I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

Instapaper Returns to the EU ›

I’ve been an Instapa­per user since it launched so I’m delight­ed to see it return to the EU now that it is an inde­pen­dent com­pa­ny once again.
When it dis­ap­peared from the EU when GDPR hit, I tried to find a way of replac­ing it first with Pin­board then with Safari Read­ing List. Nei­ther of which real­ly stuck, so despite the slight con­cern over why they could­n’t hit the GDPR dead­line, I’m back using it and we’ll see if I start using as reg­u­lar­ly again.

This is a very inter­est­ing arti­cle about the influ­ence of Face­book and Google has over soci­ety and the unbal­anced dis­course that has been grow­ing over recent years. It’s been a recur­ring con­cern of mine about Micro.blog and the many calls I’ve seen on there for diver­si­ty. They have rarely, if ever, includ­ed calls for peo­ple who take a more con­ser­v­a­tive stance. Bal­ance is some­thing that is need­ed if the ser­vice is to avoid the pit­falls that cre­at­ed the echo cham­bers we find on Twit­ter and Face­book now.

Pondering on Google I/O

I’ve been think­ing a lot about the things that Google announced at I/O this week. I feel like I’m stuck in a weird camp of being both fas­ci­nat­ed and ter­ri­fied all at once.
The rate at which Google Assis­tant is devel­op­ing is astound­ing and the idea that they are work­ing towards the com­put­er from Star Trek is real­ly quite cool. They are clear­ly get­ting there quite quick­ly. The video demos of Duplex mak­ing a call on your behalf to make a hair appoint­ment or book a restau­rant is frankly amaz­ing. If those video’s are true (why didn’t they do a live demo?) then they’ve cre­at­ed a com­put­er that can pass the Tur­ing Test and fool a human into think­ing they are talk­ing to anoth­er human. This is one of the things that ter­ri­fies me.
I’ve long been uncom­fort­able with the amount of infor­ma­tion Google can gath­er on peo­ple. Now they are show­ing how a lot of that data has been used to under­stand how humans com­mu­ni­cate in the way they are build­ing Duplex and demon­strat­ing it’s abil­i­ty to mim­ic that. Like­wise with the new auto­com­plete in Gmail that they demon­strat­ed, these things are impres­sive, as is the poten­tial util­i­ty of them.
My strug­gle is that I hate the idea of all this data being col­lect­ed on peo­ple, most­ly with­out them real­is­ing, but at the same time I find that I want to use the new prod­ucts that Google are cre­at­ing with it all. I hate hav­ing to make phone calls to peo­ple I don’t know and the idea that I could just ask a com­put­er to do it for me is great, but, it scares me. Just because we can do that begs the ques­tion should we be doing it? When humans are speak­ing in this man­ner, there’s an inher­ent lev­el of trust that is built. It’s a ver­bal con­tract between two peo­ple, with a com­mit­ment from both to ful­fil it. If a com­put­er takes over this ele­ment on behalf of one of the par­ties, do we erode that trust? How far do we let these com­mu­ni­ca­tions go? If we are not respon­si­ble for mak­ing appoint­ments and book­ings, do they start to become dis­pos­able? Will we become less inclined to keep them, and how will this impact small businesses?

The Bulletin Board ›

I’ve been read­ing Austin Kleon’s blog since Jan­u­ary, I find the way that he speaks about his note­books and how he uses them very inspir­ing. Today’s post is about his bul­letin board and how he pins images, clip­pings, index cards, and var­i­ous oth­er bits to it for inspi­ra­tion while he is writ­ing a book.
The ana­log nature of lots of things that Austin does has real­ly caught my atten­tion. I love tech­nol­o­gy, but as a design­er I also love objects and paper. When I was a stu­dent I cov­ered the wall of my room in halls with bits of graph­ics that I liked. The whole thing turned into one giant col­lage of inspi­ra­tion. That’s some­thing I would like to get back into my cre­ative life, some­thing tac­tile and away from a glow­ing rectangle.

Adobe’s iOS App Failure ›

Over on Six Col­ors Jason Snell speaks of his dis­ap­point­ment with Adobe’s iOS offer­ing. I’ve long been dis­ap­point­ed with Adobe’s approach to the plat­form and I couldn’t agree more with his comments.

But it’s frus­trat­ing that Adobe has failed its core design cus­tomers to such a degree—and it’s also a big risk for Adobe. Pho­to­shop com­mands a lot of space in the brains of many cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als, but a lot of those peo­ple want to use iOS. If Adobe pro­vid­ed them with ful­fill­ing tools for iOS—ones that are as capa­ble as what’s avail­able on macOS and Windows—it could keep its cus­tomers loyal. 

As a design­er the iPad has always appealed to me as a means of cre­at­ing. It seems like it should be the most intu­itive way of lay­ing up designs and draw­ing out ideas. The iPad Pro and Apple Pen­cil only served to enhance this idea for me. Yet Adobe con­tin­u­al­ly fail to acknowl­edge that we could do seri­ous work in an iPad. They keep serv­ing up “mobile” apps instead of actu­al­ly con­sid­er­ing how an app like InDe­sign or Illus­tra­tor could function.
It took Microsoft years to bring Office to iOS, and in that time apps arrived to fill the gap they had left caus­ing Office to lose mind­share. That’s now start­ing to hap­pen to the Cre­ative Cloud apps, Affin­i­ty Pho­to is excel­lent, and more than capa­ble of grow­ing in to the gap left by a lack of a ful­ly fledged Pho­to­shop. My hope is that oth­er apps will rise up to fill the gaps left by a lack of full ver­sions of Illus­tra­tor and InDe­sign or that Adobe gets its fin­ger out and cre­ates them.

A Home Screen Update

I used to post a month­ly series that looked at the Home Screens of my iPhone and iPad. Over time though I realised it didn’t change as much as I expect­ed and so I lost inter­est in the process. Things have changed a lot recent­ly so I thought it was time to post anoth­er look at my iPhone.
A few of weeks ago I put in to the prac­tise the ideas in a post I linked to about set­ting up an iPhone home screen. I dropped all my apps into one fold­er and popped it in the dock. Then I pulled Tweet­bot, Mes­sages and Mail out along­side it in to the dock. My inten­tion was to try and use my iPhone less, and when I do use it, to use it pro­duc­tive­ly for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with my friends and family.
A cou­ple of weeks lat­er I found myself with five apps sit­ting on a sec­ond page of my home screen. I kept the first screen blank because I want­ed to keep as close to the idea as pos­si­ble, but I want­ed these apps avail­able with­out hav­ing to search for them. They all fell into one cat­e­go­ry. Enter­tain­ment, or more specif­i­cal­ly video ser­vices (iPlay­er, YouTube, etc) to stream con­tent to my Chome­cast or Apple TV.
I’ve now made anoth­er change and intro­duced 8 apps which I use so reg­u­lar­ly it’s worth bring­ing them back to the my home screen to make access­ing them more con­ve­nient. My iPhone still feels much calmer and focused than it did, but it’s not quite as a peace­ful as a blank home screen used to be.

You can see the dif­fer­ence, I’ve gone from three screens with lots of app and fold­ers on each, to two screens each with a clear use case.

The Dock

I’ve made a change to the three apps that sit in my dock. Tweet­bot remains, although I actu­al­ly do all my post­ing to the ser­vice through this site, I still inter­act on the ser­vice a lot and find some great con­tent to save and read.
Mes­sages is fair­ly self explana­to­ry, thank­ful­ly most of my friends and both my par­ents are iPhone users so I do a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion through iMes­sage. It’s been a main­stay of my iPhone dock since the day I got my iPhone 3G years ago.
The third app is Things. I’ve used a lot of to do apps over the years, for a long time I was a Things user, but it’s lack of OTA sync was a deal break­er and I moved to Omni­Fo­cus for many years. In the last year I’ve returned to Things via a stint with Todoist. In fact I was very hap­py with Todoist until the launch of Things 3. It’s just a plea­sure to use and over the last few weeks I’ve found myself using it a lot more than I realised. Most­ly to add things to my Inbox, but also when out shop­ping and run­ning errands.

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Anoth­er fair­ly self-explana­to­ry one, I wear a Fit­bit pret­ty much every­day and it’s com­pan­ion app keeps things in sync and helps me to keep an eye on how well I sleep and how much I’m mov­ing. One day I hope to replace this with the Health app and an Apple Watch, but that’s a ways off yet.
Being wise with my mon­ey is some­thing I am try­ing to be bet­ter at. I’m on a tight bud­get so mak­ing sure I’m sav­ing and keep­ing mon­ey for var­i­ous bills etc is real­ly impor­tant. Since I start­ed using YNAB I’ve found it to be real­ly help­ful and need it to check and add trans­ac­tions too while I’m out and about. It’s the first bud­get app that’s stuck for me since Cha-Ching many years ago.
Over­cast & Apple Music
I lis­ten to quite a few pod­casts on var­i­oius dif­fer­ent sub­jects both while out and about and at home. When I moved some apps back to my home screen it made a lot of sense to include it in the eight. Apple Music fol­lows sim­i­lar log­ic, I like lis­ten­ing to music both out and about as well as at home. Usu­al­ly it starts from my iPhone whether lis­ten­ing on head­phones or over Air­Play to my liv­ing room speakers.
My pho­to shar­ing app of choice. Inter­est­ing­ly as I type this I’m con­sid­er­ing mov­ing it back in to the apps fold­er and replac­ing it with some­thing else. It still sucks me in when I’m just futz­ing about with no real inten­tion which is what I’m try­ing to stop myself doing.
Micro.blog is a fair­ly new ser­vice, I backed the kick­starter and have been using it since the launch of the beta. Over the last cou­ple of weeks I’ve found myself using it more and more, to the extent that I’m con­sid­er­ing whether it’s worth replac­ing Tweet­bot with it in my dock. I don’t think it’s got quite enough activ­i­ty on it for that just yet, but maybe in the near future as more peo­ple are able to join the service.
Again self explana­to­ry, I search the web a lot. Far more than I realised and despite using Spot­light to start most search­es it became more annoy­ing than just open­ing the app and start­ing a search.
It’s email, I get too much of it, I need to be able to at least keep an eye on it for com­mu­ni­ca­tion. I don’t want to be sucked in to it too much so it doesn’t live in my dock anymore.

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This sec­ond page is pure­ly for the apps I use reg­u­lar­ly to watch con­tent on my TV. In the case of these apps my iPhone becomes my TV remote. Trig­ger­ing a cast from here turns my TV on and gets me straight in to the show or sport­ing event I want to watch. These apps are use­ful to be avail­able with­out hav­ing to search, and keep­ing them on a focused sec­ond screen means they stay out of way for my gen­er­al use dur­ing the day.
— BBC iPlayer
— Now TV
— Netflix
— YouTube
— BT Sport
Over­all this has been a real­ly inter­est­ing exer­cise that has helped me to real­ly focus and con­sid­er how I use my iPhone. I hope to con­tin­ue with it like this for a while. There’s just one thing I wish I could do, espe­cial­ly as I have small hands, and that is to be able to pin those eight apps to the two rows above the dock rather than at the top of the screen.

Beautility, My Ultimate iPhone Setup ›

For­give me for link­ing to a piece on Medi­um, espe­cial­ly one that requires you to log in to read. But this inter­est­ing approach to using an iPhone com­pelled me to do so.
I’ve been feel­ing a bit of “app fatigue” when it comes to my iPhone late­ly. So many things on it feel like a bit of a time suck, a way to eas­i­ly get lost in a world of social media and news. On reflec­tion, maybe I’ve start­ed to fall into too much habit­u­al check­ing of apps and not let­ting my mind wan­der with down time. It could be an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment to try and see what effect this kind of set­up might have on my iPhone use.

How Apple Saved My Life ›

If you do only one thing on the inter­net today, please watch this video by James Rath. In a world where so often tech­nol­o­gy can make us feel dis­con­nect­ed and absent from those around us, it’s impor­tant to see things from the oth­er end some­thing. In the case of James Rath it’s incred­i­ble to see how much tech­nol­o­gy has influ­enced his life in such a pos­i­tive way.