11th February 2019

(Image credit: BBC Earth)

If you’re interested in nature documentaries, then the BBC have quite the announcement for you. In two news articles (linked at the bottom), they announced 8 new television series about natural history.

The five main shows are:

  • Perfect Planet
  • Frozen Planet II
  • Planet Earth III
  • One Planet: Seven Worlds
  • Green Planet

And they also announced three extra shows:

  • The Mating Game
  • Primates
  • Earth’s Paradise Islands

That’s such a massive commitment from them, and I’m already super excited.

Perfect Planet

In the five-part series, we’ll see how the entire planet which is seemingly “perfect”, operates. It will show how the weather, ocean currents, solar energy, and volcanoes all play their part in supporting Earth’s diverse biological population. We’ll also get to see how certain animals are well-suited to their environments, such as the Vampire Finches in the Galapagos, which are part of the diverse group, known as Darwin’s Finches.

Episodes: 5 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2020

Frozen Planet II

Ten years after Frozen Planet first aired, the second series is being released. As the name suggests, it focusses on the quarter of the earth that is entirely frozen. Animals such as the Siberian tiger, snow monkeys, penguins, and polar bears all thrive in cold conditions. But as temperatures rise, they might not be able to cope as easily.

Episodes: 6 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2021

Planet Earth III

Following on from the second series, that aired only back in late 2016, is coming back for a whopping eight-episode series. As usual, improvements to technology, such as robotic cameras, better submersibles, and stabilised rigs, will only help us see the planet in more detail.

Episodes: 8 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2022

One Planet: Seven Worlds

This series will be split into seven episodes, one for each of the continents (Well actually Eurasia is one continent, but people treat it as two). We’ll see how distinct each continent is from each other, and how they have shaped the life that’s found there.

Episodes: 7 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2019

Green Planet

Something that sometimes gets ignored on tv documentaries, is plant-life. Usually, the focus is on the animals living in specific habitats, but this series will focus on the surprisingly intricate life of plants.

I’ve read a lot on how trees communicate, using electrical signals through their roots (that are connected by fungi), so I hope this gets shown in more detail.

Episodes: 5 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2021

The Mating Game

Okay, so nearly every species on the planet needs to find some kind of partner to mate with. This series will show how various species have completely different ideas of what’s the best method of finding one. Some fight, others sing songs, and some dance. This sounds like it could provide a very interesting insight into unknown behaviours of animals. And there’s a technological bonus with this series, it’s being filmed in 8K!

Episodes: 5 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2021

Primates

There are a huge number of species of primates. Including apes, lemurs, and monkeys. They’re found all over the planet, in vastly different habitats from one another. And there’s one writing this very blog post. We’ll get to see new sides to these animals, how they use tools, solve problems, and also have a glance into their politics.

Episodes: 3 x 60 mins

Transmission: 2020

Earth’s Paradise Islands

Madagascar, Borneo, and Hawaii, are all exotic and remote islands. And in each of them, there’s fascinating animal species, and human cultures. So it sounds like it will be two sides to each story.

Episodes: 3 x 60 mins

Transmission: Unknown


Sources:

28th January 2019
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I regularly read articles about Apple products that seem to try and be negative just for clickbait reasons, or because it’s a trendy thing to do. But not many of them are as confusing as this article in New Scientist.

In just under 500 words, Clare Wilson describes the new heart rate monitoring features in the Series 4 Apple Watch, the main one being the ability to run an ECG. However counter to the title, the main body of the article seems to praise the new feature. With about 20% of it actually explaining the point they’re trying to make:

But many people have an irregular heart rhythm without symptoms. They will be told by their watch to take the ECG result to a doctor. They could then get potentially risky surgery, go on unnecessary medications risking side effects such as dizziness. At the least, they will be falsely alarmed.

Several trials have investigated whether it is helpful to give ECGs to people without symptoms and the US Preventive Services Task Force has concluded that the evidence fails to show this approach does more good than harm.

The point they’re trying to make is that people will be diagnosed with irregular heart rhythms, but as they lack any negative symptoms, they may be lead to having unnecessary risky procedures.

I have two points to make regarding this. Firstly, if you have an irregular heart rhythm, and the watch detects it, then it’s doing exactly what it’s meant to do. And secondly, if you find you do have one, and even without symptoms, your doctor puts you through risky surgery, then that’s by no means the fault of the watch.

