Category: <span>Tech</span>

Ground control to Major Tom…
Ground control to Major Tom:
Lock your Soyuz hatch and put your helmet on!

I can still remember the first time I heard Space Oddity. I can recall just how otherworldly it sounded to me and while that was largely down to Mr. Bowie (an entirely other being for sure) it sits squarely alongside a similarly titled book that I’d just finished reading which was, in turn, the very reason I had listened to that track in the first place.

I was maybe 12 years old at the time and the idea of space was more Star Wars than 2001 but I was slowly learning about the Apollo program and pages of my encyclopedia were starting to fall open at anything space related. I wouldn’t say it was a phase, it wasn’t like I wanted to be an astronaut or anything but, especially for people who grew up in the 60, 70s and 80s, space was a big deal.

The Space Shuttle was still active, and no matter how many times you see the footage it’s still mind-boggling to imagine, regardless how you try and frame it; as an engineering feat it’s one of the greatest achievements of mankind, the scale of it beyond anything done before; as a spectacle it’s equally mind-boggling, watching something that large move so so quickly.

And these days with the rise of social media, streaming content from the ISS being, it’s even more prevalent and even easier to keep up with. The fascination remains.

Fast forward to last Friday and I, along with a thousand or so others, found ourselves face to face with a spaceman. He goes by the name, and title, of Colonel Chris Hadfield, and there he was, an actual real life astronaut.

I’ve seen him interviewed and watched his YouTube videos that he recorded in space but wasn’t really sure what to expect. On stage were two chairs, two glasses of water, so I presumed it would be interview style. I was wrong, wonderfully wrong. Instead he spent about 1hr 45mins talking about, well, everything.

From his earliest days watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon, through all the decisions he made, all the things he decided to learn, he reaffirmed one notion; he wasn’t born an astronaut. He learned new things he thought would be useful, he looked at where he wanted to go and made decisions based on that desire, the desire to one day make it into space.

He also talked about the impact seeing the world from space and how clear it is that this is one world, that borders are invisible up there. He talked about the amazing and inspiring people he has worked with, all different genders, races, and religions. He talked about what happens when things go wrong in space (answer, you don’t panic because you’ve practised for when things go wrong).

He also made us laugh. Describing an incident he had during a spacewalk, when he was rendered temporarily blind, we all laughed aloud when he told us he was venting the air from his helmet out into space. I know, it doesn’t sound funny, maybe it’s the way he told it…

What struck me most, especially considering the number of young adults and children in the room, was his constant reaffirmation of ‘you can do whatever you want’. His positivity and belief that humankind is better together shone through. Even though they faced great danger, he said, it was important to remember that danger does not equal fear, you only fear the thing you do not know or have not prepared for, and that fear is easily overcome by learning and practising.

Yet it was all hyperbole. At one point he informed us that the odds of ‘something bad going wrong’ on his first flight aboard the Space Shuttle was 1 in 38. A quick check and it turned out that there were about 38 seats in each row of the seating. Would we have turned up that evening knowing that one person in each row would die?

Yet despite all the grandeur of space, and all of his amazing achievements, Colonel Chris Hadfield remained wonderfully self-effacing, full of empathy for his fellow humans, witty, and boy does he have a splendid moustache. His talk was uplifting, motivational, moving, revealing, and entertaining. He held our attention easily for the entire time, peppering his talk with photos and video clips and, of course, he closed by talking about that song, a version of which he recorded in space.

At the very end, he picked up a guitar and to a backdrop of a video showing shots of the world whizzing by underneath the ISS, he strummed and sang.

I can still remember the first time I heard Space Oddity and 30 years later for just the briefest of moments, on a dreich Friday evening in Glasgow, I was there. I was Major Tom.

Culture Life Reviews Tech

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Yes. I got THE new iPhone, not an 8 or 8 Plus, but the new shiniest of shiny one. Did you expect anything else?

