21st May 2020 | Permalink

Kane Cheshire:

While Apple and Google work on a new cross-platform contact tracing API to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re starting to see some countries release bespoke apps built using just the existing Bluetooth APIs on each platform.

What we’re quickly seeing in the media about these solutions is that the iOS app has some limitations while in the background (i.e. not the visible and active app), and as a result the creators of these apps are often recommending people leave the iOS app in the foreground, or that they work better if Android devices are nearby.

A great explanation on why contact tracing apps don’t work that well on iOS, and at a much higher level of detail than most publications have been reporting.

I would also say, that even if you’re not interested in the context around contract tracing, you can get a really good understanding on how Bluetooth works in general on iOS apps.

20th May 2020 | Permalink

Suzanne Xie, writing at the Twitter Product Blog:

Twitter is where you go to see and talk about what’s happening. But sometimes, unwanted replies make it hard to have meaningful conversations. (Ahem, reply guys.) Since last year, we’ve been working to give people more control over their conversations starting with the ability to hide replies. We also began trying out new ways to start conversations with casual, fleeting thoughts. And now, we’re testing new settings that let you choose who can reply to your Tweet and join your conversation.

Twitter also posted a short video showing off how the feature would work:

So tweets will (for the small percentage of users that can access the feature) have three options regarding who can reply: everyone, only people you follow, or only people you mention in the tweet. That seems to make sense, and they are probably the most common options you’d want if you wanted to limit replies.

It does seem slightly odd though, in that you would be able to have a public Twitter profile that no-one can reply to. However, as soon as you mention someone in a tweet, they can reply, since that’s allowed on all three options. SO at least you won’t be able to troll people, and at the same time stop them from replying.

Well, no matter happens with this idea, I’m personally all for Twitter experimenting with features such as this. And also the mentioned “fleeting tweets” idea, that interesting me as well. Surely one’s going to stick eventually?


Update: Since seeing a thread between Twitter and NASA, the benefits of this feature have clicked my head. Since you’ll be able to limit who replies to each tweet, your threads can stay perfectly clean!

20th May 2020 | Permalink

Back in early April, it was announced that CAMS1 was tracking a record-breaking hole in the ozone above the Arctic:

Ozone columns over large parts of the Arctic have reached record-breaking low values this year, and the ozone layer over the Arctic is severely depleted at altitudes of around 18 km. The last time similarly strong chemical ozone depletion was observed over the Arctic was during spring 2011, and ozone depletion in 2020 seems on course to be even stronger.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS*) has been closely following the rather unusual ozone hole that has formed over the Arctic this spring.

In late April, they then shared on Twitter that the hole had healed.

People were then assuming that this had something to do with the lockdowns happening all over the world because of COVID-19. However, they say that the lockdown probably had no effect on this and that it was due to an unusually strong and long-lived Polar Vortex.

Either way, it seemed like a pretty interesting thing to read about, so I thought I’d share. And I think I’m going to start following them on Twitter, as they seem to share a lot of intriguing bits of data.


  1. The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. Which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission. 

20th May 2020 | Permalink

Greg Morris, on how he uses Todoist:

So. No apologies here, but I ripped off this idea directly from Matt Birchler’s write-up on his Things setup. Even though he is a strong believer in the ability of Things, and also everyone in the replies seems to think the Todoist design is trash, I think very much that we have the same outlook on GTD. The basis of this revolves around “offloading your brain” so you can focus on other things.

I never set levels of tasks that I HAVE to get done each day, but I DO aim to get 3 main things ticked off each working day. This set up has been how I get everything done daily and also why I forget loads of meaningless stuff. This isn’t a GTD set up, but it’s my set up and it all starts with the Inbox.

Greg’s use of Todoist really fascinates me. He combines a general inbox, with the daily task of sorting them, and on top of that, it looks like he has a very intentional structure. Which is the part that I like the most because if you can understand why someone did something, it’s much easier to see if you can use that information to improve upon something of your own.

There’s also a ton of stuff that Greg talks about, that I just didn’t know was possible in Todoist. For example, you can link to emails from an item, which I imagine would be very handy, and also the new Upcoming screen looks like it would be very beneficial.