Some people will always read any slightly negative diagnosis with the worst case scenario in mind. That’s why there are such things as hypochondriacs. But then that’s also where qualified doctors come into it. By no means do I think Apple wants you to take an ECG on your watch, and based on that one result, have heart surgery. It’s an indicator that you can use to diagnose atrial fibrillation, and then you can go to a medical professional to further diagnose any issues.

24th January 2019

Quick Look, the infinitely valuable tool on the Mac that lets you near-enough instantly preview a file. It’s really impressive the number of file formats it supports, but there are always going to be a few things it doesn’t. And that’s where plugins come into it.

One great one that I discovered via twitter today is QuickLookJSON. I’m sure you’ve already guessed what it does. But anyway, I may as well show you as well.

It not only displays JSON files though, it indents them properly, applies a colour scheme, and also lets you expand and collapse any of the data. That last one alone makes it super easy to navigate through a big JSON file.

To install QuickLookJSON, you can either install it manually or do it via Homebrew. The only command you’ll need to run is:

brew cask install quicklook-json

There’s a bunch of other plugins that add further support to Quick Look, like adding syntax highlighting to code, rendering Markdown, and even allowing navigation through a .zip archive in the preview. You can find all of these on one page on GitHub, thanks to Sindre Sorhus.

20th January 2019
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David Sparks had an interesting take on AirPower, that maybe not many people actually care about it. But also that it would be good to end all the rumours:

I hope Apple does perfect and ship the AirPower, if for no other reason, so we can start talking about it. Regardless, I can’t help but think in the overall scheme of things, AirPower is small potatoes.

Maybe this is why Apple haven’t came out at any point with updates to the availability of it. They have had real issues with AirPower, like the heat caused by placing so many charging coils together. But there’s been zero news about it since the announcement, at least officially. Maybe because it’s just an accessory that only a tiny fraction of people will get, so it’s not actually a big deal.

17th January 2019

I ran into a situation at work today, where I was already using a UILabel to display text, but it was styled in a way that really needed some padding.

UILabel doesn’t directly support this, and the most common way to get around it is to embed the UILabel inside a UIView, and control the constraints that way. I didn’t really want to do that for what I was doing, and I also wanted to just make my own label that could handle padding.

It didn’t take long and was a lot more straightforward than I thought. I subclasses UIClass, added a UIEdgeInsets variable, and then made sure that intrinsicContentSize, sizeThatFits(_ size: CGSize), and drawText(in rect: CGRect) took that into consideration. So it still works perfectly with AutoLayout.

It’s certainly not a major open source project or anything, but it could be a quick way to add padding support to a UILabel!

16th January 2019

Slack has today announced their new logo on their blog. It was designed between Slack and Pentagram, and the result is a relatively flavourless icon, in my opinion.

I for one, and I think many others, associate the colourful octothorpe logo with Slack. And also their plaid pattern that is used in many places.

The opinion that I’ve seen best match mine, is John Gruber over at Daring Fireball:

Slack’s old identity had at least three good things going for it: they owned the letter “S” (much like how Netflix owns “N” — something Netflix has doubled-down on as their identity has evolved), they owned the “#” hash mark, and unique among technology companies, they owned plaid. When you saw plaid with those primary colors on a white background, you thought Slack. And plaid isn’t part of any sort of design trend right now. Slack simply owned plaid, to such a degree that Slack company socks — which simply used colors and plaid, no “Slack”, no “S” were necessary to make it instantly obvious these were Slack socks — became coveted swag.

When the Slack iOS app installed on my phone, I instantly forgot where I put it. Sure, it only took a few seconds, but the old logo seemed to draw you in. It had a colourful border, with a bright white background, and the typical “S” that you see with Slack. But now it’s a slightly dull purple, with a generic colourful icon on top. It just blends in.

It feels very much like change for the sake of change, which is exactly what Slack’s blog post said it wasn’t.

16th January 2019
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John Voorhees, writing for MacStories:

Today, DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused web search engine, began using Apple Maps for location-based searches. The company, which previously used OpenStreetMap, switched to Apple’s MapKit JS framework, which Apple introduced at WWDC in June 2018.

