The Subscription Dilemma

The big news today in the Apple software world was that Smile Software changed their business model for their popular application, TextExpander, from a one-time purchase to a monthly subscription. There were many users very vocally upset about the change. That's understandable. Every time I've seen an application move to a subscription model, people get upset. Even if the subscription costs the same or less (and honestly, it can often cost more). There's something about the thought of having to pay forever to keep using an app.

As many people have pointed out, consumers can't keep adding subscriptions. Something will have to give. Of course, developers can't make applications if no one is going to pay for them. You can't make a sale once and then keep developing for free. But, at what point does a given consumer reach saturation where new apps can't get added? When this happens, a developer might lose the ability to sell to saturated customers because they are competing with every other app this customer is paying for. Once maxed out, something has to leave for another thing to enter.

I have 6GB of podcasts that I haven't listened to. I have about 20 iTunes movies I have purchased, but never watched. I have virtual stacks of books on my Kindle I haven't read (not to mention the paper ones accumulated over years and years). Now what if I had to pay every month for all that? Would I have acquired each piece in the first place? Probably not. Right now I have a subscription to Adobe's Photography Bundle of Photoshop and Lightroom. I don't use it much, but it's only $10/mo. I'm afraid to give it up because a few times a year I find it really useful. But $10 is also my Apple Music subscription which I use every day. If push comes to shove, which one will win?

I don't know what the future holds, but it feels like the saturation point for many people is coming sooner than later.

Initial thoughts on the iPad Pro

The iPad Pro is a confusing device. There's a lot to really like about it, but there's also definite differences from my first generation iPad Air.

The iPad Pro plus pencil is a great work device for me because I do a lot of sketching every day. The screen is the size of the paper pad I use. I go through 5 to 6 pages of paper a day. There are good ideas on those sheets, but mostly those ideas are in transit. I don't get them filed away and I don't have a system for tagging and finding them later. That's very wasteful and I don't like it. The iPad Pro (potentially) to the rescue.

I'm typing this entry on the iPad Pro in landscape on the software keyboard in regular typing mode. Not hunt and peck with a couple fingers, but full on real typing. Autocorrect is catching most of the problems, so I can type at nearly my normal typing speed, which is fairly fast. Unbelievable. I have bigger hands, so this is the first time I've felt comfortable doing this kind of onscreen typing. I'm betting that the extra horsepower in the iPad Pro is also helping the keyboard keep up with me. I expect my typing to get better over time as I adjust to the keyboard. Another thing is that I'm not looking at the keyboard as I'm typing, I'm looking at the text. I can quickly see when mistakes are made.

Part of my morning routine is to sit and noodle on Candy Crush games while I eat my yogurt breakfast and drink coffee while listening to a podcast. Candy Crush on the iPad Pro is comically big. Too big. There's also the weight. It is is a heavy iPad. Yes, the weight is better distributed, but with it resting in my lap, pulling it slightly forward with my hand, I notice the weight. I notice my hand getting fatigued. Not a big thing, but something to keep track of. With my iPad Air 1 I almost never noticed the weight. An iPad Air 2 felt even better. You just don't notice it. With the pro, you notice it.

Another curious thing is the battery. I was playing various games for about an hour this morning. The brightness was on the low-ish side and in that hour the battery went down 20%. That is considerably faster than with my iPad Air 1, which might have gone down 10%. This is concerning, especially since my intention is really for this to be an all day device.

It may turn out that the iPad Pro is more of a work/productivity device and I'll fall back to an iPad Air for doing casual browsing and games. I've only had the Pro for a few days, not even a week, so it's early. The iPad Pro isn't cheap. It's difficult to mentally justify having two iPads, so I want this pro to work for all occasions. It isn't a no-brainier conclusion yet.

UPDATE: I might need to make this into a series, but for the moment I wanted to do a quick "next day" update. My theory now about battery life is that the iPad Pro is much more sensitive to screen brightness. Honestly this would make sense as the screen is so large. Today's morning routine was similar to yesterday, but. I had the brightness much lower. Around 30% whereas yesterday was probably 50-60%. Today's battery is only. Down 9%. The screen. Is a little dimmer than I'm used to, but not bad.

Lupita Nyong'o wore a light-up dress programmed by young women, and it was stunning.

By highlighting the abilities of talented young female programmers in her fashion choices, Nyong'o has ensured a meaningful red carpet conversation. The move fits right in with #AskHerMore, which encourages reporters to ask actresses questions beyond what they're wearing on the red carpet.

Everything about this is absolutely awesome. 

Link of the Day: What's so special about podcasting?

I met Stephen Hackett this year at XOXO's podcaster meetup, among others. I only talked to him for a few minutes, but what struck me was he's just a regular guy. By that I mean, he seemed like he was feeling like I would feel at such an event, a little fish-out-of-water. Like he wasn't quite sure about all the attention. He totally deserves the attention, and I think this video shows why.

