18th May 2019
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It’s time for another great and insightful post by Jeff Perry at Rocket Panda. He talks about how we tend to focus on so many things, that it’s very difficult to accomplish anything:

I have been thinking a lot about habits lately and I think that one of my biggest flaws, as many others also have, is that we suffer from 3 Stooges Syndrome.

One thing, I constantly deal with is new interests and goals I set for myself when I want to make a positive change in my life. The issue is when I have so many things that it all seems to be too much.

I would highly recommend reading the full post. It’s something I think affects a lot of us.

18th May 2019

World of Warcraft Classic now has a release date, and it has also entered into a beta testing phase. Which means some players are now getting the chance to either remember what World of Warcraft was in the early days, or in some cases I imagine they are seeing it for the first time, depending on when they started.

If you want to read more about WoW Classic, I would recommend checking out the website. But the short version, is that after 15 years, WoW has grown to be quite a different game than it once was. The sense of community has gradually disappeared, with more tools being added to the game, that simply add you to a random group to do a certain task, and then you leave. Before it was more organic. Another major difference is the difficulty, WoW was full of challenges, and although everything was a lot slower, you felt like you really earned any reward you got.

Just for the record, I’m going to play this game like mad.

So, while beta testing has been going on, there are clearly some people that either have clouded memories of the past, or just had completely different expectations. So much so, that Blizzard has had to write a post on the forums titled “WoW Classic “Not A Bug” List“. To inform beta testers that the bugs they are reporting, are actually art of the game. And most likely were there for some time.

They introduced the post in the most polite way I could think of:

As we’ve discussed before, the nature of WoW Classic sometimes invokes different memories for different players, and this leads to certain misconceptions for some about what is or isn’t working as intended.

I find it funny thinking about all of the reported bugs, and how many of these are actually features that people have forgotten about. It appears some people are going to have a bad time when they first play WoW Classic.

Read the full post on the WoW forums

 

17th May 2019

Since the start of this year, I’ve been writing a daily journal on a separate part of this blog.

After I started writing the entries, I realised I didn’t want the boring task of creating the file in a specific directory, and creating the same title/header over and over again. So I added a tiny bit of automation.

Things Task

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The first thing I did was to set up a task in Things, that repeated every day, simply to tell me to write my journal. After a while, I noticed that I would sometimes get very close to 12 before remembering about it. So I added a reminder for 11 pm, which gives me a bit of time to delay and still get it done in time.

Journal Template Shortcut

To take the hassle out of creating the initial file, I created a relatively small shortcut that creates the template and opens it in iA Writer.

I have a specific directory for my journal entries, and this keeps them all in one place.

It also uses the current date to create the filename and the heading for the post.

From there, it opens iA Writer, so I can jot down what I did in that day. And it’s ready to be published

You can download my “Journal Template” shortcut for reference.

Linking the Shortcut to the Things Task

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While Things is useful enough to help me remember I need to write my entry, and the shortcut helps to create the initial file, I also linked these together.

I did that by adding a custom URL into the body of the Things task, so whenever it notified me, I could tap on the task and then on the link. It would then launch the shortcut, and lets me immediately start writing.

It also allows me to not starting right away, as sometimes I’m not in the best place to do it, or I just want to put it off a bit longer.

The url is quite simple, and is in the following format:

shortcuts://run-shortcut?name={name}

{name} is the name of the Shortcut, but URL encoded. You may be able to work this out yourself, but my app Text Case can also do this for you.

More Automation

After I finish writing my journal entry for the day, I then publish it to my blog. I use the built-in “New Draft on WordPress” share extension, which then opens the draft in Safari where I can add the category, and publish.

It’s a reasonably quick task, but something else I plan on automating. So in the near future, I will be creating another shortcut, that can take the latest journal entry and publish it to my blog using the specific category and time I like.

16th May 2019
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Jordan Merrick shared some great tips on how you can manage Hashtags for Instagram:

My iPhone photography workflow includes sharing some of the photos I’ve taken to Instagram. I usually include relevant hashtags to increase discoverability and have a collection of frequently used hashtag sets—different hashtags for the same topic—that I can choose from. I also include a five-dot prefix (each dot on a separate line) to separate the photo’s caption text and hashtags. This is a commonly used method for hiding hashtags “below the fold” so they’re only visible when tapping the more button.

I’ve used specific groups of hashtags before on Instagram, and used a Shortcut to populate the clipboard with them, however these tips are much better than that.

13th May 2019
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Becky Hansmeyer on pricing an app:

$5 should be the absolute rock bottom price for a quality indie app, full stop. So, for whoever might need to hear this: stop kidding yourself, you’re not going to make it up in volume, raise your dang prices, thank you and good night.

I wouldn’t class Text Case as some kind of massively featured app, but I recently rose the price of it from its initial price of $1 to $2 with the last 2.0 update. But now I’m starting to think I should up it to $3.

10th May 2019

As part of National Geographic’s Short Film Showcase, they released a short film about how forests are now starting to be grown in Iceland:

The landscape of Iceland has changed a lot in a thousand years. When the Vikings first arrived in the ninth century, the land was covered in 25 to 40 percent forest. Within a few centuries, almost all of the island’s trees were slashed and burned to make room for farming. This rapid deforestation has resulted in massive soil erosion that puts the island at risk for desertification.

