13th August 2019
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From the Tumblr staff blog:

Hello Tumblr 👋

Today, Tumblr’s owner, Verizon Media, announced that Automattic plans to acquire Tumblr. Automattic is the technology company behind products such as WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, and Simplenote—products that help connect creators, businesses, and publishers to communities around the world.

What a great acquisition. It’s clear to see the impressive work that Automattic have been doing over the years, and it will be interesting to see what Tumblr will be like in a few years.

12th August 2019

I came across the idea of having a fixed, 13-month calendar, on Reddit, and it immediately sparked my interest. Each month would have four weeks, and every month would start on a Monday.

Someone then shared a link to the Wikipedia page of something called the “International Fixed Calendar“. Either this is where the Redditor got the idea from, or it’s just a coincidence. Anyway, it sounds good to me!

It means that every single day of the year will always be the same day of the week. Which, in my opinion, makes so much sense.

So every month would look like this:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Thirteenth Month

The proposed name for the thirteenth month would be “Sol”, and it would be placed between June and July. The name Sol represents the Sun, as it falls on the mid-year solstice.

Recalculation

This would, of course, require all current dates to be recalculated. So your birthday would change, and other events like Easter, that change every year.

Leap Years

You may be thinking “this sounds good, but what about leap years?”. You’ll be pleased to know that the idea of a “Leap Day”, it occurs on the 29th of June. However, it is not classed as being part of any week, and is situated between the Saturday June 28 and Sunday Sol 1.

New Years Day

It’s a similar situation for New Years Day. But as you may already know, this happens every year. New Years Day would be another “bonus” day on the 29th of December. It too is between the last Saturday of the year, and the first Sunday of the proceeding year.

Why Aren’t We Using It?

There’s three main reasons why were aren’t using this calendar right now:

  • It doesn’t easily support quarters. Right now we have three months in a quarter, but in this calendar, it would be three months and one week.
  • Some religions oppose it, as traditions like worshiping on every seventh day, would mess up on a Leap Day or New Years Day.
  • We just aren’t used to it. And therefore a lot of dates would have to be changed, and the systems we have in place would need to adapt.

Converter

There’s no converter online that I can find right now, so hopefully I can find one soon, or maybe I’ll have to make one and upload it myself.

12th August 2019
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Daniel Oberhaus, writing for Wired:

It was just before midnight on April 11 and everyone at the Israel Aerospace Industries mission control center in Yehud, Israel, had their eyes fixed on two large projector screens. On the left screen was a stream of data being sent back to Earth by Beresheet, its lunar lander, which was about to become the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. The right screen featured a crude animation of Beresheet firing its engines as it prepared for a soft landing in the Sea of Serenity. But only seconds before the scheduled landing, the numbers on the left screen stopped. Mission control had lost contact with the spacecraft, and it crashed into the moon shortly thereafter.

Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

This is a very interesting story. It’s the first time I’ve heard of the Arch Mission Foundation, and I find it fascinating that people are trying to spread information regarding the human race around the solar system.

What I find most interesting is the fact that they also sent tardigrades. I’ve heard about them before, and how they can survive basically anywhere. So, although they were sent in a dehydrated state, it’s weird to think that there is actually now life on the Moon. It might not be the first time, but it’s the first I’ve heard of such scenario.

11th August 2019

Back in May, I wrote a short list of my wishes for iOS 13. There were only six different things on the list, but seeing as I’ve been using the iOS and iPadOS betas for a while now, I thought I’d revisit it and see how many of them made it.

Dark Mode

This was near-enough guaranteed at the point of me writing my wishes, as we had tons of rumours. But we’ve got it! And it’s everything I expected it to be.

Shortcuts API

I wrote that I wanted apps to have a deeper integration, have the ability to add their own actions into the Shortcuts app, and also support for parameters. We got all of that and more.

Because of the new functionality, I’m adding a much better integration for Text Case. Which means it will be able to provide one single action in Shortcuts, which can accept the text as a parameter, and allow you to select a format from a pre-defined list. It’s a much better solution.

Widgets

I’ll combine two of my aims here. The first being having widgets available on the home screen, and also being able to see more widgets on the iPad.

We didn’t quite get home screen widgets, but at least the iPad can now shrink the app grid and allow for one column of widgets. I would have preferred if you could place these widgets inside the app grid, but I guess it’s a good enough solution.

I also would have preferred if you could see more than one column of widgets on the iPad, especially when you have it in landscape mode, and access them from the lock screen. It just feels like so much wasted space.

Picture-in-Picture on iPhone

I didn’t really expect this to happen, and it didn’t. But I would have liked to be able to have this feature.

