Tot, a scratchpad app for macOS and iOS, has graduated from a side experiment to an essential part of my workflow in a matter of weeks. I highly recommend giving the app a try on Mac (it’s free), and if the design works for you, buy it on iOS.
Admittedly, when I first saw Tot pop up on social media and sites like MacStories, I was skeptical. There are already hundreds of note taking apps available on the App Store. Given several options like Bear and iA Writer nail the basics so thoroughly, with strong aesthetic design and years of iteration, it’s hard to see how any new competitor can stand out. But I’ve always had longstanding respect for The Iconfactory in terms of their attention to visual design. $20 later (more on that price in a bit), equipped with Tot’s iOS and Mac apps, I dove in to give it a try.
Two of the Macbook Pro’s most hyped improvements – the Touch Bar and more compact profile – have little benefit to many professionals. I’m worried Apple is increasingly hawking consumer level tech that’s missing the high end market.
At least half of the developers and designers I know work primarily with a Macbook Pro hooked to an external display and paired with an external keyboard and mouse. Ergonomics improve with both displays at similar height and distance. It’s more efficient to scan and drag content given the screens’ proximity. And by driving the setup through a laptop, you still get the flexibility of a portable device for meetings or work on the go.
Therein lies the rub with the Macbook Pro’s Touch Bar. With the aforementioned setup, the Macbook’s distance makes the Bar out of reach and hard to see. Ironically, a setup for serious work nullifies the Bar’s purported productivity benefits. And based on Apple’s pricing segmentation, we’re paying a premium for it as well.
During runs and lighter coding sessions, I love listening to podcasts. Deep, geeky chats on tech, film and gaming are fun and instructive. The best podcasts are addictive; with memorable hosts and segments, it’s like checking in with old friends. Yet as my days get busier, I’ve had to pare down to just a few strong choices.
Balance separates great from merely good podcasts. They cover a diverse set of opinions, either from a revolving set of guests or hosts from different backgrounds. Yet it can’t be too diverse or the chemistry breaks down.
I’ve written on my own blog for years with the same cadence. I share links with small bits of commentary a few times each week. Longer pieces take more effort; I spread them throughout the year as time and mood allow. Yet going forward, that balance between long and short form will change. Link posts will be rare, while I hope to write larger pieces more often. I’d rather provide more depth here and move quick impressions largely to other platforms.
This change was inevitable given the effect social media and mega-platforms are having on smaller sites. Web-based link blogs, with rare exceptions like Daring Fireball, are dead. Quick takes and snap judgements have moved to Twitter and other social media. It’s just a better fit; they’re new platforms optimized for sharing, speed, and connectivity.
Once Apple Music’s free trial ended, I deleted all my files and resubscribed to Spotify Premium. The turnaround was surprising; this is Apple we’re talking about here. From Macs, to an iPhone, an iPad, and an Apple TV, I’m a convert. But after several weeks of heavy Apple Music usage, I was done with the service.
I’m not alone on this turnaround. Though 11 million subscribers (in a free trial period) is a decent start, I’ve seen many across, tech and design migrate elsewhere. There’s several reasons why:
As I wrote weeks ago, Apple TV needed several key factors to challenge console and PC gaming. Based on the keynote and what we’ve learned since, they missed on all counts. Traditional console or PC gamers won’t be flocking to Apple TV. Yet some wildcards could upend the casual gaming market in the long run.
Apple TV’s problems start with the included remote. A touchpad and single available button won’t give the precision needed for most traditional games. And add-on controllers are unlikely to make headway. Apple didn’t release a first-party option, and developers can’t require external controllers for play.
Then there’s the issue of a fairly weak starting library. Granted, several games look entertaining. Yet it’s mostly small scale entertainment — diversions alongside other apps and streaming media.
Tomorrow Apple is expected to announce an updated Apple TV with a dedicated app store and more powerful hardware. That positions the device to compete directly with the existing PC and console gaming space. Yet it’s premature for console manufacturers and PC gamers to be worried. Nor is it a surefire success for casual gaming in the living room.
We’ve been down this road before. First, smartphone and tablet games were predicted to kill consoles. It didn’t turn out that way. PS4 and Xbox One sales have been strong, even better than the PS3 and Xbox 360 during its opening sale period. PC gaming is booming through eSports and on Steam. And while casual gaming is successful on mobile, it’s fallen flat elsewhere. The Ouya, Fire TV, and the existing Apple TV through AirPlay have all been gaming duds.
Granted, a revamped Apple TV is a step in the right direction. An Apple-based living room platform is bound to take some attention away from traditional PC and console gaming. And like most forms of tech, we can’t quantify Apple TV’s impact until months or years from now. Yet several early factors will telegraph the Apple TV’s success against the exiting games market.
Essential reading from Todd VanDerWerff at Vox regarding where technology and the open web is going:
Now, however, our articles increasingly seem to be individual insects trapped in someone else’s web. The internet has the exact opposite problem of every other medium. Instead of going from something for everybody to something for a large series of hyper-specialized niches, we’re navigating the choppy seas where once stood an archipelago and increasingly stands a continent. As TV and music and even publishing become the internet, the internet is becoming everything else — and it’s taking so much of what seemed to make it special with it.
Jeremy Keith on The Verge and the recent debate over who’s to blame for heavy, ad and tracking infested web pages:
For such a young, supposedly-innovative industry, I’m often amazed at what people choose to treat as immovable, unchangeable, carved-in-stone issues. Bloated, invasive ad tracking isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice. We can choose to change.
Every bloated advertising and tracking script on a website was added by a person. What if that person refused? I guess that person would be fired and another person would be told to add the script. What if that person refused? What if we had a web developer picket line that we collectively refused to cross?
That’s an unrealistic, drastic suggestion. But the way that the web is being destroyed by our collective culpability calls for drastic measures.
Developer Una Kravets presents a slightly different take on the command line tutorial I posted a few weeks ago. Instead of a more comprehensive take, Una sticks to basics and essentials. Very useful for command line newcomers.