Today, the Icelandic Forest Service has taken on the mammoth task of bringing back the woodlands. With the help of forestry societies and forest farmers, Iceland’s trees are slowly beginning to make a comeback.

It’s only a short video, around 5 minutes. But it’s fascinating to see the effect that farming has had on Iceland’s forests.

28th April 2019
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Ever since moving in to a new home with my girlfriend, I’ve been thinking of ways to add a bit more nature. We both like the look of plants, and having quite a lot of green in the house, but she would prefer fake ones, and I would prefer all real plants.

As I was watching videos about what other people have inside their house, I discovered a woman called Summer Rayne Oakes (@homesteadbrooklyn on Instagram). A channel called Barcroft TV have a great video of her apartment in New York, and shows how she fits in over 150 different plant species.

It’s absolutely incredible.

While I wouldn’t mind living in this apartment, I’m pretty sure whatever I go with, won’t be as crazy.

28th April 2019
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When I heard about Reeder 4 being released, I wasn’t quite sure what benefits it had over Reeder 3. Thankfully, Matthew Casinelli wrote a great piece:

iPad users who have been holding out hope for an update to Reeder for iOS can relax – a new version was released today with full support for all devices on all platforms and some interesting new features.

After reading the full article, you’ll have no surprise that I ended up purchasing the app.

You can find Reeder 4 on the App Store.

23rd April 2019

For quite a few years now, I’ve been using Overcast as my podcast app of choice. It’s a great app, and it’s praised by basically anyone that uses it. However, I had never really used an alternative. So I wasn’t sure if I really was using the best app that was on offer.

After doing a bit of research, and hearing about it in the past, I decided on Castro. It’s the app that I’ve seen the most talked about online, second to only Overcast.

As I mentioned on my journal entries on April 8th and 9th, one of the best features of Castro, in my opinion, is the focus that’s put into queuing episodes. And in particular, the idea of triaging new episodes, so that you can have a more refined queue. This helped me a lot, as I was getting to a place where I had so many episodes build up in my list, that I didn’t know what to listen to next. And in some cases, there were episodes that I knew that I would never get around to listen to, but I just didn’t want to remove them.

Starting with an import of my subscription from Overcast via the export/import OPML files in both apps, the Inbox in Castro was filled up with the most recent episodes of all my subscriptions. From there I started assigning each episode to either the top/bottom of the queue, or removing it from the list. This resulted in a pretty small queue, I think it was around 6 episodes, and my list would usually be around 20 in Overcast.

As new episodes continually appeared in the Inbox, I found it rather easy to sort through them, and pick out the episodes I wanted to listen to. It seems strange, but this feature alone made me listen to many more podcasts. It removed some of the unnecessary choice, so I could always find something I wanted to listen to. Because of the queuing, and the fact that you prioritise episodes in the queue when triaging the Inbox, it’s always ready whenever you just want to jump in a quickly listen to something. Or maybe in the morning, when you haven’t quite woken up yet, but you still want something for the commute.

I did think I would miss the two great enhancements that Overcast offers, Voice Boost and Smart Speed. However, Castro have their own versions, Enhance Voices and Trim Silence. I didn’t notice any difference in this regard. So either, they both work with a similar level of quality, or I just don’t notice the feature on either apps. Either way, it’s not an issue for me.

One thing I did notice about playback though, was when resuming an episode, I really missed Overcast’s “Smart Resume”. It’s really handy when you pause in the middle of a word, because Overcast will rewind slightly to the gap before the word. It sounds like a minuscule feature, but you soon get used to it.

Something else that caused me a bit of friction when I first started using Castro, was the way you found the show notes of an episode. In Castro, you swipe left → right and “activate” the Info button, which launches the show notes above the current context. However, I was really used to the interface in Overcast, where you swiped right → left to view the show notes, and then once more to view the chapters (if the episode had them). These are nothing major, and are mostly caused by muscle memory.

After using Castro as my podcast app for a while, I was in a situation where I wanted to listen to a podcast on my iPad. And that is when I discovered the lack of Castro! So after all the benefits I found with the queuing feature, the nice refreshing interface, and also a few pain-points, I literally couldn’t use the app anymore. I kept using the Castro app on my phone for a few days, but I had to stop, because managing two podcast apps would be crazy.

In conclusion, I would like to state that I really like Castro. And while there are a few things that I was used to in Overcast, that caused friction when using Castro, the overall experience was great. I just can’t use an app on iOS that isn’t universal anymore. I’ve gone back to Overcast for now, and I’m going to try and take small things I’ve learned from triaging episodes in Castro, so I can better handle my podcast list. But I’m always going to be hoping for the day when Castro comes to the iPad.

18th April 2019
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Jeff Perry, writing at Rocket Panda:

This is just a quick little tip for iPad users out there. If you are like me and using the Smart Keyboard or any keyboard that doesn’t have an Escape key you can press command . and that will most likely work as a way to escape from any text input you are in.

I think I’ve heard of this vaguely in the past. But after seeing this post, I tried it in a few different places in iOS, and I can confirm that it’s probably the closest escape key alternative.

The escape key on a Mac does all kind of things. Such as cancelling a drag action, cancelling some kind of input, or closing a temporary window. This “escape key” is more limited, in that I’ve only see it escape from text entry. That doesn’t mean it’s not handy though, and I’m sure I’ll use this quite a bit.