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14th October 2019
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It’s time for me to announce a little project I’m going to start doing alongside this blog. From this Friday, I’ll be starting a weekly newsletter called “Interesting Links”, and as the name suggests, it will be a short list of (around 5) links to interesting things I’ve found all across the internet.

This is because there are tons of interesting things I find, but I don’t necessarily want to turn all of them into linked posts here on the blog. So this gives me a chance to share even more of them.

I’ll keep it very minimal, because otherwise I know it won’t be pleasant to read, and it won’t be that interesting to write either!

So you can subscribe now, and the first issue will arrive in your inboxes on Friday!

11th October 2019

Whenever I want to add a table to a blog post, I always wonder if an app can do it for me. As I find writing Markdown tables to be rather tedious. The only problem is, I never actually looked. However, I’ve now been using an aptly named app “Markdown Tables” and it’s just perfect.

It features a really clean interface, that lets you focus solely on the table content. You have all the necessary tools at the top, there’s one to create a new table with a certain size or from the clipboard, inserting and deleting rows/columns, alignment, whether to include the header row, and the export button! It looks simple, however, it has all the functionality that you’ll need. It handles large tables quite well, as you can scroll around the content, and then simply tap on the field you want to edit, and it snaps it into place.

Exporting is maybe the most important feature of the app, and it couldn’t get any easier. All you need to do is tap the export button above the table, and the formatted table will be copied. Markdown Tables actually supports Markdown and HTML exporting, each with their own options for customising the format. Such as compact mode for Markdown, and also whether to pretty print the HTML.

It’s a fantastic utility, and I recommend it to anyone writing Markdown on iOS.

Find Markdown Tables on the App Store.

10th October 2019

I feel like I post more updates to Text Case here than real blog posts. Oh well, this one I’m blaming Jason Snell. We exchanged a few tweets about Text Case, and he suggested a feature where Text Case could have a list of manually capitalised nouns that would be used when converting text. I immediately saw the benefit of this idea, and started mapping it out in my head.

In just over a day, the update has been developed, and worked its way through Apple’s review process.

It contains what I’m calling the “Custom Dictionary”, and it lets you store words capitalised in a specific way. So that whenever you use Title Case or Sentence Case, these capitalisations have the highest precedence. It’s perfect for brand and product names, and that’s also why I’ve included a few common nouns in the app to start off.

The words themselves are stored in a .json file, which you can find in the Text Case folder in iCloud Drive. This can be edited manually outside Text Case (I would recommend an app called Jayson), and the changes will then be picked up when Text Case is next used.

One more thing, I also added a new dark theme. Previously the dark option had pure black as a main colour, but this is a bit too dark for some people. I’ve renamed that theme to “Black”, and added an option that is a dark grey.

You can find Text Case on the App Store.

7th October 2019

It’s time for another update to Text Case! This time it brings another 5 formats, all relating to Markdown.

There’s support for creating Blockquotes, which supports multiple paragraphs (which I personally wanted a lot), Code Blocks, and also ordered and unordered lists. You can also convert any Markdown to HTML!

All of these formats are, of course, available to use via the app, the Action Extension, and also in the Shortcuts app. And with these new additions, Text Case now has 32 different formats! Including four variants of Title Case.

You can find Text Case on the App Store.

20th September 2019

There’s a new update to Text Case for me to tell everyone about!

It’s not exactly a huge update with tons of new features, but it’s one I think will make the use of Text Case much more efficient. I talked about the way Text Case is evolving recently here on the blog, but essentially the main new “feature” is the new Shortcuts action.

In Text Case 2.2, you’ll have just the one action in Shortcuts, and that will be able to have an input parameter for the text you wish to format, an option to select the specific format, and then it will have the formatted text as an output. Previously each format had its own action, which meant it was always a bit messy. And, of course, Shortcut actions didn’t have parameter support before, so it always relied upon the clipboard.

However, now you have access to one magical action that has all the functionality of Text Case. It can slot directly into any Shortcut, and then get out of your way.

I didn’t just stop there with the update. I also added a few extra new formats. You now have the option to remove all whitespace, or just trim the leading/whitespace with the new formats “Strip Whitespace” and “Trim Whitespace”. And there’s another fun one called “Shuffled” which will randomise the order of any text that is passed as an input.

You can download Text Case on the App Store, and you can find out more information on all the functionality in Text Case on the website.

13th September 2019

Back in July of last year when I first released Text Case to the App Store, my idea behind it was for it to be a small utility app that you could use to format text into a few different formats. The main format was title case, and although it was a standalone app, I always thought of it being used primarily by selecting text and using the Action Extension to copy a formatted version of that text to the clipboard.