No this is not my hand

Pre-ordered

Like millions of others, I hit the Apple App Store at 8.01 on the 27th October and reserved mine, with a provisional pickup date of the 18th November. So imagine my surprise when an email landed in my inbox on the 2nd of November saying my new iPhone was available for pickup. Surely a little snafu, I thought, but I clicked ‘Select a Date and Time’ presuming it would just confirm the 18th November date. But wait, what’s this… 10am on November the 3rd is available, why that’s tomorrow… that can’t be… click click CLICK! YASSSS!!!

And so, as I had the week off I found myself backing up my ‘old’ iPhone to my laptop and heading to the Apple Store the very next day to get my new shiniest of shiny iPhones!

Pick up

I am on the upgrade programme and after experience I had last year I was prepared for a wait (let’s just say that the finance company wasn’t really geared up for the overwhelming volume of people applying). So, as well as my laptop I had a book, bought a coffee and joined the queue. A few minutes later a very nice man with an Apple t-shirt wandered down to speak to me and confirmed that I was standing in the wrong queue – there were still people queueing just in case there were any left to buy that day – and I was whisked inside and a few moments later was introduced to Abi who was going to get me my new shiny iPhone X. In other words, Abi had just become my new bestest favouritest friend in the world ever.

Abi was very pleased I’d backed up my old iPhone that morning and, after confirming some details, clicking a few buttons marked Accept, and signing my name, one of her colleagues walked past and casually placed a new shiny iPhone X in front of me.

Just like that.

With my old iPhone wiped and handed over, I was invited to grab a seat to set up my new iPhone. I took my laptop out, and started to restore from the previous backup*. As I sorted that out I finished my coffee which was still at a very nice (hot) drinkable temperature. Yup, from walking through the door to setting up the new iPhone took all of 10 minutes, and that included the handset that Abi was using dying on her part way through the process.

First Impressions

That was a few days ago now but my very first impressions were, naturally, concerning that screen. I quite genuinely thought that there was a sticker on the front of the screen but no, it really does look unnaturally NOT digital… it’s hard to explain but the OLED screen really does make the experience look more natural and ‘real’. It is gorgeous.

Day to day use is, hardly surprising, pretty similar to using any device running iOS, however there are notable differences largely around Face ID and the lack of home button.

FaceID

All told it took me maybe a day to ‘switch’ over the muscle memory on how to unlock my phone. FaceID is remarkably intuitive and works well. For the first few days I found myself watching for the unlock animation to get a visual confirmation that my phone was unlocked but pretty soon I was just lifting the phone (raise to wake) and swiping up, it feels faster than jabbing the Home button and waiting for TouchID. It has ‘failed’ twice, once where the combination of direct sun on my face and very dark sunglasses foiled it (it worked just fine every other time that day though) and once where I had the phone upside down (hey, it’s one big flat sheet of glass).

Suffice to say that I’ve already forgotten to think about FaceID which speaks volumes of how dependable it has been, which is pretty remarkable in and of itself.

A nice side effect of raise to wake and FaceID is for notifications. Lift your phone and look at it and as it unlocks the preview info for each notification slides into view. That way I can quickly decide where to do anything with them or not. This was already there but not as easily viewed back in the TouchID days. And finally, with 1Password hooking into FaceID I can now complete forms, including complex passwords, just by looking at my screen. It really is 2017, at last!

UI changes

Two main muscle memory challenges await you. One is to stop looking for the Home button, the other is finding the Control Center.

Control Center is now accessed by swiping down from the top-right of the screen where the battery/wi-fi icons are. This is the biggest change in terms of distance (it used to be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen) but it’s not been a big leap, but I think that’s largely because the way you interact with the bottom of the screen now is a lot different thanks to the fact there is no Home button anymore.

With no Home button you simply swiping up to go back to my home screen and swiping right in app to go back an app in the ‘stack’. There is a thin bar on-screen as a visual cue but after a couple of hours it felt natural. I think I have caught myself looking to push the Home button once and that was on day one.