Podcasting is something special, especially what I call conversational podcasting. There are great stories to be told through tightly edited and produced podcasts, but I find I don't gravitate towards those. People are interesting. When people just talk to each other on a weekly basis, it's like they forget the world is listening. Over time you get to know the people more. It's less about reporting news or individual stories and it's much more understanding their views and wanting to hear their unique take on things, whatever the "thing" may be.

I enjoy listening to Stephen and his co-hosts. They feel a bit like friends from college who are now on TV. Watch Stephen's short video and see if you don't get the same feeling. And you really should check out his podcasts at Relay FM

Link of the Day: The better way to look at the iPad Pro

Fraser Speirs spins the question of whether the new iPad Pro can replace your laptop 180 degrees: Can the MacBook do what the iPad Pro can? Framed this way, it seems crazy to pick a MacBook over the iPad Pro.

It would be easy to say the tech reviewers simply went for the easy angle of comparing the iPad Pro either the iPad Air or the MacBook, but I think that misses the point. Horace Dediu of got it right, the iPad Pro is something new. We need to allow it to be something new. It feels extravagant to say we might want an iPad Pro in addition to an iPad or MacBook. There can be only one portable device. Why? We don't seem to have any problem having a laptop and a desktop. We can also have a laptop and an iPad. What is so wrong about having a laptop, an iPad, and an iPad Pro?

I don't have an iPad Pro yet. I haven't even seen one in person. I do anticipate that there are lots of things I could do with one. Useful things, both for entertainment and for actual work. I walk around with my iPad Air one handed as I'm reading articles (or more likely playing games, listening to podcasts) while I'm doing laps in my house getting steps. I'm not sure I could do that with an iPad Pro due to the size and the weight. I'm not sure I would want to give that up if I had an iPad Pro. I wouldn't feel bad about that because I would use the devices for different purposes. How many one-function tools does a wood maker have because certain jobs can only be done with that one unique tool?

Often the easiest way to understand what a thing is is to compare it to something else. That's fine, but we just have to leave room for the fact that a new thing might actually be new and thus alien. It may take some time to actually understand what it is instead of just what it looks like. We need to be open to the fact that a new thing might create new workflows instead of just replacing existing ones.

Apple Posts ‘Someday at Christmas’ Ad Featuring Andra Day and Stevie Wonder – MacStories

Nice analysis and insight (as usual) by Federico Vittici at MacStories on the latest Apple commercial.

This is a great example of why I like Apple. I watch this commercial and I want to stop what I'm doing and go make something. I'm not a songwriter or musician, but I look at this and think, that is what our technology is meant for. Let's create things to share with other people. Sure, this is a commercial and Apple hopes you will buy more of their stuff, but it can also be Apple sharing something with us.

Link of the day: Slo-mo fire vortex

This morning I thought the link was going to be a lock with Blue Origin's video of a rocket taking off and then landing vertically using its main engine. My brain understands how beneficial this kind of reusable technology will be for our future in space, but when I watch the video of the rocket landing, all I can think is wow, wow, wow! I like Kottke's summary the best with the link to the bit about what it takes to get to space vs. what it takes to get to orbit.

Like I said, wow.

But then I'm reading more Kottke and there's a link to a video by two guys with some fans, a bucket of kerosene, and a 2500fps camera. Not the scientific impact of Blue Origin's rocket, but a fire vortex is going to trump just about everything. I'll never forget the first time I saw Backdraft and was captivated by the slo-mo dancing fire shots. I can't tell you anything about the plot, but I can tell you what the fire looked like.

Link of the day: Petra and Infocom

The second day into my "link" of the day experiment and I'm already breaking the rule, but these two links feel related.

First off from Six Colors, Google maps Petra. And not just maps, it gives you a fabulous tour with voice over. Petra is an archeological site in Jordan. Many people will know it from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Stunningly beautiful facades carved in the rock walls. There was also a fun episode of Destination Truth where they wandered around Petra in the dark looking for ghosts. Regardless of their results, how cool—and let's admit it, creepy—would that have been?! I love that Google has done this because I'm not sure if I'm ever going to make it to Jordan, let alone Petra.

The second link today is a different form of archeology. This one lives at the Internet Archive, and the games preserved here were made to make us feel like we were exploring worlds like Petra. Jason Scott explains the story of finding, and scanning for preservation, the design notes for several 80s era Infocom games.

The collection is called The Infocom Cabinet, and right now it has every design notebook/binder that Steve Meretzky kept during the period of what most people consider “Classic” Infocom.

Really amazing work. I remember playing these text adventure games. You would have to make maps and take notes to get through. It was frustrating to try and figure out what the words were you could use to direct your character and interact with the world. It's hard to explain how magical these games were. When the home video games were 8-bit Atari 2600 consoles, text adventures contained orders of magnitude more detail. I didn't finish many, but they were captivating. Glad to see this kind of preservation work being done.

