
The battery life seems a little worse than my couple of months old iPhone 6 Plus.
My initial observation was that this phone is heavier than the existing iPhone 6 Plus, but still comfortable to me for extended use and carry. I purchased an Apple silicone case, I have been very happy with the 2014 silicone case that my work iPhone 6 Plus is in. I am a little disappointed in the 2015 silicone case, it’s got a smoother finish, and feels less grippy in your hand. As a result, I feel the phone slipping in my hand a little when I am not expecting it. I may end up getting another case that has a better tactile feel to it.
I’m a huge fan of Touch ID, and it’s significantly faster with the new phone for both Apple Pay and unlocking the device. It’s so fast, in fact, that I am sometimes accidentally unlocking the device when I wanted to wake the phone up to see the time.
3D Touch seems to have a ton of potential. It turns out that I am a “hard presser” to begin with, and so my long touches are often being interpreted as a 3D Touch. Once I understood the pressure differential, mainly while I was re-organizing my home screen, things locked into place, and now I have the hang of it. It will take even longer for me to get into the routine of thinking to use it.
The camera is noticeably better, and was one of my main reasons for upgrading the phone. Focus is faster, and low light photos look better to me. I am not sure that I am that enchanted with Live Photos, but that may just be that I haven’t taken many yet. Since a lot of what I do with my pictures is sharing via Instagram and Facebook, I am not sure I will use Live Photos much until they are supported on those platforms.
So now a few words about the transition from my iPhone 6 to this new phone, which has not been a good experience. First, I was a part of the iOS 9 public beta this Summer. Not the developer releases, but the public beta. I did this because I thought it would mean a smoother landing when everything came out this fall. I was wrong. They rolled the people in the iOS 9 public beta right onto 9.1. Once you have backed up on 9.1, you can’t restore onto 9. So I had to start with my last good backup from earlier this Summer. I understand what running a beta means, that there may be sharp edges. I think someone at Apple should have thought through the customer experience before just rolling everyone on to 9.1.
The transition between phones for Watch is terrible. You have to un-pair your watch from the phone, deleting everything off the watch, then re-pair it with your new phone, finally restoring from whatever your last backup was, and losing some data pretty much no matter what you do. So much room for improvement here.
Finally, I have relied on the Health app and Activity app as my primary activity and fitness trackers for the last few months. Shame on me for not looking into this more, but that data does not get backed up via iCloud backup. You can back it up by doing an encrypted iTunes backup, which I will now be forced to switch to. There is a way to migrate this data using two third party apps, and I am going to spend the time to try and do that this weekend. Very disappointing from a user experience standpoint though, seems like they are making the customer do too much work. I wouldn’t expect to have to manually migrate this data myself.
Update: It seems that Health and Activity data is in the iCloud backup after all, but some folks, myself included, are having issues with getting it to the new devices.