As I said, coupled with TouchID, this fundamental change is so fluid that it has already been relegated to the unconscious part of my brain. It’s just how I use my iPhone now.

Other changes

Battery life seems better (than my iPhone 7) with a full day and then some; I took my phone off the (wireless) charger at 8.30am yesterday and after a lot of photos, and a lazy social media afternoon it still had about 36% left at 11pm. Obviously the camera is a step up as I now have access to Portrait mode which produces some wonderful images, but nothing that you iPhone Plus users aren’t used to. That said, I can’t wait to see how it handles taking pics at the gig I’m at this evening (Dinosaur Pile-up at King Tuts).

Wireless charging is a little underwhelming but again that’s a good sign. I bought a Samsung charger in preparation for getting the phone, popped the iPhoneX on it and it … works. That’s about all I have to say about that.

There are some noticeable differences in the form factor. Size wise it feels a little heavier than my iPhone 7 but nothing dramatic, and it’s not physical all that much bigger either, the advantage of the full-screen display is the most striking benefit. I opted for the white version and it is a gorgeous piece of hardware, and feels like a real step up in quality**.

Down side

As many others have noted, and will notice, the only thing I don’t like is the keyboard. Or rather, the space under the keyboard. I’m not quite sure why it’s there and I hope future releases of iOS ‘fix’ it.

OK, but is it any good?

This is the first iPhone that has felt like a real upgrade for quite a while. The form factor of the previous few iterations didn’t change dramatically, especially for those of us who use a case and don’t see the subtle differences in materials and bevels. The new screen is the star here though, or is it FaceID? Technically it should be the latter given the myriad of advance technology that powers it but in true Apple style ‘it just works’ and you soon forget about it.

I am still getting that tiny little moment of joy every time FaceID kicks in though, it’s so simple and really does feel like a step forward. As many others have noted, I too find my year old iPad Pro now feels pretty cumbersome… I had to manually enter a password the other day, what the..!!

Yes, I’m a bit of an Apple fanboy but putting that aside this is a stellar bit of kit. Highly advanced, beautifully crafted, it is a big step forward, possibly one of the biggest Apple has made in recent years. It’s the kind of thing people expect Apple to do, although it’s worth remembering that a lot of the features that are coming together to make this new phone a reality have been developed over the past few years. This is NOT a reaction to other handsets or companies, this is Apple doing their own thing, in their own time, with their own reasoning and compromises.

And it’s beautiful.

Ohhh and I should point out the one thing that truly hasn’t been an issue.

The notch.


* Top tip – if your current iPhone is running a BETA release of iOS, which my iPhone 7 was, you can’t restore from a backup as the new phone will be on an older release of iOS. Thankfully I also had an iCloud backup so got all the right apps and most of the settings back, just took an age to download them all again.

** Back in the day I worked for a software company – Dr. Solomons – and you could buy a CD of their anti-virus software from stores. The amount of time taken to choose the cardboard box that the CD and accompanying manual came in was largely focused on if the box suggested high quality. Heavier cardboard (and heavier paper in the manual) passed all the consumer tests. We associate heft with quality, even if only subliminally

Tech

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I’ve held off getting a set off these for some time but as my current ‘commuting’ in-ear headphones (JLabs Epic BT – discontinued) are starting to show their age, both in terms of wear and tear and in how the diminishing battery life is impacting the Bluetooth connectivity. Although admittedly the latter concern is purely based on my perception, but they do seem to drop the connection to my iPhone far more than they used to, even though I logically know that the science behind that thinking is bunkum.

I do have another pair of bluetooth headphones – my wonderful Jabra Revos – but I prefer in-ear for commuting as they let in enough ambient noise to keep me aware of my surroundings (the Jabras aren’t noise cancelling but are such a good fit they might as well be).

It’s taken me almost a year to get AirPods though. Whilst the Apple fanboy in me was intrigued when Apple announced their new AirPods last year, for once I was sensible and held off as I had a pair of in-ear bluetooth headphones already. Since then I’ve read reviews, some right after the announcement, some after a few weeks of usage, and on the whole they’ve been positive with the main gripe some people had was more around the fit than anything else.

