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11th July 2019

After just over 6 months, I’m stopping writing my daily journal entries.

Originally I was aiming to complete an entire year, and then rethink what I was going to do with it. However, it’s been about a week that I haven’t written a single entry, and surprisingly I’ve been totally fine with it. And as it’s reached the 6-month milestone, it feels like a good time to stop, have some time off, and refocus on the next thing.

Stats

Just because I can, here are a few quick stats:

  • 183 total entries
  • 30,579 total words
  • 167 averages words per post

And some additional graphs:

Average Number of Words in Each Journal Entry by Month

Number of Words in Each Journal Entry

What I’ve Learned

I’ve certainly learned a few things from the process though. Mainly that I like writing and especially personal logs, that I can write down quite easily, without a ton of research.

Something that made it really easy was automation, obviously. I’ve written about my automation before on the blog. First with “How I Automate My Daily Journal”, where I discussed the way I reminded myself to write, and also to generate a new file based upon a template. And also with “How I Automate Publishing Blog Posts”, where I go through how I take a markdown file and publish it to the blog.

However, even though it was relatively friction-free to write and publish journal entries to my blog, sometimes it just felt like a chore. Especially when a day was simply too boring to write about, where I was just forcing myself to write something.

What It Means for the Future

If I’m going to take anything away from this for the future of this blog, it’s that I enjoy writing about more personal experiences. So while I’m not promising anything, that’s the direction I want to go down.

I also want to combine that with some more photography of mine. I take tons of photos, and I just don’t feel that Instagram is a good place to host all of that. After trips, I’ve shared photos on the blog before, where I select a handful of my favourites, and this is the style I will most likely continue.

But in general, I want this blog to feel more like my blog. I’m steering away from generic tech review and Apple news. Because there are so many good writers covering that stuff already, and I’m fine with reading what they have to say, rather than me repeating most of what’s already out there. So hopefully I can start living up to the appropriately named “Chris Hannah” blog.

You’ll also notice that the Journal category has been moved from the top navigation menu to the sidebar.

2nd July 2019

Ever since the iOS/iPadOS 13 betas have been available, I’ve been running them on my main devices. That’s down to multiple reasons, but one of the main ones was the new Dark Mode that’s now available system wide.

Before this global setting, I’ve been a big fan of dark themes for everything I use. Whether it’s a Twitter client, text editor, or Xcode.

However, recently I’ve noticed myself purposefully switching back to the Light theme. And I think it’s been down to two things.

Firstly, it’s been rather sunny here in England recently, and having a dark interface just isn’t clear enough. I’ve noticed this the most when I’m outside and catching up on Twitter. Thankfully I’m using Tweetbot as my client, so I can quickly two-finger swipe between themes, until I find a light theme where I can actually read the content.

The other reason is simple because sometimes a light interface just makes content a lot clearer. Especially because I’ve noticed a trend with some dark themes where the text is light grey with a dark grey background. Whereas the light mode alternative would feature black text on a white background. So the level of contrast suffers simply because of colour choices.

This won’t exactly be a surprising realisation for some people, but ever since I’ve had the ability to have a system wide dark mode, I’ve started to actually value the light mode more.

1st June 2019

A few days a go, a friend on Twitter said to me that Text Case needed to support clap case. This being the replacement of spaces between words with a clapping hands emoji. 👏

I don’t know why I’ve never thought about adding it to Text Case before. I’ve seen it tons of times used on Twitter, and it’s not exactly a hard format to code.

So I did it.

It didn’t take long at all. And it’s a features designed just for fun. But in version 2.1, you 👏 can 👏 now 👏 clap 👏 away 👏 to 👏 your 👏 hearts 👏 content.

Find Text Case on the App Store.

30th May 2019

I wrote recently about how I’m automating my daily journal, and it mainly focussed around how I started the writing, as the publishing was quite a manual process.

However, I’ve now managed to automate the publishing part of my writing process. Which I’ve been using for every blog post since, not just my daily journal.

I started off with Federico Viticci’s Publish to WordPress shortcut1, which he posted on his incredible Behind the Tablet article. But I had to make a few changes to make it work with the way I’ve configured my blog.

Here’s Federico’s description of his shortcut:

Publish a Markdown post to WordPress via the Shortcuts action extension. The shortcut can extract the h1 Markdown header from a post and use it as title. Optionally, you can publish both standard and “linked list” post types by adding a custom field supported by your WordPress installation.