Do Not Disturb Improvements

The improvement I wanted to Do Not Disturb was the ability to hide notifications while using a device. This didn’t happen, and I think it’s a sorely missed feature. Whether you’re focussed on work, or wired-in on a movie, getting distracted by a notification is silly.


Overall, I think iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 are impressive updates to a stable foundation in iOS 12.

Splitting the iPadOS away from the main iOS is a good choice in my opinion. Technically this was already happening, as the iPad and iPhone have had slightly different features for quite some time. But this is more of a marketing change, and it signifies that Apple know that they’re truly different devices, and one should not be held back by the other. Hopefully, this means the iPad is freed of the limitations of the iPhone and can advance in even more ways.

There will always be small features that people want, like my desire to have better Do Not Disturb functionality, and Picture-in-Picture on the iPhone. But seeing how many improvements there are in iOS/iPadOS 13, I’m hopeful that they will be addressed to some level in the future.

6th August 2019

Whenever I read about blogging, whether it’s people asking how to get started, tips on how to be better, or just anything in general about writing online, I tend to disagree quite a lot on the feedback that is shared.

I think that, especially when you are starting to write a blog, nearly everything that I see being suggested is detrimental.

Everyone’s telling you to start worrying about SEO, prioritise getting your website linked to from popular websites, working out monetisation, creating a schedule, creating the perfect design, blah, blah, blah.

If you are trying to start a blog, then the best advice is to just start writing, and then press publish. Sure, it might not be the best content you’ll ever produce, but it’s something. Then with the experience of writing and publishing that post, the next one will be slightly better.

Maybe no-one will ever see your first blog post, but that’s not exactly important. The most important thing is that you wrote it. And with it being made available for the world to read, I’m sure you’ll immediately find something you could have done better. So you learn from these mistakes and fix them in the next. These aren’t necessarily mistakes, just a representation of experience, which of course, comes with time.

Just like experience, in time your audience will grow, and if they like your content, they’ll come back. And maybe they’ll even think about sharing it with other people. But the content needs to be there before they can do that, and it needs to provide them with some level of value. But even that isn’t majorly important when you start.

Your aim should be to produce the best content you can. And if people value that content, then even better. If your aim is to make the most money possible or to get high numbers on your analytics, then in my opinion, you’re focussing on the wrong thing.

Maybe I’m too much a fantasist in that I think every blogger should at least be attempting to produce great content. But isn’t that the most logical target? If not, then I think you’re blogging for the wrong reason.

After you’ve built up a body of work, and still regularly providing content, then it wouldn’t hurt to try and get that content to more people. But it’s not the most important thing. And I would argue that it’s especially not important for people that just want to start blogging.

All I’m saying is, if you want to start blogging, then the only thing that matters is getting words out of your head, and published somewhere. You don’t need to worry about the overall theme of your content, your writing style, the name of your blog, getting the perfect domain name, figuring out what tools you want to use, you’ll figure that out once you’ve actually started.

The most important thing is that you actually start.


If after all of this you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. Simply write it all down and publish it to your blog. Then write some more, and some more, and maybe send me a link.

6th August 2019
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I just watched a fascinating video by the National Geographic. Where Andrew Gray, a Curator of Herpetology at Manchester Museum, spent years researching the Splendid leaf frog, and later discover something truly surprising about the specimens that have already been collected.

There’s a few twists and turns in the story, and to withhold the pleasure of discovering them as you watch, I’ve not disclosed any spoilers.

Watch the video on YouTube.

4th August 2019

Ever since the iPad 2 was released, I’ve owned an iPad. And one of the main things I use it for is to write. The iPad for me is a perfect writing device. And in so many ways, it’s become my favourite computer to use.

That’s slightly off-topic here though, as I want to focus on the software that I’ve been using to write. And how it’s changed over time.

I’ll focus on just three applications that I’ve used over time, that I think represent my thoughts behind my writing, and the content I do (and want to) create.


The first writing application I’ll mention is iA Writer. It’s not the first app I’ve ever used to write, but probably the one when I first became serious about writing regularly for my blog.

I used it mainly because when I was getting into writing with Markdown, it was the most popular at the time. But I kept using it because of the simplicity, and how it let me focus on the raw text, rather than a typical WYSIWYG editor would. 

Eventually, I moved to Ulysses, partially because it was becoming more popular and was recommended by a lot of writers. But the biggest reason was that it provided a kind of full writing ecosystem. It lets you write, add photos, publish to your blog, and also organise your writing, all in the one app.

That was a big deal for me at the time, as I wanted a simple writing flow. And Ulysses allowed me to separate all my writing into one place.

However, the reasons why I chose Ulysses in the first place, eventually became the reasons why I switched away from it.

