bookmark_borderRecently Observed

Organised, Not Organised
Having a digital calendar that I can access on my phone is wonderful. Except when I forget to put things in it. In totally related news, I have a ticket for the next Honeyblood gig (8th Dec) at St.Lukes in Glasgow going spare if anyone wants it… me? I’ll be at the Red Hot Chili Peppers gig that same night.

Apple Music still not great
As a heavy user of playlists, that’s where my focus is when it comes to choosing between streaming services. In that respect, Spotify is by far the better option. I can put together a new playlist and add tracks to it in a few clicks. Apple Music takes about the same number of clicks but OHMYGOD the search is slow, and the ‘back and forth’ between search and song result is clunky and doesn’t always work.

Bluetooth Headphones
I have a couple of pairs of bluetooth headphones (both recommended by The Wirecutter). They both sound good enough to my ear. Both suffer from the same issue when connected to my phone. This has held through iPhone 6 to my new iPhone 7 so it’s not phone related.

Depending on the proximity of my phone the audio playback stutters. Badly at times. It’s massively annoying (in a very first world problem kinda way) with tracks dropping in and out. I can solve the problem by removing my phone from my pocket but who wants to walk around with their phone in their hand all the time? Boooooo!!

I almost shaved my beard off this past weekend. I didn’t, and if I did I would only be going back to the goatee I had before (which I had for… 20 years? shit). A close trim of the beard sufficed though, for now.

And those are the random observations of my nothing life this past week or so. I know, I know, edge of the seat stuff around here.

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • The Drug of Choice for the Age of Kale
    The day after Apollo 14 landed on the moon, Dennis and Terence McKenna began a trek through the Amazon with four friends who considered themselves, as Terence wrote in his book “True Hallucinations,” “refugees from a society that we thought was poisoned by its own self-hatred”.
    Proof the human beings will always want to try new things, and we are suckers for being ‘in the know’ about ‘the next big thing’.
  • What Makes Stephen King’s It a Horror Story for the Ages
    I wasn’t much older than the adolescent heroes of the Loser’s Club the first time I picked up Stephen King’s It.
    I’m a big fan of Mr. King but will confess that I started It but didn’t finish it. Might be time to pick it up again (prior to the movie coming out).
  • ‘I’m a non-binary 10-year-old’
    Leo is 10 years old. For most of his life he’s lived as a girl, but this summer he began to speak openly about his sense that this didn’t feel quite right.
    This kind of thing needs to stop being a story, alas I think we are quite far from that being the case. More power to Leo.
  • A Shocking Amount of E-Waste Recycling Is a Complete Sham
    Until recently, I had never really thought about what happens to my old electronics. I took them to a community e-waste recycling drive, or dropped my old phone in a box somewhere, and I assumed my stuff was recycled.
    I shudder to think how much of my e-waste falls into this, most of it I’d imagine. Humans are the worst.
  • The Secret Lab Where Nike Invented the Power-Lacing Shoe of Our Dreams
    The Sneaker should come alive.
    You only really need the headline for this one. And yes, it is exactly the Back to the Future sneakers! WANT WANT WANT (Humans really are the worst, I do not need this shit!)
  • The average person is better off without a fitness wearable, weight loss study finds
    This year alone, 19 million people are scheduled to buy fitness wearables with a simple mission in mind: Get fit. But these purchases may have zero effect when it comes to weight loss, based on new research from the University of Pittsburgh.
    But does ‘get fit’ = ‘weight loss’? I’m having pizza tonight as part of this experiment.
  • Does quitting social media make you happier? Yes, say young people doing it
    Teenagers and young adults switching off from Facebook and other social apps reveal how the change has affected their lives Our love of social media seems to have grown and grown in the past decade, but recent studies show the tide may be turning for some platforms.
    Note: Blogs are not considered part of social media (subtext: please keep reading!).
  • Can Carrots Improve Your Eyesight? Let’s Dissect This Food Myth
    You probably grew up hearing that eating carrots could help your eyesight—even make you see in the dark. That would be nice, except it’s not entirely true (unless you have one helluva vitamin deficiency).
    Nation removes carrots from diet. Next week, a study suggests eating carrots can help with your hearing.
  • Leo the Silent Raver tells Glasgow Live why he’ll never stop dancing
    He’s a familiar face to many who live, work or simply shop in Glasgow. Always dressed in bright clothing and with a smile on his face, Leo Mushet is the Silent Raver and can be spotted showing off his dance moves in the city centre.
    Never judge a book by its neon day-glo cover or dodgy dance moves.

bookmark_borderNew Apple Hardware and Software

Given the upgrade cycle I choose to follow with my phone, this past week saw me get a new iPhone (7), which has a new version of iOS (10), as well as a new Apple Watch (Series II) which itself has a new version of watchOS (3).

