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29th May 2020

I just came across a new speed test tool (via The Newsprint), and it’s certainly the most detailed and responsive one I’ve seen.

It’s made by CloudFlare, and has the simple name of Speed Test. You can find it at speed.cloudflare.com.

Unlike Speedtest.net, it loads instantly, and there’s no delay until your internet connection is tested. Which is something that always annoyed me when visiting Speedtest.net.

The speed or instantaneous testing aren’t the only benefits. It’s also packed full of data. Have a look at my screenshot below, to see the type of stuff you can test.

(You may worry that I’ve shared my location. Rest assured that this data isn’t even close to being accurate.)

27th May 2020

Ever since you could open the multitasking interface on iOS, you’ve able to “force” quit apps. And not long after that, there’s always been people telling you that you shouldn’t, and that it was bad practice.

Most of the time these people will use the reasoning that having an app running in the background, doesn’t actually use up your memory or battery, and that that’s clearly why people are doing it. Others will say that resuming an app from the background is less CPU intensive than launching it from scratch. And there’s even the argument that it’s a waste of your time.

Even in Apple’s guide how to close an app has the prefix “How to force an app to close”, and in the guide, it tells you to do that “You should force an app to close only if it’s unresponsive”. So it’s not something they really endorse doing


So that’s why I’m going to explain the main reasons why I do quit apps on my iPhone and iPad.

Clutter

It’s the same as why I like to have a tidy desktop on my Mac and organised home screens on my iPhone and iPad. I don’t want clutter on my devices. And I find it irritating when I see apps that I’m not using when I open the app switcher.

It Helps To Signify the End of a Task

Similar to my disgust about the clutter, it helps to signify when I’ve stopped using an app.

For example, if I’ve been writing on my iPad, I’ve probably got iA Writer open, maybe Safari for research, Agenda for my overall planner, and even Reeder where I’m reading articles I want to write about. When I then finish writing, I’ll close all of these apps at once, and I no longer have to think about writing, until I actually want to start writing again.

What Does the Opposite Look Like?

Fine, let’s look at the opposite. What’s going to happen if you never quit apps on your devices? Well, one thing’s for sure, you’re going to have a lot of apps open.

I have 97 apps installed on my phone. So if I was to never quit an app, then by the end of a week, I’d expect to have quite a large number of them open. And eventually, surely the expectation is that every single application will be running?

Maybe there’s not much difference in battery level of memory usage when you’ve got a few apps in standby. But surely there’s got to be a difference at some point?

Either way, there’s certainly one place where you’ll see a difference. The app switcher. Imagine having 50 apps open, and you’re trying to find an app that just happens to be at the beginning of the list. That’s bound to be irritating.

Maybe the answer to that, is that if you do have 50 apps open at once, then the app switcher isn’t the place where you’d actually launch them from. Since having every installed app running and visible in the app switcher is essentially a giant home screen. In which case the app switcher becomes pointless.

What’s the Alternative?

Finally, the last reason why I “force” quit my apps, is because there is no alternative.

No matter what the system does in the background to running apps, they are still open. They are not closed.

Therefore, seeing as there’s no “nice way” to quit apps, I force quit them.


I’m aware that this topic might be unpopular, and there’s a good chance that you might think that quitting apps is plain stupid.

I’ll just leave you with one question:

If it’s a task that shouldn’t be done frequently, then why is it so easy and accessible to do?

22nd May 2020

I came across Charty recently on Twitter, and it looks like it’s going to be a great addition to the growing collection of apps that are designed to slot directly into the Shortcuts app.

After playing around with it, I was going to write an in-depth article on what I thought about it, but instead I’ve found three articles that I think explain it really well. And they also include examples so you can see what type of charts you can create.

Greg Morris:

This is one of those apps that at first you dismiss, but when actually looking around the app you realise just how helpful it can be. That’s because developer Rodrigo Araújo has thought about almost every aspect of the app. Building on the success of his first app ChartStat he aims to make it easy for everyone to visualise any kind of data.

Jason Snell:

Making charts by hand is labor intensive. But it gets easier if you can make the chart one time and just update the data as new numbers flow in. If that sounds like a job for user automation, you’re singing my tune—and I’m happy to report that the new app Charty is built to add charting capabilities to the iOS Shortcuts app.

