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!

What a special day

Tonight I got to meet a bunch of podcasters I have only known through the countless hours I have listened to them. It was really special. I mean REALLY special. It is like being able to go backstage at a concert of your favorite band.

All these people were in town for the xoxo festival. They organized a podcaster meet up. I met:

  • Dan Benjamin
  • Haddie Cook
  • Myke Hurley & Adina
  • Stephen Hackett
  • David Sparks
  • Jason Snell
  • Marco & Tiffany Arment

I saw, but didn't get to personally talk to:

  • Merlin Mann
  • Jean MacDonald
  • Christina Warren

Everyone was wonderful and gracious. Absolutely magical. I'm still spinning. Special thanks to my great friend Mike who came with me even though he cares zip about podcasts. Thank you, Mike. I really appreciate it. It meant a lot to me.

The thing is I have listened to these people for many years, every week. And their podcasting style is conversational so I feel like I know them more than I do. To meet these guys in person was surreal. It was a very special night that I will remember for a long time. A long time.

And these people might talk to each other over Skype, but they don't see each other face to face very often. So when you're trying to talk to them, you're very aware that they might like to just talk to each other. But they all made time for their fans. Thank you.

These people met so many people that they won't remember me. But that doesn't matter. What I will remember is that every one of them were gracious and warm. Just makes me want to listen to them more.

Apple's Second Annual Christmas

Apple has two main "Christmas" days a year: 1) WWDC where we find out about all the new goodness in the next OSes, and 2) new iPhone day. New iPhone day often has other products as well, but the mix is always up in the air. Today was jam packed with the iPad Pro, the AppleTV, and the new iPhones. Other bits here and there thrown in, of course.

I'm kind of glad I'm not in an upgrade year for my phone because I would be stumbling all over myself to try and figure out the specifics of the new iPhone Upgrade plan. Seems like a no-brainer, especially since the phones are unlocked. I'm going to Europe next year and I would like to have an unlocked phone so I could load a local SIMM. The new phones look nice, as usual. Lots of interesting improvements, but nothing on the must have list for me.

The AppleTV looks nice as well, but it is in more of an uncharted area. Due to the low-ish price point and the fact the product hasn't seen an update for quite awhile, it's a no-brainer. But I'm not sure if it is going to impact me that much. Time will tell.

The iPad Pro is also a bit of a wait-and-see for me. It seems really nice, but I don't know that I need a bigger iPad. I like mine the size and weight it is now. I walk around with my iPad a lot so weight is a factor. I'm not sure if I could comfortably hold the iPad Pro one-handed while walking. From what was demoed, there isn't a killer application for me, either.

The one instabuy was the Product(RED) watch band. Been wanting one of those. Ordered.

The other nice item was the lower iCloud storage pricing. I currently pay $3.999/mo for 200GB and now I'll pay $2.99. Also 1TB is only $9.99, like Dropbox. 200GB is plenty right now, but it's nice to see Apple finally getting more price competitive.

A solid day. Looking forward to watching the whole thing tonight.

Finding the project

When you try to learn something new, it's very difficult unless you have a project you care about. This is especially true when you're trying to learn a computer language. I have been trying to learn iOS programming for the last couple years, but I've had trouble finding a small app idea, a doable app idea. I have plenty of big app ideas, but I need a small app idea, something that I can make progress on and be satisfied with.

Today I found that app.

It's totally simple, and it is something that will be useful to me. I don't even care if this app already exists because it is a worthwhile project to do.

I know I don't get enough sleep. Yeah, I get tired and yeah, I know there's health benefits, but recently I read this article by David Tan for the South China Morning Post discussing what we now know is going on during sleep:

The brain changes when we sleep to clean out harmful toxins that have built up during the day.

Aha! Now that's something I can grab ahold of. Furthermore:

In fact, almost every neurodegenerative disease is associated with the accumulation of cellular waste products.

Ok, so getting enough sleep is really important. But that knowledge doesn't make me change my habits. I tell myself, just go to bed earlier. Nope. Doesn't stick.

I blame network TV! Even though I almost never watch live TV anymore, a lifetime of 10 o'clock being the start of bedtime has trained me to not even start the bedtime process until 10. And it's never a clean break. Oh, just another article to read or Candy Crush life to play. I should check email before bed and oh, I forgot to make lunch for tomorrow. Etc, etc. Point is ,I don't go to bed when I should.

What if I had an app telling I should go to bed?

Now I could just set an alarm. That is trivial. But, that's kind of the point. This is an easy problem. But still, one that I can do better than a simple alarm. My idea is to have an app that takes in when I want to get up in the morning, how many hours I want to sleep, and how long it takes me to get into bed once I start the bedtime process at night. From that info I can set an alert for say 30 min before I should start the bedtime process.

Silly, right? Who's going to buy that? That's not the point. I don't expect it to sell, it's to let me learn.

I actually think this might help me be mindful of when I need to go to bed. Over time it might make a difference. For me. Worth a try. The health benefits are real if I can modify my habits.

So, that's my great app idea. I will keep reporting on the progress here. After all, documenting the journey of relearning programming was one of the points of this blog. Here we go.

Just a p.s. on that article on sleep. This is particularly interesting:

But it turns out too much sleep is also harmful. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) in the US links too little sleep (six hours or less) and too much sleep (10 hours or more) with chronic diseases in adults aged 45 years and older.

Yep, color me motivated.

You’re Not Good Enough to Be Disappointed

What a great piece by James Clear:

In other words, in the beginning you need to get comfortable with feeling stupid, uncertain, and unskilled. You’re not allowed to be disappointed by your amateur performance because you haven’t developed the skills of a professional yet. It’s only the professionals that are allowed to be disappointed because they have put in the work to be better.

Pair with Ira Glass' advice for beginners, retold brilliantly at Zen Pencils.