That’s a lot of new and whilst a lot of the improvements across all of these devices and operating systems are evolutionary in nature, the increments are telling enough for me to notice and adapt my usage accordingly. Thankfully none of the changes are negative and are probably best categorised as ‘positive disruption’.

iPhone 7 and iOS 10

I’d been running iOS 10 betas on my iPhone 6 which wasn’t kind to the battery at all but got me a sense of how I’d be using the new iPhone 7. It’s important to note that the iPhone 6 does not have 3D Touch so, for people like me, the iPhone 7 brings that into play as well.

There are a lot of software changes in iOS10, I like the new Notifications/Control Centre changes, there are parts of the new Messages features that will be useful (and others which will be distracting), and the extension of Siri is already showing up with apps like Airmail (my email client of choice) hooking in to the API.

The screen itself is noticeably better as is the new camera, a welcome boost of hardware and software capabilities in one go.

Evolution aside, the biggest two changes for me are the aforementioned 3D Touch, which I’m still adapting my muscle memory too, and the new ‘non-clicky’ Home button.

The latter, plus the change to the unlocking process, is the biggest change I’ve noticed. With the button movement replaced by ‘haptic’ taps it’s a little odd at first if you aren’t used to it, but as I’ve had similar tapping on my wrist via the Apple Watch it wasn’t that big an adjustment, and I’d warrant users of the new MacBook which uses this mechanism in the touchpad won’t take long to adjust either.

Add in the new Raise to Wake feature – lift your iPhone to see the screen (yes I know Android has done this since forever) – and you end up with a subtle new way of using your iPhone without unlocking it, meaning I can check notifications or switch tracks from the lock screen.

Top tip: don’t register all of your fingerprints for TouchID and you can use a non-registered finger to tap the home button, turning on the screen without unlocking the phone.

I was also glad to see Apple bringing their Upgrade Programme to the UK (despite some day one teething troubles getting signed up), it’ll be interesting to see if I take advantage and upgrade to the iPhone 7s (?) next year.

Apple Watch

OK, this was a bit of an indulgence, but given the age of my old Apple Watch, and the improved water proofing, battery life, and processor speed, it felt like an easy to justify one. I wear my Apple Watch every day and probably interact with it more than my iPhone these days.

Add in the new watchOS 3 – which is a VAST improvement in many areas – and I feel more than justified. Bye bye Glances (and scribbles, and favourite contacts), hello ‘dock’ which is everything that should’ve been in the original OS but wasn’t. I couldn’t agree more with the articles I’ve read that state that what Apple did with the watch was the right thing. Release it, react to how people actually use it, and build from there (to those people complaining that you still need a phone to take calls on your Watch, how often do you actually do that? I’m not so sure that feature will ever be added to the Watch, I think Series III will be thinner before it adds in more features like that).

All in all, the Apple Watch now feels like part of the same ecosystem as my iPhone rather than the ugly sibling in the corner. It’s fast, responsive, and I’ve already started pushing more things to it (rather than limiting it as much as I could in the past because it was cumbersome and slow).

iPad Only

I’ve also upgraded my iPad Pro to iOS 10 so all of my Apple devices are bang up to date (well my MacBook Air (now safely gathering dust) remains on the last beta of macOS but I hardly use it these days).

In summary, I’m still a happy Apple fan boy. Yes, they aren’t as customisable, yes there are things I wish I could adjust but by and large there is nothing that gets in my way, and everything that is on my wishlist is very much down to my own personal taste. Equally, I like that every iOS update brings changes to my working/usage habits, I like that I’m challenged to tweak things, learn new things and adjust my usage a little.

Oh yeah, and no headphone jack on iPhone 7? So what? I’ve been using Bluetooth headphones for the past year anyway smug grin.

bookmark_borderSingle woman walking

Walking home from a gig, late on a balmy evening in the West End of Glasgow, light rain was falling as I and others plodded our way along Great Western Road, disappearing and emerging from lamp light to lamp light. Most people were heading in the opposite direction to me.

It’s a nice part of the world, a mix of affluence and well to do university students, all branching off into different areas along Great Western Road, a long straight busy street. It feels, to me, safe. But as I walked I noticed something.

Every single woman I walked past did the same thing, I didn’t notice if they did it a few steps away from me or just walked this way all the time but, of the 10 or so who I passed, all of them were walking with their head slightly bowed and their body slightly turned away from me.

Some were on mobile phones, and one was accompanied by a large Alsatian walking happily beside her, the lead slack (which suggests a very well trained dog, and well trained dogs are loyal and protective) yet she too felt the need to turn away, to hide and cower as she walked past, to make herself as small as possible. Trying to be invisible.

I’m a big guy, I’m aware of my size and I did everything I could to not be intimidating. I mimicked their behaviour and turned away, I deliberately looked away to the other side of the road so they could see I wasn’t looking at them. I tried to figure out if it was better for me to walk on the inside of the pavement, away from the road, or nearer the edge. I stuck with the former thinking that the open road would be an ‘escape’ where as the hedges and fences away from the road would be a trap?

And then I realised just how fucking horrible it is that I have to think this way. That this is what men have done to women.

Perhaps it was the recent ‘how to talk to a woman when she’s on the phone’ thing that was doing the rounds, but the body language of all the women I passed was striking in their similarity.

It’s saddening and horrifying. How many of these women were conscious of what they were doing? How many were doing it because they saw me approaching? How many were doing it because that’s ‘just what women have to do’? How many were doing it because they have been shamed into thinking that, if something were to happen, it would somehow be their fault?

As I’ve said before, these are the thoughts of a cisgender, upper middle-class white male. I am afforded all of the privileges that society has to offer. It’s up to me, to all men like me, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with allies and help change this.

It starts with the smallest consideration of the words you use everyday, even things you may think are trivial – “Hey guys” when the people you are addressing includes women (or perhaps people who are trans or non-binary gendered) – it starts by challenging your friends when they are using their privilege to the detriment of others, it starts by calling out behaviours that you know aren’t acceptable regardless of who is using them.

It’s not easy. I will try my very best, and the memory of my walk home will stay with me for a long time.

Men, we’ve had it too easy for too long, we have to be the ones that change.

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • Not all men commit abuse against women. But all must condemn it
    Male violence against women is rife – and it’s getting worse. We need a new, inclusive form of masculinity to eliminate it. The failure of men to speak out about male violence against women and girls renders us all complicit.
    A (now) long standing argument that I will keep repeating and reading.
  • The Falling Man
    Do you remember this photograph? In the United States, people have taken pains to banish it from the record of September 11, 2001. The story behind it, though, and the search for the man pictured in it, are our most intimate connection to the horror of that day.
    I’m amazed how vivid my memories are of 9/11, but then it (and the fall of the Berlin Wall?) are the main two global events in my lifetime. Horrific.
  • ‘We’re the Only Plane in the Sky’
    Nearly every American above a certain age remembers precisely where they were on September 11, 2001. But for a tiny handful of people, those memories touch American presidential history.
    A different look at that day, and at that President. Some details I had forgotten (early reports had a small propped plane involved).
  • Psychology behind the unfunny consequences of jokes that denigrate
    Q: Why did the woman cross the road? A: Who cares! What the hell is she doing out of the kitchen?
    Definitely guilty of this.
  • Why the Purple Skittle Tastes Different Outside America
    Pop quiz: What flavor is the purple Skittle? If you grew up tasting the rainbow in the U.S. of A, the answer is clearly grape. But in other countries, including the U.K. and Australia, purple Skittles taste like another fruit altogether: blackcurrant.
    I never noticed this. But then my ‘cram as many in your gob at a time’ approach to eating Skittles probably distracts from the subtle nuanced flavours…
  • Ikea Forever
    Not long ago, during an interview with the BBC, Kanye West announced, in his trademark third-person idiom, that he hoped to design for Ikea: “Yo, Ikea, allow Kanye to create, allow him to make this thing because you know what? I want a bed that he makes, I want a chair that he makes.”
    I know a lot of people who rail against IKEA, putting their feet up on their KLATFUR table as they do so.
  • New words notes September 2016
    It’s time for another quarterly update to the OED, and we have more than 1,000 revised and updated entries including 1,200 new senses for you to explore, as well as an anniversary to celebrate.
    I love words. I love silly words. I love silly words that a certain Mr.Dahl invented.
  • A philosopher’s 350-year-old trick to get people to change their minds is now backed up by psychologists
    The 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal is perhaps best known for Pascal’s Wager which, in the first formal use of decision theory, argued that believing in God is the most pragmatic decision. But it seems the French thinker also had a knack for psychology.
    If I was smart enough I’d have used this to make you pay for reading this, or have me pay you to read this… dammit, I always lose these arguments!
  • iOS 10: The MacStories Review
    Sometimes, change is unexpected. More often than not, change sneaks in until it feels grand and inevitable. Gradually, and then suddenly. iOS users have lived through numerous tides of such changes over the past three years.
    Geek heaven, an extensive (50,000 word!) review of iOS 10 (I’ve not even finished reading it yet!)
  • Secret Room
    These books shelves hide a secret room.
    Adding to my ‘when I win the lottery’ list.
  • Who will win in the age of open banking?
    For Europe’s financial and banking industry, December 2017 will represent something of a reckoning: it’s the deadline by which countries in the European Union will be required to enact the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2).
    Go on, admit it, you had no idea this was a thing. Nope, neither did I but it will explain some of the changes you’ll see in the coming year or so.
  • Who owns your tattoo? Maybe not you
    More than 20 percent of all Americans have at least one tattoo, and for millennials that number jumps to almost 40 percent. What could be more intimately a part of you than a work of body art permanently inked into your skin? You probably assume that the tattoo on your body belongs to you.
    This is why my tattoos are custom designed (bar the first one I got, but the guy who did it is dead now so I think I’m safe…).
  • This new machine can read book pages without cracking the cover
    People can now read books without opening them, thanks to a new device created by scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The machine uses beams of radiation to creep in between pages and scan individual letters.
    One for all the ‘never crack the spine’ weirdos out there..
  • Scientists Just Tested the ‘5-Second Rule’
    You’ve probably heard of the five-second rule: If you drop some tasty item of food, but can scoop it off the floor within five seconds, there isn’t enough time for bacteria to get on it and it’s a-okay to eat.
    I’m still waiting for the results of the ‘found a malteser under the sofa a week later’ rule (but it’s ok, I’ve got a malteser to eat whilst I wait).