The changes I made were:

  • Changing the Format parameter of the ‘Post to WordPress’ action to Ask When Run. This way I can alter between standard and link type posts. The shortcut already handled linked posts so it could extract a URL and add that as a custom field on a post. But my theme styles linked posts slightly differently, and it depends on the post format to do that.
  • I also changed the Publish Date parameter to Ask When Run as sometimes I like to schedule posts. Or if I’m publishing my journal, and I’ve slightly run into the next day, I like to make sure it’s published on the correct date.
  • One section I removed was the file saving, as I don’t particularly need another copy of the final results. I like to think of my blog as the place for canonical copies.
  • The last action was to open MacStories in the browser, so of course, I changed that to the url of this blog. So I can quickly check out the live version.

In essence, it’s a relatively simple shortcut, in that it takes text and publishes it here on my blog. However it takes care of so much of the annoying parts of the publishing process, such as setting the categories, tags, post types, extracting links for sources, and still more. I guess that’s the perfect case for automation.

One last thing I have to call out, is the natural language parsing when entering a publish date for a post. When using the web interface for WordPress, I found it really irritating to use the date/time picker. But now I can write something like “tomorrow at noon” or “yesterday at 23:00”, and it just understands it perfectly.

I’m not sure if this will directly benefit anyone, but I hope it at least shows some benefits of using automation when publishing to a blog. And also, that it’s very beneficial to keep checking out the many Shortcuts that people like Federico are sharing.

Download Federico’s “Publish to WordPress” shortcut.

Download my modified “Publish to WordPress” shortcut.


  1. The shortcut also includes the Title Case action from my app, Text Case. Which I (with a massive bias) find very helpful. 
28th May 2019

I was going to try and write a big long post about my wishes for iOS 13, but my list sadly never passed 6 items. So seeing as WWDC is just around the corner, I’ll publish what I’ve got.

Dark Mode

I’ve wanted this for quite some time, and it looks like we’re going to be getting it. So I think this is a near-guaranteed part of iOS 13.

Shortcuts API

I want apps to have a much deeper integration with Shortcuts. Mainly the ability to add native actions into the Shortcuts app. But also parameter support, so apps like my Text Case won’t need to interact solely with the clipboard.

Home Screen Widgets

We’ve been waiting for a refresh of the home screen for a while, and I think the ability to add “widgets” would be a good fit.

Picture-in-Picture on iPhone

This is a feature that I don’t hold much hope of being implemented. However, there are scenarios where I want to watch a video while quickly doing something else on my iPhone. So Picture-in-Picture would
Be very handy. Although sporadically used.

More Widgets on the iPad

I’m not sure why this ever changed. But on the iPad you used to be able to see two columns of widgets, and now it’s restricted to just one. I want the whole screen to be filled with them!

Do Not Disturb while Using a Device

One last annoyance that has turned into a feature request, a Do Not Disturb setting that still applies when you’re using the device. If I’m watching a video with my girlfriend during dinner, I really don’t need to see notifications. Especially as it usually pushes what we’re watching momentarily.

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

Image.PNG

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.

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.

11th April 2019
Permalink

The Home Office are the people who deal with EU citizens requests seeking for settled status in the UK (among other things, of course), but it appears they made a bit of a mistake when sending emails to some of them asking to resubmit their information:

The Home Office sent the email on Sunday 7 April asking applicants, who had already struggled with technical problems, to resubmit their information.

But it failed to use the “blind CC” box on the email, revealing the details of other applicants.

In another message apologising to those who had been affected, the Home Office wrote: “The deletion of the email you received from us on 7 April 2019 would be greatly appreciated.” – Ross Hawkins, BBC.

Basically, someone doesn’t know the difference between CC and BCC, and now the department may have to make an apology in Parliament. Along with the fact that they breached the Data Protection Act.

30th March 2019

Just over one week ago, I released the first major update to Text Case. Since then, I’ve written and published four guides on different parts of the app. While they don’t combine to create a Text Case “User Manual”, I think they explain the most fundamental parts, and hopefully some features that users will be surprised by.

What Is Title Case?

In the first guide, I explained what Title Case is, and where it’s used. Title Case is the major format in Text Case, as that’s the most popular one for writers, because it’s more complicated than you’d think.

In Text Case, I support four different standards of Title Case, so this guide explains the standards, and also how to customise them in the app.

Read the guide.

Customising Text Case

Quite self-explanatory, but as there are quite a lot of things you can customise inside Text Case, I thought it would be useful to have these explained all in one place.

Read the guide.

Using the Action Extension in Text Case To Format Text

As I mentioned before, Text Case has an Action Extension, so you can use Text Case to format any text selection in iOS. This guide explains how to enable the extension, and also how to use it.

Read the guide.

Using Siri with Text Case

You can use Text Case with Siri Shortcuts, and also as an action inside the Shortcuts app. This guide explains every thing Siri-related.

Read the guide.


If you haven’t already got a copy of Text Case, you can find it on the App Store.