This is a very good improvement to DuckDuckGo. Hopefully this kind of integration will also lead to more visibility into any flaws that it may have, which can be rectified once for the entire service. That can only benefit the other platforms Apple Maps is on.

Thinking about DuckDuckGo a bit more, them using Apple maps is probably a very good fit, as I personally see them as the “Apple” of search engines, as they both put a big emphasis on anonymising data requests, and respecting user privacy.

What I want to see next, is DuckDuckGo become the default option on iOS. But as Google already pay a ton of money for this, I don’t see it as being that likely.

10th January 2019

As you may have already seen on my Twitter, or in my journal entries, I’ve started to work on the second major version of Text Case, 2.0. The major changes will be to the user interface, so I want it to be slightly more colourful, fit more in what I see as the latest design language Apple has set out in the Shortcuts app, and also have the formats structured better.

The project started with me making a list of all the things that I will need to implement for it to be level with the functionality of the current version. Here’s that list:

  • Input
    • Drag and Drop
    • Input Field
    • Use Copied Text
    • From File?
    • Keyboard Shortcuts
      • Global Paste
  • Formats List
    • Tap to Copy
    • Hold to Share
  • Siri Shortcuts Support
    • Add to Siri
    • Shortcuts App
    • Backwards Compatibility
  • Action Extension
  • Settings
    • Theme
      • Light
      • Black
    • Title Case Format
    • Reorder Groups
    • Enable/Disable Formats
    • Custom App Icons

I started working on the most important section of the app, the formats list. Over the past few days I’ve been building up the style similar to the Shortcuts app, so instead of being simple white boxes that contain the formatted text, they’re more colourful and even have a slight gradient to add a bit of depth (I’m planning on experimenting with a small shadow as well).

So once the list was working, I added the core logic from the current version and made the formats work. I did adapt it slightly though, as it now groups similar formats together, which I think makes the app look a lot tidier. This change means that when I add the reordering feature, it will most likely me limited to reordering the groups rather than individual formats. You’ll still be able to hide any you don’t want to see though.

Then I added the input field. It’s also a bit cleaner, and fits with the new style. But it has essentially the same capabilities as before. I plan on investigating importing text from a file, and implementing drag and drop, but I think that’s supported automatically.

After I had the list displaying, input working, and the text being formatted, I worked on the interaction with the resulting formatted text. I’ve had a few bits of feedback in the past saying they would appreciate one-touch copying, and now I’ve added it! So you can simply tap any formatted text in the app, and you’ll get a nice alert at the bottom showing the exact text you’ve copied. Or alternatively, you can still tap and hold on formatted text to bring up the contextual actions, which are the same as before, copy and share.

The next step from here will be to start working on the settings section of the app, as that also allows me to test the rest of the app in different scenarios much easier. I’m already planning two changes to the settings in this new version. The first is changing the idea of an accent colour to a theme, as I want the format groups to control the colour. But I also appreciate that a light and dark theme is a minimum. The second change is custom app icons, they may be a basic selection, but the app no longer has a “main colour” so I’d like to give a few options.


If you want to stay up to date with the development of Text Case 2.0, You can find more regular content on my Twitter, brief updates on my journal, and I’ll still post any major progress here.

7th January 2019
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Well, that’s the shortened version of the question that asked on Quora:

“Why isn’t bamboo wood a bigger worldwide industry, since it grows so quickly and is so strong? couldn’t it replace lumber and save many trees?”

It’s a question that I’ve often thought myself. You hear regularly about how bamboo is such a superior resource for many things, but I’ve never seen an objective reason why it’s not as widely used.

But in his answer, Raphaël du Sablon came to our aid with some very interesting reasons:

Okay, here is the long answer. Bamboo is the collective name for several dozen genera of grasses, all in the Bambusoideae branch of the “BOP” clade.[1] While most bamboo species are either shrubby or relatively short plants, a couple genera include particularly large species, typically called “timber bamboo” or “giant bamboo.” These are the bamboo of relevance.

Being in the grass family, bamboo is not a tree. Thus, material cut from bamboo stalks is not technically “wood.” Because of its roughly similar properties, however, and for marketing reasons, it often is referred to as a wood.

With that pedantry out of the way, let’s consider the uses of wood, and how bamboo compares. The big ones are fuel, lumber, and paper.