bookmark_borderThe Positive Limitations of iPad

I’ve recently made the jump from laptop to tablet as my main ‘home computer’. It sounds dramatic but, for my usage, all this really boils down to is changing my modus operandi from a multi-window to single/duel window way of working.

The transition has been pretty straightforward, largely thanks to my slightly over-obsessive desire to only use apps that feature on my phone, tablet and laptop, but also because I’ve moved most of my working files to the cloud.

The main driver behind this switch was screen resolution. My MacBook Air has a low (by Apple standards) resolution 13″ screen and whilst hooking it up to a secondary monitor was ok, I found it constantly jarring to have my main workstation NOT have a Retina capable screen. Sure I could’ve got a MacBook (Pro?) but I don’t need another laptop and, having tried one for a while, the split screen capabilities of iOS brought the iPad Pro into play (plus it’s a big enough screen to watch movies on without feeling like you are compromising too much).

Of course I am writing this from an Apple viewpoint, which just so happens to match the latest adverts for the iPad Pro (What’s a computer?). I’m not sure if such a move would be possible in other ecosystems, Windows, Linux, Android, Chrome OS?? No idea.

One thing which has struck me is how little time I spend on the iPad once I’ve done whatever I need to do. I think this is more psychological than anything, as the tasks I’m doing don’t vary between devices. If I normally use a web browser rather than an app, for example, then it doesn’t matter if I’m on my laptop or my iPad given that I have pretty much the same apps installed in both platforms.

But the fact I have to switch apps completely seems to have altered the way I work. I know I could’ve achieved the same effect by using full-screen apps on my laptop but they never felt right to me. Why would I limit myself to one app at a time when I can have multiple apps running, even if I can only see partial windows of some of them, hidden behind other windows?

Well whatever my brain is up to it seems to be working. I’m gaining speed on the iPad – most of my slowness is fighting muscle memory – but on the whole I’m getting the same stuff done with what feels like fewer distractions.

If you are considering making a similar switch be aware that I did a lot of research and even adjusted some of my working practices before making up my mind. A lot of the changes I adopted also brought benefits to my iPhone usage as well. Yes, I’m further locked in to the Apple ecosystem which is both a good and bad thing, but as I see it there are only a few viable options and most of them boil down to the same decision; trust ‘someone else’ with your files and data (be that Apple, Google, Microsoft or a 3rd party like Dropbox), or manage them all yourself (which means setting up and maintaining a web server and handling the security issues, connection issues, and whatever else crops up).

A couple of tips; I’m much stricter about notifications on my iPad (I have an Apple Watch and iPhone to buzz at me if I need them to), and I use Do Not Disturb a lot more than I have in the past, toggling it on and off when I need to get something done. Without either of these I think the distractions would be too intrusive on the iPad (again not sure why it’s massively different from MacBook usage but it just feels like it is).

Overall I’m happy with the switch, and I’m finding a few additional benefits (as mentioned, the larger retina screen is handy as a second screen on those ‘two sportsball events happening at the same time’ moments. I’m using the Apple Smart Keyboard which on the whole I’d recommend as I don’t mind the way the keys feel, but I do miss having a backlit keyboard so that’s next on the list of ‘upgrades’.

Now I just need to figure out how to back up a website over FTP using the iPad and I can consign the MacBook to the back of the cupboard.