Although it wasn’t far from a plain text editor, it started to feel a bit too rich for the content I was starting to create. I was beginning to lean towards more text-heavy articles, rather than ones full of links and images. It also really bugged me that you couldn’t just write Markdown, and have it leave it in its raw state.

I also realised that I wasn’t using Ulysses to its true potential and that it felt like extra baggage that I didn’t need. The way I used to publish articles was just to use the built-in publishing tools in the app, but I was slowly moving to a more automated flow using Workflow/Shortcuts. It let me to essentially just use it as a text editor with Markdown support.

That actually led me back to iA Writer, as it let me write in plain Markdown again, and also let me separate my writing app away from where my writing was stored on my device.

At the same time as the switch back, I started using more and more automation. I was creating initial outlines with templates, for things like link posts (Gruber style), and my daily journal that I used to publish here on the blog.

But eventually, iA Writer also felt like too much for the way I was writing. The raw Markdown support was the main reason why I started to use it again, but I still wanted an even simpler solution.

That led me to an app called Pretext. I’m actually using it to write this post, and at this point in time, it just feels perfect. It’s quite possibly the Markdown app on iOS with the least features. And I absolutely love that.

It integrates with the Files app, which it also uses as the backbone of the application. As when you create a new document, you are essentially inside the Files app, and then transported to the Pretext editor, where you can completely focus on writing inside the text file, away from any other distractions. It doesn’t try to interrupt you with any handy features, or visually abstract your writing away from its raw format, all you do it write.

There’s near to none customisation available to you. You can change the text size, UI theme, and the app icon. In the past, that would be nowhere near what I needed, as I tended to worry too much about the exact font I was using, the various colour styles, and in general things that took me away from what I was actually inside the app to do.

With the overall lack of features, with I think is a good thing, it feels quicker than apps like iA Writer and Ulysses. Given all you do is create/open a file, write text, and then either share or close the file, there’s really no lag between hitting the key and having text appear on the screen. It feels super responsive, and while it may be all in my head, that’s not necessarily a bad thing:

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real? – Albus Dumbledore

With the simplicity of Pretext, it doesn’t change the way I wrote using iA Writer that much, as I can still do all the automation I used to do because of two things. Firstly, the documents are just plain .md files, which I can access through the Files app, and therefore any automation that deals with files is fine. But also, because it features the native iOS share functionality, I can still use my Shortcuts that deal with my writing, like the one I use to publish articles on my blog.


What’s interesting to me, is that how the software I use to do my writing, represents the content that I want to write. With my recent focus on raw text most likely stemming from my desire to write cleaner articles, with more precision, and less fluff.

In an ideal world, the content here on this blog would feature some heavily thought out pieces of writing, side-by-side with various pieces of writing from other people that I’ve linked to, and shared opinions on.

But that’s an ideal world, not where I am right now. I’m still learning how to write better, and at the same time discovering what I want to write about. There may be a long process ahead of me in order to reach that goal, but at least this is one step in that direction.

1st August 2019
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Craig Mod wrote a great piece recently about the speed of software affects the overall perception of quality.

It’s interesting all the way through, but my favourite paragraph was where he uses a typewriter as an example:

A typewriter is an excellent tool because, even though it’s slow in a relative sense, every aspect of the machine itself operates as quickly as the user can move. It is focused. There are no delays when making a new line or slamming a key into the paper. Yes, you have to put a new sheet of paper into the machine at the end of a page, but that action becomes part of the flow of using the machine, and the accumulation of paper a visual indication of work completed. It is not wasted work. There are no fundamental mechanical delays in using the machine.

I find it all resonated with me quite a lot. I have very little patience, and that is a big factor in choosing what software I use.

1st August 2019

Thrasher Magazine have came out with a 10 minute video of some of the best skateboarders skating around a water park.

Keys to a drained water park and free rein to skate everything in sight?! Yes please! There are a lot of Epic Spots out there but this is truly Insane Terrain. And apparently upside-down ollies are a thing now…

It features skateboarders like Tony Hawk, Daewon Song, Aaron “Jaws” Homoki, and so many more! They truly make use of the use slides.

They also shared an article, where they go through the story of how they happened to actually be allowed to do this:

What started as some light trespassing turned into a week-long permission session. The powers that be rolled out the red carpet for a week of slams, jams and NBDs. Some of the gnarliest transition skaters of our time ventured out to the desert to try their luck at the Pacific Sun—a 300-foot funnel complete with a mini-mega roll in. The park is being renovated and the Sun will soon be torn out, so this was a for real Holy Grail quest with the timer ticking. No excuses—get some!

And it also contains some pretty cool photos