I’ve used the Apple provided in-ear headphones in the past, and carry a set in my bag as a backup, and whilst they aren’t the greatest I know, they fit my ears and perform well enough for a 30 minute commute, but they still have that damn cable…

Fast forward to last week and more intrigue was added by Apple’s announcement that they were planning to add wireless charging (via a new case) for the AirPods. And, while I won’t be upgrading my Apple Watch to a Series 3 any time soon, that little demo of the AirPower (ugh) charging pad, where you plonk your iPhone X, your AirPods in their cases, and your Apple Watch, down on a single charging pad is definitely something I’ll move to in the future; one simple solution, rather than three messy cables, YES PLEASE!

I picked up my AirPods yesterday and after a couple of hours usage I’m was instantly a fan. The complete lack of a cable is the most obvious change, and the sound has definitely improved since I last used Apple provided headphones but the real win was the connectivity. Typically with my previous bluetooth headphones my phone had to be in a pocket on the right of my body (as the main sensor in the headphones was on the right hand side) and many times I’d end up carrying it in my hand as the signal dropped in and out at frustratingly increasing intervals.

These drops of connection only really occur when travelling/walking, where I want to have my iPhone in my pocket. This isn’t an issue when I use them at home, or at my desk at work, where there is nothing to obstruct the signal, but the minute you add a layer of fabric or two and WELC OME TO D ROP OU T CI TY!

Not so with the AirPods. Even when I deliberately tried to get it to drop the connection – I wrapped my iPhone in my hat and stuffed that in my jacket pocket, then swung my bag over that pocket – the AirPods kept on working.

Sound wise they are ok, yet it’s here (hear?) that I’m making a compromise of fidelity of usability. The JLabs Epics sound a lot better, but then they are a different design with soft rubber tips that sit a little deeper in my ear canal and create a better acoustic seal so I’d expect that. And it’s not that the AirPods sound bad at all, just that in a like for like comparison they don’t stack up all that well.

However, when you add in just how easy it is to pair the AirPods with your phone, and more importantly how easy it is to use them throughout the day (they power on/off automatically so no more re-pairing), I’ve yet to find a reasonable reason to criticise them. I COULD possibly complain about the price but then you remember that the Case includes a battery too and it’s hard to fault them.

It’s sometimes hard to judge a product like this without using them. I’d read a lot of good things about AirPods but they are, as many others have already said, a quintessentially Apple product.

They just work.

Tech

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We’ve had a couple of days to digest the recent Apple keynote, and a few more days than that to pour over the leaked data that basically outlined all of the announcements and almost reduced the keynote to little more than a series of (mostly) slick product presentations.

Almost, but not quite. There was certainly no hint about the opening video and tribute to Steve Jobs, which was a nice surprise and perfectly handled by an emotional Tim Cook, and it certainly added to the poignancy of the occasion. The new venue certainly looks impressive but I find I’m still stuck between thinking it’s either ‘over indulgent’ and/or ‘inspiring’ but there is no doubt it’s well designed with an incredibly high attention to detail (check the linked article for details on the concrete handrails).

Of course these events are really all about the iPhone and, once we’d gotten some Apple TV (4K and better content availability), and Apple Watch Series 3 (Cellular built in) news, it was on to the stars (plural) of the show.

Actually , I’m doing the Apple Watch a disservice, whilst the ‘appeal’ of making and taking calls on my Watch, and being able to leave my iPhone at home, isn’t really high on the list of my desires, I have to admit that the Apple Watch live demo, if it really was that slick, certainly confirms that there is some damn impressive tech crammed into a tiny wrist computer. Ultimately, the only real reason for me to want to update to a Series 3 Apple Watch would be the new wireless charging option… but more on that later.

On to the iPhones then.