Matt VanOrmer:

There are lots of Shortcuts actions and routines that generate data and could easily benefit from a simple bar graph or pie chart to provide useful insights more quickly and effectively. One example that comes to mind is graphing time-tracking data from Toggl once every week, let’s say, to see what tasks or projects you’ve been the most busy with — all without having to open the unpleasant Toggl app or the clunky web client from your iOS device. Charty is the perfect companion for those who accumulate lots of meta-data about their lives and want to frequently revisit and reassess the areas they are seeking to improve — whether that be calories burned, books read, or tasks completed, Charty plugs right into your existing Shortcuts routines and allows you to quickly turn those datasets into easily-digestible graphics. The option to create default chart format settings and custom “Export Profiles” of chart size, font size, and background color both help to add consistency in how your charts are formatted before saving them for yourself or sharing with the world.

20th May 2020

One of my favourite YouTube Channels, Primer, has a new simulation video. This time it focusses on simulating the different phases of infections, and tracking how various factors such as population size, infection rate, and infected duration affect the simulation.

I found it rather fascinating, and I would definitely recommend watching the video. Although, it’s not specifically a COVID-19 simulation, or even meant to exactly represent real-life. So don’t look at the results and expect a perfect with the current COVID-19 situation.

19th May 2020

I enjoy seeing other people’s iPhone home screens, so I thought it was probably about time I shared my own.

Home screen

Mine is rather simple and it’s got to a point where it’s pretty stable, with only a few apps changing now and then. There’s a total of 20 apps, with four of them being in the dock.

In the past, I’ve crammed my home screen full of apps that I think I use a lot. But that feels too busy. So instead, I leave the bottom rows empty. Which also gives me space to put an app I need to use temporarily, or if I’m trying something new out.

All apps that aren’t stock apps will have links to their App Store pages.


Wallpaper

Don’t worry, I’ve already thought about the wallpaper. I know from myself, that if I see someone’s home screen, I’ll probably want to know where they got their wallpaper from.

In my case, I found it on Unsplash, and it’s by a photographer named Amber Wilburn.


CARROT Weather

It’s maybe ironic that the first app on my home screen is the one that probably gets used the least. But still, I think CARROT Weather is one of the best weather apps available, and the snakiness always makes the interaction a bit funnier. And even though it doesn’t get used that often, it’s there when I need it. Which will probably after the lockdown ends and we’re allowed to go back to work.

Fantastical

Here’s another application that doesn’t get used too much either. It’s my calendar app of choice, Fantastical. I switched to Fantastical quite some time ago, and it was mainly due to the natural language support when creating new events, and partially because it had a nice UI.

Right now, I’m not really using my calendar that much, as I don’t have work events on my personal devices, and I prefer to use notes and a task manager to schedule my personal life. But I still use it for important events, but certainly not enough to warrant paying for the subscription, so there’s really not much keeping me loyal to Fantastical. And I can imagine me switching back to the stock calendar app sometime in the future.

Shortcuts

I have Shortcuts on my home screen simply so I have a quick way to experiment with new actions, and to test out new ideas. I don’t run many shortcuts from the Shortcuts app on my phone, I probably do this the most on my iPad. But that’s because the main shortcuts that I use on my phone are usually ran from the share sheet, for things like saving an article for later, starting a link post, combining photos, etc.

Clock

I don’t think I need to explain my use of the clock. I’ve to wake up for work somehow.

Photos

Another that probably needs no explanation. I have all my photos in iCloud, and nowhere else. So this is where I view them.

Music

I’m an Apple Music subscriber (that’s somehow getting student discount three years after graduating from university), and it’s the only place I play music from. I use it to play music on my phone, and also to other devices like my HomePod, and Apple TV.

Overcast

In my mind, Overcast is the best podcast app available. I like the benefits of having the Smart Speed and Voice Boost effects, but they’re not the reasons why I use Overcast every day. I’ve just never seen another podcast app that feels as complete. For example, you have a lot of control about what happens with new episodes, when to delete old episode, and even advanced stuff like changing the seek back/forward times, whether to auto play next, etc.

I’ve seen other podcasts apps that I can live with, them being Castro and Cosmicast. But Overcast is the only one I think that could actually pass as a stock app. Which is something I like a lot.