However, since that first release, there’s been 10 updates. Some of them were minor bug fixes, but most of them were adding new formats. In the current version that’s in the App Store, there are 24 different formats to use. Which is a pretty big number in my opinion. Especially as it was just meant to be a small utility app.

As Text Case as grown, the primary way people were using Text Case became through the Shortcuts app. Simply because it’s just easier to use it in that way. It can slot into your writing workflow, and you would never really need to open the app.

But as we all know, the original way that third-party apps could provide functionality to the Shortcuts app, was by “donating” different actions to the system. And then magically they would appear as selectable actions in the Shortcuts app, and that could either perform a task in the background, or it could launch your app directly into a specific part.

As Text Case is really just something that takes an input, does some fancy things to it, and then provides that result as an output, it was held back by the original limitations of how Shortcuts worked. The only way you would be able to use functionality from Text Case without launching the app was to copy text to the clipboard, have Text Case perform its changes on the clipboard, and then overwrite that with the newly formatted text. It only took a couple of extra steps, but it was nowhere near the ideal solution.

However, in iOS/iPadOS 13, there is a whole load of new advancements to how apps integrate with the Shortcuts app. The benefits at least from the perspective of Text Case is that you can make use of parameters. So within the format text action, you will be able to provide the source text as a parameter, there will be no specific need to make use of the clipboard. These actions can also return values as well, so your formatted text will be directly available to use as either a direct result or as an input into another action. It just turns the functionality of Text Case into customisable building blocks, that can be part of a bigger workflow.

That new functionality, that will be released very soon, is making me think about what Text Case is becoming. I can’t say that I see it as a standalone app anymore. Sure, it will always be an app. But that’s not really how it’s going to be used. Text Case is becoming a kind of “directory” of text formatting tools, which will directly integrate into different parts of the system.

It means that when I add more formats to Text Case, just like I am with the next update (which will add three new options), I don’t feel like I’m simply just making my app better. It feels like I’m providing the system with additional functionality. Whether it’s through an Action Extension that can be launched by sharing text, or within the Shortcuts app, Text Case is becoming more of a framework for using elsewhere, rather than something people would use directly.

And you know what? I’m completely fine with that. It’s really interesting to see how Text Case is changing, and how you can get all the functions of the app, without even remembering that you have it installed.

13th September 2019

In recent years, the expected battery life of new iPhones have always been given in relative values. I saw this as a challenge to try and calculate what the raw number is.

The first place I went to was the technical specifications pages for the three new phones, the 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max. They all had relative values based on the previous generation. Of course, my next step was to look at those values. Again, they were relative.

So I followed the chain until I came to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Their technical specifications no relative or fixed estimates for the battery life. There were estimates for audio playback, video playback, internet usage, etc. But I just wanted a single figure for an estimated use. As that’s what I expect the relative values on recent iPhones to be based on.

As far as I can tell, Apple didn’t talk about the battery life of the 6s generation iPhones when they were first announced. Therefore, I’m going to be basing these on overall estimates that I’ve found online. The numbers I found from various tests were around 8 hours for the 6s, and 10 hours for the 6s Plus.

Using these numbers, I calculated the estimated battery life for the 11 iPhones that were released since.

Here are the numbers (all amounts in hours):

iPhone Relative Values Resolved Values
6s 8
6s Plus 10
7 6s + 2 10
7 Plus 6s Plus + 1 11
8 7 10
8 Plus 7 Plus 11
X 7 + 2 12
XR 8 Plus + 1.5 12.5
XS X + 0.5 12.5
XS Max X + 1.5 13.5
11 XR + 1 13.5
11 Pro XS + 4 16.5
11 Pro Max XS Max + 5 18.5

One thing to point out is that the XR and XS batteries seem to last the same amount of time-based on the 6s/6s Plus estimated values, and then following Apple’s information. It was widely reported that the XR has superior battery life, which makes the numbers seem a bit odd.

But then again, we don’t know what type of data Apple is using for their estimates. Are they going on values that they have for a brand new iPhone when it was announced? Or are they based on the previous generation, but running the most up to date version of iOS? A lot of these things can skew the results.

While I would have preferred if along the chain there was at least one fixed overall value I could have used for a base. However, I do find the data to be interesting. Even if you just look at the relative differences between them. For example, we don’t know the official estimates for the 6s/6s Plus, but we do know that the 11 Pro Max supposedly lasts 8.5 hours longer than the 6s Plus. So a rough 2 hours increase in battery length every year.


Update:

To help visualise the data, here are two charts. The first using only the relative values that Apple provide, and the second including the estimate base values for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

iPhone Battery Life Changes Relative to iPhone 6S and 6S Plus (in Hours)

iPhone Battery Life Using Estimated Base Values for iPhone 6S and 6S Plus (in Hours)

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.

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.