Personally I’ve long since given up any pretence that I WON’T upgrade but knowing that this year they’d be announcing three new models, the question is more about which model I’ll go for, a ‘like for like’ upgrade to an iPhone 8? A ‘go big or go home’ upgrade to an iPhone 8 Plus? Or a ‘GIMME THE NEW SHINY’ upgrade to the iPhone X. And those of you who know me (even a little!) are already probably rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘obviously it’ll be the iPhone X’.

And that was my first reaction too. But I’ve had a little time to step back and apply some non-emotion based thinking (it really does look very pretty and shiny!) and ask myself the quesiton, am I really ready to part with £1000 just to get a nicer screen, FaceID and wireless charging? On the face of it (pun intended) that’s a lot of money for a few features.

Of course it’s not that simple – is it ever? – and there are other things to be considered.

I’ve been an iPhone user for a long time and most of the functionality that I am concerned with is based in the way iOS does (or doesn’t) do things. As much a fanboy as I am, I’m not completely wedded or bought in to the Apple Ecosystem. I use Spotify instead of Apple Music, I have an Amazon Alexa so won’t be getting the Apple equivalent, I use Dropbox over iCloud, etc etc.

Yet there are a few limitations with my current iPhone 7 that are hardware based, namely the camera. I’ve used my iPhone as my main camera for a few years now (I really should sell my Canon EOS) and whilst it has improved version over version, the one irk I have is that whilst I don’t want a phone the size of iPhone Plus I have coveted the additional camera capabilities it has.

Stepping outside of the iPhone X world then, I have a straight choice if I want to upgrade my current phone – which obviously I will because why else would I be on the uprade programme – do I go to iPhone 8 which doesn’t really give me anything all that new in terms of hardware/form functionality (sure it’s faster but at this point am I even gonna notice?), or do I go to iPhone 8 Plus to get the improved camera BUT have to live with a phone that no longer comfortably fits in my pocket.

If only there was an option for something with the improved camera capabilities that wasn’t as big as an iPhone Plus.

Hmmmmmmm.

OK, so the iPhone X is bigger than the iPhone but not by all that much, and it isn’t as big as the iPhone Plus… so on that basis alone…

OK. I know, I KNOW, this is a long-winded blog post for something you’ve all already figured out. This isn’t a WILL I/WON’T I discussion, this is a WHY CAN’T I GET IT NOW! justification post, I’m well aware of that.

Regardless of all of this waffling justification, the one thing that struck me on watching the keynote was that the iPhone X is interesting, it’s new (enough), it has different things to offer. The iPhone 8 simply isn’t all that exciting and mirrors my increasing ‘meh’ feeling (and that of others). Every keynote we hope for something NEW, something that LEAPS FORWARD, much as the original iPhone did. Sure the iPhone 8 has some improvements, a bump in spec, etc etc but I don’t think I’d see any particular difference given I’m already running iOS 11 on my iPhone 7, and that’s where the day to day changes are manifest.

But a new form factor, a new screen type, a new set of functionality, that is something that appeals, that excites, even if it’s still not a leap forward in any particular way, shape or form.

Of course this is a large part of the problem for tech companies like Apple. The further they hone their products to make them easier and better for users, the further away the amazing technology is hidden. Face ID is a great example, a simple piece of functionality that is powered by some utterly amazing technology (plus the icon is a nice touch). If it works as well as Apple claim it’ll be a nice addition. Plus, who WOULDN’T want an animated talking Poo Animoji message!

I’ll close with a final, personal, piece of justification. I have to admit that whilst it’s not new technology (shut up Samsung owners, I KNOW!) the wireless charging is a nice boon and I know that it’s this type of simpler implementations of things that I enjoy the most; for example, my main use of Alexa is to turn off three lamps in my Living Room at one time, yes it’s lazy but it’s so simple and easy to say a few words as I walk out of the room and leave as the room falls dark. Apply that thinking and wireless charging leaps up the list of ‘simpler is better’ justifications and… hello iPhone X!


If you are so interested you can watch the Keynote here, even if only for the opening few minutes showing the new Steve Jobs Theatre space.