TV

Apart from Netflix and YouTube, I use the TV app for all of my video entertainment. It has films that I’ve purchased from iTunes, Apple TV+ shows, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. So it’s actually packed full of content.

I also really like the TV app, because it ties into the other apps/services, so I don’t always have to start videos from the TV app for the data to be visible. For example, keeping track of what episode I’m on in a series is something I don’t really want to think about. And the TV app makes it effortless.

Mail

This certainly follows a trend of using stock apps. I’ve tried various other third-party email apps, but never something just simple and clean like Mail. It’s not an app I want myself to spend too much time inside, so I think by using the most basic option, it helps me to just do the tasks I need to do and leave.

Twitter

Twitter is my most-used social network. I use it to share links to things I find interesting, my blog posts, and just to ramble about a subject. But I also use Twitter to keep up with people I’m interested in, the general news, and of course, football news.

I found myself a while ago with Tweetbot that I had a hard time being able to not read every tweet. But now I’ve switched to the official app, I find that the algorithm actually works well for me. I get to quickly read tweets that I’m interested in, and I don’t feel like there’s a fixed end that I need to reach before leaving. I’m sure many people would have the opposite behaviour, in that you can always find more tweets on the official Twitter app, so you may spend more time on Twitter accidentally. But I don’t seem to suffer from that. Or at least on Twitter, that usually happens to me on Instagram.

Books

To be honest, I don’t read as many books as I would like to. That’s usually because I’m too lazy to start ready something worthwhile and end up just reading something like Harry Potter. So I have the Books app on my home screen just to reduce the friction of starting/resuming a book whenever I’m in the mood.

It’s a technique I’ve used a few times before, where if I want to start using an app more, then I’ll put it on my home screen, and hope it triggers me to use it. But after a while, fix it hasn’t worked, it usually gets relegated to a folder or deleted. A recent app that didn’t work out was News. Turns out I don’t actually care that much about it. Or at least the publications that seemed to be appearing in the News app.

iA Writer

My writing app of choice is iA Writer, and it has been for a while. I’ve previously used Ulysses but came back to iA Writer because I like to see the Markdown as I write it. But not only that, I like how iA Writer works off a folder in iCloud Drive, so I can access my writing in other applications.

It’s also got great apps on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, so it allows me to have the same experience, no matter where I’m writing.

There are loads of advanced features in iA Writer, but I’m not really making use of them. I just like a simple Markdown editor, with a good interface, that exposes the raw files, and has support for all the platforms. And iA Writer certainly fits that criteria.

Messages

This is my main way of communicating with friends and family, as most of them have an iPhone. For the people that don’t, I have WhatsApp installed, and hidden in a folder on the second page.

Camera

I’ve used quite a few third-party camera apps like Obscura and Halide, but for whatever reason, I come back to the stock camera app nearly straight away. Although I take a lot of photos on my phone, I’m not actually fussed about various filters, effects, or anything other than a basic camera. So that’s why I’m using the Camera app!

Instagram

I’ve tried getting rid of Instagram from my home screen and from my phone entirely a few times, but I can never stick with it. I enjoy keeping up with friends, family, football, and random people. I probably look at the Explore page way too much, and get carried away with football rumours, but oh well.

TikTok

What can I say, I find TikTok videos funny! And it’s certainly a good place to sink some time into if you’re bored and don’t plan on getting anything important done.

The Dock

Now for the apps that I have in my dock. I have four of them, like most people. And I try to put apps here that I want to access very regularly. Files may not fit that criteria perfectly, but I see Files similar to the Finder app on macOS. So I always want that available.

Files

I’ve been making proper use of my local storage on my devices ever since iPadOS 13 came out, as I started downloading more files on my iPad, and in general, using my iPad more. Which led to similar behaviour on my iPhone.

Now I use the Files app to quickly look at saved documents, check my downloads, and also keep track of projects that require more than just a single app. For example, I’m working on a long-form piece at the moment, and that requires mind maps, various notes, and the actual file that I’m writing in iA Writer. And I find it super helpful that there’s now a proper way to manage file on iOS. It’s hard to believe it didn’t have a “Files app” for that much time.