Link of the day: The Long Now

You keep climbing. For the next 70-80 feet of ascent you pass 20 huge horizontal gears (called Geneva wheels), 8 feet in diameter, each weighing 1,000 pounds. This is the mechanical computer that calculates the over 3.5 million different melodies that the chimes will ring inside the mountain over the centuries. The chimes never repeat so that every visitor’s experience is unique

A project to create a clock that will run for 10,000 years. The first of several planned. It's not a dream project, either, it is under construction now in western Texas.

It's great that someone with the resources to do this is actually doing it. And doing it in a big way! The site says it will be a journey to reach it, but if you come at the right time, you will hear the day's chime, played just one time, never to be repeated. I don't have many bucket list items, and I'm not sure I will ever realistically get to see and hear this clock, but it feels worth aiming for.

via: Kottke

The External SSD Upgrade is Worth Doing

Jason Snell describes the experience of upgrading an old laptop with an SSD. It's like getting a new machine, especially if you aren't doing computational heavy lifting like photo or audio editing.

I have a Mac mini with a Fusion Drive. It definitely shares the benefits of the SSD, but not completely. I also have a full SSD equipped MacBook Pro for work and the speed on it is amazing. All my future machines have to be full SSD now.

But I have also handed off a few older iMacs. Circa 2008 and 2009 iMacs if I am remembering right. Those machines really felt slow, but the 24" screens are still beautiful. I wanted to give them to friends but I was worried they would just be frustrated by the speed. I ran across Glenn Fleischman's article on Macworld to use an external SSD as the boot drive. Worth a try because I'm not really wanting to open up an iMac.

On one machine I was able to get FireWire 800 to work, but another just wouldn't take it so I had to use USB 2. Ugh. Barely faster than the internal disk, but it was faster so I stuck with it. I also felt like a new SSD might provide more reliability than an old spinning disk.

The result was two machines that became usable for light work like web browsing, email, and office type work. I highly recommend trying the external SSD if you are looking to revitalize an older iMac. If it's a new enough Mac that it has USB 3, you will see even better results, too.

Enjoying a rainy day


I live in Oregon and the fall means the return of regular rainy days. Today is our first really rainy weekend day of the season. I genuinely enjoy these days where it seems like all I'm supposed to be doing is sitting under a blanket, reading a book (or more often, a blog) listening to the rain outside. I'm sure there are errands to be run, but those can wait. Not every rainy day compels me to behave in this indulgently lazy manner, but the first one of the season is hard to ignore.

How's that app coming?

Three weeks ago I wrote about finding a good, intro iOS project. How's is going? How much have I done on it?


What?! That's crazy, right? This is a project that I really want to do. How is it I have no actual progress in three weeks? I do have a few more sketches in my notebook on the possible workflow. I have identified the simplest of simple screens to get started with, but I have no code yet. Why?

Lots of reasons, but I think the fundamental one is attacking a problem where I may have nothing to show after working on it. If I read an article, it's done. If I watch a TV show, it's done. If I do some programming, I may run into a wall and make no real progress. Of course that's not accurate, but it's been a very long time since I've been almost an absolute beginner. It's hard to accept that progress will be very slow for awhile.

One way to combat this is to have a scheduled time and place each day to show up. Commit.

I'm not good about committing. I need to say, at 7pm, I am working at my computer on the code part of my app. Not, I'm reading about Swift or MVC or watching WWDC videos. I can do those things, but at 7pm for at least a half hour (hopefully an hour), I'm in front of my Mac with Xcode open. I might be doing tutorials, but I'm going to be coding.

Having the idea isn't the hard part. Showing up every day and doing the work is.

Never miss twice

More great stuff from The Blog of James Clear

I find the “never miss twice” mindset to be particularly useful. Maybe I’ll miss one workout, but I’m not going to miss two in a row. Maybe I’ll eat an entire pizza, but I’ll follow it up with a healthy meal. Maybe I’ll forget to meditate today, but tomorrow morning I’ll be oozing with Zen.

Slipping up on your habits doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you normal. What separates top performers from everyone else is that they get back on track quickly. Make sure you have a plan for when you fail.

People seem to have difficulty preparing for failure. I see it at work all the time. The thinking goes, "How do we not do this again" instead of, "We'll try not to do this again, but we probably will. How can we quickly recognize we're doing something wrong and then what can we do to correct it?" By framing it that way, you let yourself off the hook for screwing up. That's important because it is way too easy to spend too much time angry with yourself. That just delays getting back on track.

Club MacStories – MacStories

MacStories takes their newsletter private, which I think is a great idea. It can't be easy to depend on ad and sponsorship revenue for a blog to make a living. Diversifying income sources is smart. The content that MacStories produces is so good that I am happy to suppor them. Especially since I tend to read the site through RSS, so I'm bypassing their ads most of the time.

I can't help but reflect on when I grew up, the thought of being able to spend $5/month supporting a writer I like, who lives in Italy, wasn't something I could even fathom. I love how close the internet allows the world to be.

I am worried that at some point I'm not going to be able to afford to support all the sites and people I want, but I'm not there yet, so here's my $5, MacStories!