Tech

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Like many Apple Watch users, managing what notifications I get on my Apple Watch is something I keep an eye on. When I first got an Apple Watch one of the early pieces of advice was to cut back on the notifications as much as possible and it’s something I’ve stuck with and now only get notifications of calendar events, emails, and messages (be they SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger), plus the Activity/Health related ones.

And, like many Apple iOS users, I don’t use the default Apple applications; I think Fantastical is better than Calendar, Spark is better than Mail, and Spotify is better than Music. YMMV but these are my choices, and annoyingly there isn’t a way to tell iOS that these are MY defaults (and I presume Apple has some way to discern this so I’m guessing the percentage of people using the default apps is still in the majority).

However, when it comes to calendar alerts I’ve noticed one weird behaviour which, and I’m presuming it’s a bug, I’d been putting up in the hope it’d get fixed but as it’s been a while now I’m guessing it’s not gonna happen any time soon so I sat down to work through the options I had available to me.

And yes, that likely means that in the next versions of watchOS and iOS this will get fixed but.. whatever! (also, why not phoneOS, just saying).

The symptoms of the issue are simple, I was getting Apple Calendar notifications on my Apple Watch even when I’d turned off Notifications on both iOS, in the Watch settings, and I’ve even removed the Calendar app from both devices as well! Sure, it’s a minor annoyance but as Fantastical provides notifications of events it meant that everytime something in my calendar cropped up, I’d receive two notifications on my Watch. Buzz buzz… pause…. buzz buzz. GAH!

I trawled the Apple support forums, googled every combination I could think of to turn up something but nothing I tried worked. However, I think after a lot of trial and error, I have a solution. It’s a little counter-intuitive but it’s worked for me and over the past couple of weeks I’ve yet to get a notification from the Calendar app on my Watch! YA BEAUTY!

How to stop Calendar event notifications on your Apple Watch


  1. Make sure you have the Calendar app installed on your iPhone.
  2. On your iPhone, go to Watch Settings, then to Notifications, and set Calendar to ‘Mirror my iPhone’ (the second section doesn’t matter).
  3. In iPhone Settings go to Notifications, select Calendar and turn ON notifications (bear with me!).
  4. Go through each item in the list and turn off all the settings, including setting Sounds and Vibration to None (it should look like the image below). It’s a bit of a faff I know.

That’s it! I’ve not had a notification on my Watch from the Calendar app since.

This definitely feels like there is a bug where the overall Notifications on/off switch isn’t being honoured, so removing all the options so that there is nothing to trigger seems like the workaround, despite leaving Notifications ‘ON’, is a fudge but it works.

I’ve logged the above with Apple in the hope they fix it at some point, and vaguely hope that at some point they may even allow us poor plebs the option of setting different default apps instead of all this faffing! Hahahaha… I can dream, right!?

Tech

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LIFX Cloud and BT Broadband Issue – Solved

I’ve had LIFX Wifi bulbs since they first appeared on Kickstarter. They are great when they work, but when they don’t you enter the world of Wifi networking and connection issues which is NOT A FUN PLACE.

Thankfully the good people at LIFX Support know their stuff, but as I don’t see this nugget of info on their website, I thought I’d share it here.

Solution

If you have LIFX bulbs and BT Broadband, with a BT Homehub router, check that BT Web Protect (aka BT Smart Protect) is turned off.

You can check this by logging in to bt.com and looking at the settings there. You don’t need to make any changes on the router settings themselves.

Notes
As far as I can figure out; Sometimes BT push a firmware update to the router which will reset some settings. I’m guessing this happened to me recently and resulted in BT Net Protect being re-enabled on the router which then blocks LIFX bulbs connection to the LIFX Cloud.

Your LIFX bulbs will work fine using the LIFX app but it means IFTTT, Alexa, Yonomi and other services can’t interact with the bulbs (those are the three I use I’m presuming others will be affected too).

Frustrating but, thankfully, an easy and quick fix. Thanks to the LIFX Support team for their help.

Tech

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Sometimes when I’m writing for this blog, it feels like there is a conspiracy going on to make me think about, and write about, a particular topic. So with that in mind I will happily concede that this post was inspired by Lipstick Lori (who is writing some great stuff at the moment!) writing about How I Quit Facebook, Sort Of, my own ponderings around the question of Which Tech Giant Would You Drop?, and this piece by Jason Kottke (uber-blogger) My Social Media Fast.

It’s a slow pull, a subtle trick. It starts with a brief desire and is soon a constant drain. They know what they are doing, they’ve spent a long time designing it to be this way, to game you, to manipulate you, and as it gets larger and larger so it becomes harder and harder to fight.

My Facebook account currently gets the most usage of all my social media accounts. Granted a lot of the things I post are pushed from Instagram, but more and more I will share things into my timeline from elsewhere on Facebook, trapped in the bubble. I find myself idlly scrolling through post after post after post, hardly pausing to digest, a stream of stuff that amuses, annoys, adds to the FOMO, or makes me smile.

I do not like the amount of time I spend using Facebook.

I have books I want to read, TV shows I want to watch, and on sunny days I want to disconnect and enjoying being alive and being present with myself.

I did manage to wean myself off Facebook pretty well a while ago, right up until my niece was born; my sister posts pictures and videos of her almost every day, and oh my heavens she is as cute as a button and fills my heart with joy and love and that gorgeous little thing was the gateway, the lure back into the Facebook universe. I tried to tell myself I was only gonna check it to see if there was anything about her, you know just a little bit now and then, and then I could totally give it up later. Yes, that’s right, I’m blaming my Facebook addiction on my 1 year old niece, what of it!

I have tried to maintain some level of discipline. I had previously uninstalled the app but it’s snuck back on to my phone now BUT – and this is an important BUT – it sits deliberately in a folder on the second screen, right next to its time-sucking sister Twitterific. The thinking was that would remove the urge to ‘just have a quick look’ and for the most part it’s starting to work, which is just as well.

I know what some of you might be thinking, social media is fun! So say the adverts at least, but as always there is a deeper, unadvertised, cost.

There are many meme-able acronyms that surround Facebook; but it is the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) being the one I most associate with it, after all it’s so obvious that everyone ELSE is leading lives far richer than mine and whilst seeing people I care about having a good time is totally awesome and happy making, it can be not to compare and contrast; my lonely sofa to the photos of an afternoon out, all laughter and spilled drinks. And there’s the rub, the mixture of joy and sadness, happiness and melancholy.

And yes, I am well aware that social media is a but a filter, and the most people post the best of themselves, not the worst, but having that knowledge and sensibly processing that knowledge are two very different things. And that’s before you consider that I do this as well, contributing to the very problem I’m trying to avoid. Ironic, isn’t it? (shut up Alanis).

I honestly do love reading, seeing, and hearing, the wonderful things my friends and acquaintances get up to. You lot (I’m presuming, dear reader, that we are connected on some platform or another) are wonderful, quirky, funny, thought provoking, attractive, heart warming, caring and just down right good peoples. But, as Lori points out, that comes at an emotional cost. It’s not always a negative sum game, but emotions need to be processed regardless and it can be tiring.

I’m not completely away from Facebook or Twitter, but it feels more manageable. Instagram remains front and centre though, as I find it so much easier to scroll photos than dodge the diatribes, crap adverts, and all the other noise that Facebook adds.

The flipside to all of this, for there is always a flipside, is that I will have fewer chances to see things that others post. Fewer chances to like or comment on their achievements, fewer chances to laugh with them (or at them if the moment warrants). And to all those people I wanted to echo the sentiment of a wonderful message I recently received (the irony (again!) of having received this message on yet another social platform is not lost on me).

I enjoy seeing what you post, and I see you around on various social media channels. I may not like or comment as often but I see you, and I care about you.*

There is joy to be found in social media, and for me that joy and delight has been found in the connections it has allowed me to make, I have met people I genuinely call friends (for they are not acquaintances) thanks to social media, and there is no doubt that it’s very useful for keeping in touch, however remotely, with many people.

For those connections, those new friendships that I wouldn’t have made any other way, I will always be grateful to social media (ht: this blog of mine which started it all for me) and I can’t see a time when some form of social media or another won’t have a place in my life. It’s just not on my homescreen.

* the person who sent this knows, but wanted to call this out again, it was a simple message that had a big impact on me, and gave me something to strive for in my interactions with others, to make them meaningful, not just another LIKE.

Blogging Life Tech

Last year I bought a 12.9″ iPad Pro to replace an ageing 2012 MacBook Air which, like its owner, is noticeably slowing as time passes.

I did my usual round of research before making the jump.

I love my MacBook, is does everything I need but the screen is a shortcoming, especially these days switching from iPhone/iPad to the MacBook was jarring. I could’ve gotten a retina screened MacBook but that’s when the second consideration kicked in (our old friend money).

For a lot less moolah I could get a gorgeous big retina screen, if I switched to an iPad and having seen pictures of the 12.9″ retina screen I was very tempted.

I had an iPad Air and a bluetooth keyboard already so had a sense of what I could, and couldn’t, do if I switched operating systems. I then spent 20 mins or so in the Apple Store trying the iPad Pro out and came away convinced I could make the switch.

And I’ve been pretty happy with the decision. Over the past year or so I’ve rarely used my MacBook and, other than still needing to get a better keyboard, if feels like it was the right thing to do. Also, the Apple Pencil is a thing of simple wonder (and no, I can’t draw for shit, but it sure is fun trying).

But.

Well, of course there is a but…

The other day I was looking for some old photos and needed to fire up my MacBook to attach an old external drive. It was odd going back to a laptop (I use one at work but it’s Windows and that switch is odd enough) and I had to stop myself from touching the screen several times.

However, after about 10 mins the old muscle memory returned and it felt… faster, quicker, I felt like I wasn’t being hindered by the device I was using, something I hadn’t really noticed when I started using the iPad Pro, probably because I was busy re-learning how to do things, rather than noting how quickly I was managing to do them.

The iPad Pro hardware is much faster to react to things within an app but as I Alt+Tab’d my way around the MacBook I realised that one area where the iPad is lacking is in just this kind of multi-tasking. It is possible to do what I was doing on the iPad but because it’s using iOS, and crucially I have to take a hand off the keyboard to four finger swipe between apps, it left me with the impression that I was working faster on my MacBook than I could manage with my iPad.

And it was noticeable enough that it’s been bothering me (bothering me enough to write a post about it!).

What was going on?

Was it just because I’ve been using macOS (OSX) for so long now it’s more familiar than iOS, so feels more comfortable and, somehow, ‘faster’? Was it because I still don’t feel like iOS is fully suited to ‘work’ (even though I’ve been using it that way for a while now)?

I’m not sure, and maybe it’ll just take me more time to feel comfortable with iOS as my main interface. But (there’s that word again) it’s been a year, so if I’m not used to it by now, well, will I ever be?

Maybe it’s because I use a computer all day at work (an IBM ThinkCentre black box with a keyboard and a mouse), and have done for cough years, and that re-enforces the notion of ‘getting things done’ that is still mentally mapped to that form of working, hands on keyboard. Or maybe it’s my physical model that needs to adjust to the mix of movements that iOS requires? I can’t help but think that periodically lifting a hand to the screen and away from the primary input device still feels wrong.

Or maybe it’s because I’m a power user, I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts and inherently, because of the limitations of iOS in that department, it will never feel as fast.

Who knows.

The only problem I have now is that the thought is in my head and the lure of new shiny is strong.

Because, new shiny!!

And I am weak.

So so weak.

P.S. This is not a long winded way of saying I bought an new MacBook. Honest.

Tech

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