Reminders

I mentioned my recent switch to Reminders the other day, but essentially I have very minimal needs when it comes to a task manager. And Reminders gives me everything I want and need, without charging me more for it or even sacrificing any of the benefits that Reminders gets from by default from being tied into the system so much.

Agenda

Agenda is the newest app to be placed on my home screen, and I made a conscious decision to replace Mail in the dock since I think it’s an app that I’m going to want to access a lot.

I recently started using Agenda to help bring various notes and reminders together into a single place, where I can keep track of any ideas I have, or simply to provide more context to a task.

One big task I’m using Agenda for is to manage my blog, which can be split into four things:

  • Keeping track of articles that I want to link to.
  • Ideas for articles that I want to write (along with any necessary notes).
  • Keeping track of what I’m currently working on.
  • Making a schedule for when I want to finish/publish each post. (More on this in a future article)

I’ve seen Agenda mentioned before on Twitter, and blogs, mainly focussing on how it connects notes, reminders, and a calendar together. But I didn’t realise how much it made sense to me until I started using it.

Safari

I use Safari everywhere. And it’s not going to change anytime soon.


I’m not sure if my home screen is in any way spectacular or innovative. But in the same way, I appreciate looking at others for ideas, maybe it can do the same for others.

18th May 2020

If like me, you usually watch the Eurovision Song Contest every year (My wider family usually has a big party), then you’ll no doubt be missing this year’s final. Since it was cancelled, which brought the end of it’s run of 64 years of being held, which makes it the longest-running annual international television contest.

It wasn’t completely cancelled though, as the final did go ahead in some form. A three-hour show was put together, which premiered on the Eurovision YouTube channel, that included all the songs from the first and second semi-final rounds. And apart from the scoring at the end, the show was relatively similar. With the performances mainly being taken from earlier rounds, and there were still various short clips throughout the show, that showed the artists in more detail, their reactions to other songs, and more.

The Eurovision Song Celebration 2020 show has been split into two videos: Part One, and Part Two. And there’s absolutely tons more content on their YouTube Channel.

Myself and my girlfriend both want to go to a Eurovision final at some point. But we’re holding out for it to be held in a city that we want to also go to for other reasons, so we can combine the trip. This year it was supposed to be held in Rotterdam, which is where it’s actually returning next year, so that’s probably the closest it’s going to be, without it being held in the UK. Rotterdam isn’t exactly a city that we’d travel to usually, but as it’s close it might not be too much of a hassle. Anyway, we’ll find that out when more information is released.

10th May 2020

On little YouTube adventure I had this afternoon, I came across a video of someone trying to guess all of the 151 original Pokémon. To be honest, the idea of watching someone do this themselves sounded absolutely boring. But I wanted to try and do it myself. It’s my favourite generation of Pokémon, so I thought I’d know it quite well, although I haven’t played it in quite some time (Even though I really should get back to playing Pokemon Sword).

Well, after the first twenty minutes, I’d guessed around 100 of them. I thought that was impressive, until it took about ten more minutes to guess the next twenty Pokémon. But by that point my mind went completely blank. So my progress so far is 120 Pokémon in 30 minutes, although I haven’t closed the tab, so I may try and complete it later.

If you want to try it yourself, you can find the quiz on Sporcle, which I think has a really good format for online quizzes. It’s just a single text field where you constantly type guesses, and if you get one correct, the text is cleared, and the relevant field is populated. It’s pretty fun.


While I was on Sporcle, I found a few more quizzes to try. So here they are, along with my score:

9th May 2020

Because of the current situation with COVID-19, I’ve been working from home. It’s been quite some time as well, I think about 9 weeks so far. Which is probably slightly longer than most, but that’s because my company enforced remote working (where possible), around 2 weeks before the UK went into lockdown. As you can imagine, I’ve found some things about remote work enjoyable, and also quite a few things that I actually prefer about a physical workplace.

But just for a bit of background information: I work as a software engineer, mainly as a mobile developer, but I’ve also built various REST APIs, and worked on SSO while I’ve been at my current job. Right now, I’ve actually been going through a lot of training, as we’ve been bought by a much larger company, so we’re adapting a lot of our software to their tech stack. But essentially, everything I’m doing is possible from home.