Not long after sharing his Todoist setup, Greg also wrote another post, “Cracking the Todoist Code“, where he goes over the natural language support, and how you can bring it all together:

Since sharing my Todoist set up and how I get things done loads of people have given me some ideas and shared their experience. One of which I wanted to try to help out with, and that is the natural language input. This feels amazingly natural to me, but for some feels like a bit of a code — so let’s crack it together.

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.

20th May 2020 | Permalink

Monzo, announcing some very decent updates to their web interface for business accounts:

When we launched business accounts earlier this year, we introduced Monzo Business for Web to let you access your account from the convenience of your desktop as well as your mobile. You can choose what works best for you and your business, depending on where you are and what you need to do.

Since then, we’ve been working to let you do even more on the web, to make managing your finances with Monzo Business even more seamless – and here are the first of those updates!

You’ll now be able to see each account and pot, transaction history, move money around, export transaction data, receipt attachments, and a new design. They also say that the next things coming to the web interface are build payments, and having access control for other team members that you want to be able to see/perform certain actions.

Monzo Business

(Image credit: Monzo)

It’s not exactly a replica of the capabilities that Monzo has in their mobile apps, and it probably never will. But it’s certainly beneficial to have a web interface for various different reasons. The one I have in my head is if you lose your phone, that’s a tough situation if it’s the way you manage your money.

So I would definitely take a simple web interface for personal accounts. Although, right now they don’t have any plans to do this.

20th May 2020 | Permalink

Ross Hawkins, writing for BBC News:

Outsourcing firm Serco has apologised after accidentally sharing the email addresses of almost 300 contact tracers.

The company is training staff to trace cases of Covid-19 for the UK government.

It made the error when it emailed new trainees to tell them about training.

Serco said it had apologised and would review its processes “to make sure that this does not happen again”.

It seems like this is a simple case of someone not knowing how email works, and has either put all 300 addresses in the ‘To’ or ‘CC’ field.

19th May 2020 | Permalink

Instagram Blog:

We want Instagram to be a place where you can easily find reliable information and inspiration from your favorite accounts. That’s why we are introducing Guides, a way to more easily discover recommendations, tips and other content from your favorite creators, public figures, organizations and publishers on Instagram.

We know many people are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are first focusing Guides on wellness content. We’ll enable creators to connect with expert organizations to share resources during this time, including tips on how to look after your well-being, maintaining connection with others or managing anxiety or grief. To view a Guide, visit the profile of participating creators or organizations like @afspnational, @heads_together, @vitaalere, @klicksafe, @headspace_aus, @deepikapadukone, @sudahdong and @eenfance. Then, tap the middle icon to view their Guides. In the coming days, you’ll also be able to access Guides within the Explore tab.

Instagram Guides

(Image Credit: Instagram)

I’m not into this type of content myself, but I am intrigued by the idea of having guides on Instagram in general.

There could be a whole host of ways that the medium could be used, and it would be very beneficial to have that kind of content on Instagram. Seeing as it will certainly mean more people spending their time in the app.

Interestingly, the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, tweeted alongside the announcement with the fact that the feature was originally designed with the idea of travel in mind. Which is what I’d expect to be a very popular use case for such a feature. However, since the pandemic happened, they pivoted quickly to adapt it to the wellness market.

19th May 2020 | Permalink

BBC News – Entertainment & Arts:

If you’ve been wishing you could enjoy a TV or radio show with friends during lockdown, the BBC is trialling a tool to allow just that.

BBC Together lets you watch or listen to content from BBC iPlayer, Sounds, Bitesize, News and Sport in sync with other people using different devices.

It is available through the BBC’s experimental website Taster.

BBC R&D’s Dr Libby Miller said being separate “doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy great programmes with our friends”.

She added: “We wanted to see if technology could bring people together to watch and listen to BBC shows remotely as a shared experience.”

The “host” of the group can send a link from the BBC Together site, then control when to play and pause so everyone sees the same thing at the same time. A maximum number of 50 people can join.

I’ve heard about this type of platform before, where groups of people in different locations can watch videos or listen to music together. So it’s good to see BBC experimenting with adding support directly inside iPlayer.

Check out BBC Together.

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.