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.

A tool for thinking

Yes­ter­day as I was sat on my sofa watch­ing the Sunday morn­ing church ser­vice on You­Tube I had my Mac­Book Pro open on my lap to make notes in Obsidi­an. After the ser­vice had fin­ished I spent a few minutes to tidy up some format­ting and make sure the cor­rect bible verses were being ref­er­enced, I real­ised how much I am enjoy­ing using the app. It got me think­ing about why.

Over the course of the day it slowly dawned on me what it is that I like about it. It doesn’t tick all the fea­tures I was hop­ing to find in the my notes app, but it does tick one that I didn’t list before. It is a tool for think­ing, and really that’s what I’ve been look­ing for.

Eph­em­er­al notes still go into Obsidi­an through my daily notes, and where appro­pri­ate they are linked to pro­ject notes, but I’ve found that I’m cre­at­ing notes about sub­jects that I am think­ing about or try­ing to learn more about. Look­ing at my Obsidi­an graph I see some small clusters start­ing to form. There is one about note tak­ing itself as I read around the sub­ject of ever­green and atom­ic notes; there is one around habits and routines; and there is a lar­ger one form­ing related to my work and cur­rent think­ing about the concept of Min­im­al Viable Products (MVP).

As I’ve been look­ing into these dif­fer­ent applic­a­tions and their fea­ture sets, I’ve been exposed to some ideas about note tak­ing that I had nev­er really con­sidered before. The concept that a “notes” app can be more than a scratch­pad used through­out the day but a tool for think­ing has con­nec­ted with me. Really it is not a notes app but some­thing much more use­ful and import­ant. I guess this is why many people refer to these tools that I’ve been explor­ing as Per­son­al Know­ledge Man­age­ment (PKM) or their second brain. I’m not sure either of those terms sit right with me, I think they are more than that. I am not purely gain­ing know­ledge by using this tool and it’s not think­ing for me like a second brain should, but I can use this tool to see con­nec­tions between ideas. It forces me to dis­till con­cepts down to man­age­able chunks so that I can form my own ideas from them. This is why I’ve begun refer­ring to it as a tool for think­ing and why it’s start­ing to become a key part of my cre­at­ive pro­cess. Time will tell if it lasts.

The notes app quest continues

I’ve been con­tinu­ing to seek out a notes app that works for me as well as I would like it too. A couple of weeks ago I pos­ted about what I’m look­ing for and since then I’ve been giv­ing a couple of the con­tenders a try.

When I wrote that post I had been using Craft for around a week or so. It’s a very good app, I like that it is nat­ive on all my devices, has good short­cuts sup­port and is a pleas­ure to write in. It lacked a couple of the fea­tures on my list out of the box, but a quick short­cut was able to fix the lack of a daily note and I was hap­pily on my way giv­ing it a run through it’s paces.

Hav­ing been forced into a week off work thanks to some strong side effects from my Cov­id vac­cine, last week­end I star­ted to play with Obsidi­an to see how it worked. Ini­tially put off by it I found a theme that makes it look and feel a lot more like a nat­ive macOS applic­a­tion. So last week I star­ted giv­ing it a run through it’s paces. It’s lack­ing a first party iOS and iPa­dOS app at the moment, but one is in beta and seems to be devel­op­ing quickly and since there’s nowhere to go at the moment it’s not the end of the world.

I intend to give Obsidi­an a sim­il­ar amount of time to Craft and then I’ll try to make a decision. There are a few things about Craft which star­ted to really annoy me before I decided to give Obsidi­an a try, and I’m sure there will be some things about Obsidi­an that annoy me as well. 

So far Craft feels bet­ter placed for meet­ing notes and cap­tur­ing tasks along the way. It’s abil­ity to eas­ily send some­thing to Things is great. In con­trast Obsidi­an seems to handle ref­er­en­cing and embed­ding blocks more effi­ciently. Craft can do this but I ended up hav­ing some real dif­fi­culties find­ing blocks I wanted to ref­er­ence and once I had figured out the syn­tax that Obsidi­an uses it made a lot more sense. Both apps have their strengths, I have a feel­ing it will be about refin­ing how I take notes and which one will handle that.

Big Screens, Even Bigger Lessons & Learning to Make Tough Calls ›

This is a really insight­ful look into the pro­cess behind mak­ing an iPad app from an estab­lished iPhone app. As a design­er I have some know­ledge of design­ing for dif­fer­ent screen sizes, but the beha­viour of an app is very dif­fer­ent to the beha­viour of a web­site, albeit with some sim­il­ar­it­ies. Before I begin any future web design pro­jects I’ll def­in­itely be giv­ing this piece anoth­er read or two.

Airfoil 5.5: Now Playing on Chromecast! ›

One of my favour­ite Mac util­it­ies has just been updated to add some excel­lent func­tion­al­ity. Air­foil now sup­ports Chromecast and it works very well.
I’ve nev­er under­stood why Air­Play from an iOS device only allows you to send audio to one speak­er at a time, Air­foil is the per­fect way to fix that. My Mac­Book Pro is nor­mally on and so I Air­Play to Air­foils sis­ter app Air­foil Satel­lite and then using the iOS Satel­lite app send the audio to what ever speak­ers I want. Since I have a Chromecast in my little stu­dio I can now eas­ily send Apple Music to my speak­ers without faff­ing around with cables. I put it to good use this morn­ing stream­ing to both my stu­dio speak­ers and kit­chen speak­ers while I moved between the two rooms.

App Store 2.0 ›

News broke last night of some changes to the App Store. Chief among them was the avail­ab­il­ity of sub­scrip­tion pri­cing to all types of apps. Many people seem to see it as a pos­it­ive for developers, and I agree to some extent, but it all depends how those sub­scrip­tions will be used.
This quote from The Verge’s cov­er­age of the news is exactly what I’m con­cerned about.

Tsid­don says his com­pany makes around $10 mil­lion a year from its premi­um apps, which are sold for a one-time pur­chase fee of $3.99 or $4.99. Lightricks has sold 8 mil­lion app down­loads to date. Tsid­don hasn’t fully com­mit­ted to a sub­scrip­tion mod­el yet, only say­ing that he’s “excited to exper­i­ment with the busi­ness mod­el,” but based on back-of-the-envel­ope math he believes if his com­pany saw 4 mil­lion down­loads while char­ging a $4 monthly sub­scrip­tion fee, he could make 10 times his cur­rent annu­al revenue. 

If developers start to shift to pri­cing like this, I and many oth­ers, will stop using their apps. I simply can not afford, and even if I could I would not be able to jus­ti­fy, pay­ing $4 a month to use an app. Espe­cially when it’s mul­ti­plied by the 12 inde­pend­ent apps on my iPhone homescreen. That’s not sustainable.

My Homescreen: May 2015

With this week com­pletely focused on fin­ish­ing phase one of a cli­ent pro­ject, I com­pletely missed that it was the 1st of the month yes­ter­day. So now that the work­ing week is over and I’m sat back relax­ing it’s time to sort out this month’s edi­tion of my homescreens. I’ll tackle both iPhone and iPad at the same time, since the changes to both are identic­al and for the same reason. 


iPhone May 2015


The Rest


iPad My 2015


The Rest

What’s New?

  • Omni­Fo­c­us – Since the start of the year I’ve been using Things to man­age my tasks, in the last month I’ve ended up switch­ing back to Omni­Fo­c­us. Partly because one of the por­jects I’m work­ing on has needed break­ing down fur­ther than Things can cope with, and partly because of Omni­Fo­c­us MailDrop.
  • Out­look, Gmail, Inbox by Gmail and Mail­box – Recently I’ve been hav­ing some issues with the pro­vider of my email, lots of serv­ers down and unre­li­able deliv­ery. As a self-employed per­son I need to be able to rely on my email nev­er fail­ing, and so my work email has now switched to Google Apps. I’m still decid­ing on my per­son­al email setup.

One of the advant­ages of mov­ing to Google Apps for Work has allowed me to test out a few email apps I couldn’t use pre­vi­ously, and also to com­bine my email with IFTTT so that it works harder for me. Part of that IFTTT integ­ra­tion has been to com­bine the Gmail chan­nel with the email chan­nel and my Omni­Fo­c­us Mail­Drop address. I’m still refin­ing things and try­ing to decide which apps to use, but I hope to be able to explain fur­ther how I’m mak­ing my email work for me rather than hav­ing to work to keep on top of it.

NeuBible. A Bible app designed for you ›

This post is a bit of a rar­ity, it’s the first link post I’ve pos­ted since the reboot of this blog and I think it’s a fit­ting one.
I’m a big fan of my bible being a paper one, it’s great to be cut off and focused from the world while I’m read­ing it. I do how­ever, like the util­ity of hav­ing the Bible on my phone and this new app called Neu­Bible looks abso­lutely stun­ning. It does­n’t yet include my pre­ferred trans­la­tion (ESV for those inter­ested) but I will be cer­tainly giv­ing it a try. If you’ve nev­er read the bible, this seems like a beau­ti­ful place to start.