However, I’ve noticed that while the main chunks of my work are possible from home, there’s a lot of extra things that I do that just aren’t as easy. Or sometimes they’re not more difficult to do remotely, they just take some getting used to. For example, our standup1 meetings are usually done in front of our whiteboard, which we use to track the progress of different pieces of work. This is quite good at helping the team visualise the overall progress, and keeps us aligned. It’s completely possible to do this meeting over a video call, but I don’t think it’s quite the same.

The small interactions that happen in a physical workplace are something that I miss as well. Because sometimes you just need to bounce ideas off someone, double check something, or just have a quick chat. Working remotely just makes this seem like more of a hassle.

What I’m discovering, is that my previous idea of remote work wasn’t necessary that accurate. In a normal situation, I would work from home occasionally, but only for one or two days at a time, so no real adjustment was needed. It was just a case of carrying on working on whatever you were previously, join a video call for standup, and possibly one for a meeting. But at least for me, it still felt like the “team” was operating out of a physical location, and I was temporarily separated. My expectations for this period of remote working was that it would be an extended version of my past experience, but now I realise I wasn’t truly “working remotely” before.

Obviously, my current experience of remote work is still not going to be a true representation either, as we are all dealing with the lockdown at the same time. Which I assume clouds my judgement about this quite a lot. So I can’t quite claim that my views now are absolute, and given a different scenario, I would probably have completely different opinions on it.

However, that doesn’t mean I’ve not noticed anything I like more about working in an office. A few probably apply to quite a lot of people: face-to-face conversations, small informal discussions, and an easier way to separate work from home.

One thing I miss that possibly is not that popular, is the commute to and from work. Mine is about an hour and a half in total, and involves walking to a train station, getting a train into London, two underground trains, and finally another walk to the office. To some that may seem tedious, but for me that’s time that can be spent listening to a podcast or music, watching a video, reading a book, etc. But I also enjoy walking, and my commute involves about 40 minutes of walking each way, and I find London to be a pretty good place to stroll around. Especially when I go in early at around 6/7.

There are, of course, quite a lot of things that I enjoy about working from home so much. There’s the time that I’ve gained by removing 3 hours of daily commute from my day, the money I’m disabling by not paying for the daily commute, and also the fact that I don’t have to wake up as early to start work. The extra time in the day means that I’ve got more time to do things like cooking dinner, having a proper lunch, and seeing my girlfriend more. We’ve gone from seeing each other in the evenings and the weekend, to practically every second of the day, apart from when she has to go to work (key worker).

All things considered, the hardest part of this situation is the lockdown, not working from home. And the fact that everything seems to have suddenly changed. We can’t just go outside anymore, see our family, or go out with our friends. One that’s especially difficult for us Brits, is the weather. We spend all of our life moaning about it, but right now we are having some pretty great weather. Lucky for us we have a garden, but I’m sure we’d all much prefer to enjoy it properly.
But for now that’s out of our control, and we’ll just have to get on with it.


  1. A quick daily meeting that happens in the morning to synchronise the team, e.g. what everyone worked on the previous day, what they’re doing currently, and if anything is impeding their progress. 

6th May 2020

Tim Bradshaw, Sarah Neville, and Helen Warrell, writing at Financial Times:

Health chiefs in the UK have tasked a team of software developers to “investigate” switching its unique contact-tracing app to the global standard proposed by Apple and Google, signalling a potential about-turn just days after the NHS launched its new coronavirus app.

Maybe they’re finally getting the message, that their custom solution will not work? Just like I mentioned before?

That’s not the only bit of news from this article though, with more details emerging on the app. That is it being developed by a Swiss IT development company named “Zuhlke Engineering”, with a 6-month contract worth £3.8m.

They’re said to be doing this as a two-week time boxed technical spike. Which is basically a period of time allocated to evaluate a new technology/implementation. Then after the spike (evaluation) is complete, more work can be planned, estimated, and carried out.

I’m just glad they’re open to switching to the more practical Apple/Google implementation.

6th May 2020

Another small update to Text Case is hitting the App Stores.

It comes with a few UI enhancements, notably to help show pointer location when hovering. And also a simple context menu that appears when you right click or long press on any formatted text, where you can choose to either copy or share the result.

Improvements were also made to the performance of the app, and a few miscellaneous bugs were also fixed.


Links: