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.

7th January 2019
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Michael Rockwell of Initial Charge:

As some of you may know, I recently started a new job. I’m now a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, helping WordPress.com users build their online business, share their ideas with the world, or do just about anything you could think of with a website. This new change in my life is at least partly to blame for the lack of publishing here on Initial Charge, but now that the holidays are behind us, I should have a bit more time for writing.

I’ve added quite a bit of new tech to my setup over the past few months and have plenty of thoughts and ideas to share about what’s happened in the world of Apple recently. But today, I thought I’d spend a bit of time discussing the new MacBook Air.

I found this to be a really insightful review. By no means am I thinking about getting a MacBook Air in the future. But I’ll forever be interested in how people use their devices for their work.

4th January 2019

It’s time for an update to Text Case! It contains four changes, and three of them were taken from user feedback! Which I really like, as it means I can tailor the app to how the app is actually being used, not an idea in my head.

So, here are the improvements:

  • A new format! Strip HTML will clear any HTML tags and any whitespace either side of the result.
  • You can now alter the order of the way formats appear in the app.
  • Pasting text via the keyboard shortcut (CMD + V) will now work even if the textfield is not selected, meaning you can get the formats much faster.
  • Any settings in the app are now synced between your devices.

Check out Text Case on the App Store.

3rd January 2019

Up until today I used Reeder 3, and it’s served me well for a very long time. However, in August the developer announced that Reeder 4 is being worked on, and in the meantime version 3 would be free to download. I planned on waiting for the update, but there’s a few minor issues that are causing me a bit of friction. The main one being that while it supports Dark “modes” on macOS, when using actual Dark Mode on my Mac it doesn’t actually alter the whole app.

I started my searching via SetApp, as I already pay for that. An app called Cappuccino took my fancy, and it also had a companion for iOS, which is ideal. That lasted about 5 minutes, as I discovered it doesn’t support external RSS feed services like Feedly that I currently use, so everything is stored in that app. That wasn’t the immediate turn off though, as I could use the iOS app as well. But then I checked out a few articles, and there just wasn’t any level of user presences apart from a few themes, and things like block quotes just weren’t being displayed correctly. So that was off the table. The other option on SetApp is News Explorer, and that looked okay, it also had an iOS app that I didn’t particularly like the look of.

So I checked out the Mac App Store (that I actually really like using), and I discovered that had already purchased a copy of Leaf in the past. So I’ve started using that again, and it feels good to have an app that lets me fine-tune my experience. It doesn’t seem to support macOS Dark Mode, but that is actually okay. As it supports its own themes like most other RSS readers. And unlike other apps without Dark Mode support, parts of the UI aren’t “automatically” adapted via the OS, so it doesn’t look half-baked.

For now I’ll keep on using Reeder on iOS, as there’s nothing there that irritates me. But that could be something I look at in the future. As there are a lot of alternatives available.


After having a search through my blog and past tweets, I discovered the reason why I switched to Reeder was the fact that it was free. It’s strange that the same reason that brought me to the app was essentially the reason I’m now leaving it behind.

1st January 2019

It’s the end of 2018, and that means it’s time to review the year!

Personal Moments

Last year I had a few big personal moments – I graduated university, and started my first professional role as an iOS Developer. Well, this year I’m still working the same job, and I’m continuing to develop my skills in the role.

As for anything specifically in this year, I’m probably left until very late October, where myself and my partner had an offer accepted on a house. It’s not wholly completed yet, there’s still a few things left in the process. But it’s nearing completion, and we plan to be moving in very early next year! And we will both become homeowners at the ages of 26.

That will certainly give me a lot more to write about in the new year, as I try out new home automation devices, just general rambling, and I’m sure some stress from building Swedish furniture.

Projects

Not a massively active year for me in terms of raw numbers, but in 2018, I’ve been working on three projects. One of them I cancelled during its beta phase, one was cancelled when it was nearly ready for release and the other one, fortunately, made it!

Slate

Slate was my attempt at building an iOS client for the Micro.blog service. I got quite far into the development, and I had a very usable app, which was in public beta. However, my use of the platform slowly died down, and so did the amount of effort I put in the app. So I made the decision to stop working on it completely. I haven’t given up on Micro.blog as a user just yet though, and I may even attempt an app for it in the future, but there were too many obstacles for me to work on this.

Text Case

Text Case is quite possibly my best app. I think I’m revenue terms at least, but also the reception it had when it first launched, the code quality, and the simplicity of it. It’s certainly the one I’m happiest with.

It’s currently sitting at version 1.3.1, and I’m already in the middle of 1.4 which should be released sometime in January hopefully.

There are 15 different formats to use, and also 4 different styles of title case formatting. I also added support for Siri Shortcuts pretty much as soon as it was released, which definitely helped for the publicity.

It was covered by a ton of blogs, a screencast video tutorial, multiple mentions in the Club MacStories newsletter (where I also was interviewed about Text Case), a German podcast, and quite a few more! It’s something I can definitely take as a big highlight of my year, and there’s still a massive amount of improvement that can be made.

While writing this piece, Federico Viticci included Text Case in his “My Must-Have iOS Apps, 2018 Edition” article on MacStories. 😍

If you want to update yourself on the history of Text Case, here are the blog posts of each release:

Hydrate

This was an app started by a personal need. I wanted to start tracking water intake, and I wanted to work on a new app. So I joined the two together and started to work on Hydrate.

It actually went quite far, and at one point I thought I had a super minimal version. However, WaterMinder grew in popularity, and after a while, I just became less interested in tracking my water intake. So the project kind of died out.

Travelling

I went to five different countries last year (counting the Canary Islands as separate to Spain), and this year I’ve stepped it up to 6 different countries (not including England), and four of them were first-time visits!

  • Bournemouth, England.
  • Berlin, Germany.
  • Folkstone, England.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Sheerness, England.
  • Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Eastbourne, England.
  • Berwick, England.
  • Wells-next-the-sea, England. (About 4 times)
  • Banham, England.
  • Agadir, Morocco.
  • Barcelona, Spain.
  • Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.
  • La Graciosa, Canary Islands, Spain.

For the last two trips, I shared a few photos only blog:

Blog

I’ve written 100 blog posts, not including the 60 linked posts, and 351 micro posts (This was imported from Micro.blog, and my Instagram), this year. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • A Relic of My Musical Past 🎮🎼 – I was searching for some old hard drives of mine, and I found a very old bit of music I made.
  • Ideas and Speculation on the Future of iPad Connectivity– This was my reaction to the original rumours of the now released iPads switching to a portrait Smart Connector. I took this a bit further and speculated on what other connectivity the iPad could have, and what it would mean for the platform as a whole.
  • Two Rediscovered Pieces of My Writing – This was another bit of my history, as I found two very old bits of my writing from a very old and lost blog. The first was my experience developing a game and then watching other people playing with it. The second was a very strange one, that I haven’t written anything similar to in a while, and that was me explaining what was at the heart of a black hole, what time dilation is, and how an event horizon works.
  • Refining My Device Usage to Maximise Value – Just before iOS 12 was announced, I decided to try and cut all the distractions from my devices, whether it was notifications or complete apps, and then I discussed what features I would like in iOS 12 to help this.

What I’ve Enjoyed

Movies

  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  • Infinity War
  • Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
  • Outlaw King
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • Black Panther

TV Shows

  • Punisher
  • Dynasties
  • Stranger Things (Season 1 and 2)
  • Lost in Space

Books

My original target was to read 15 books this year, however, I only managed 11. The main reason behind that is mainly because I don’t finish many books, I’ve got at least 6 that I’m at least halfway through.

  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
  • World of Warcraft: Traveler (Series) by Greg Weisman
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben Unfinished
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking Unfinished

Podcasts

I listen to a ton of podcasts, including some new ones in 2018. However, I’m now getting to a point where I can’t physically listen to every episode of them.

However, here are the podcasts that I at least try to listen to all episodes, and enjoy the most:

Games

I don’t play a massive variety of games nowadays, so this list is basically the games I play regularly, but here’s what I’ve enjoyed:

  • World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth – Mac
  • Pokémon GO – iOS
  • True Skate – iOS
  • FIFA 19 – PS4
  • Flipflop Solitaire – iOS
  • No Man’s Sky: Next – PS4

Blogs

As an owner of a blog, I tend to read a lot of other peoples as well. I’m sure most people reading this will have a bunch of common reads, but here are a few of my favourite one-man blogs, that I recommend:

Expectations From Last Year

My plans for 2018 were to rebuild my website, start a newsletter, focus more on Swift, go on more small trips, and attempt a 365 whether it was a photo-a-day, or write something every day.

It starts well, as I did rebuild my two main websites – my main domain (chrishannah.me), and my blog (blog.chrishannah.me). I moved my blog to a more stable WordPress instance, where I also added a redesign, and I changed my base domain to a very simple website which just has a few links to find me on a few platforms.

I did attempt a newsletter, and it actually took two forms. I started off by sharing links every week of interesting things I found the internet, and then I expanded to that to include podcast episodes, news on what I was up to, and links to new posts on my blog. This lasted 13 weeks in total, and I don’t currently have any plans to bring it back.

One plus was the focus on Swift, in that I’ve been putting a bigger effort on the quality of my development, working on conventions, and expanding my knowledge at work in things like continuous integration, UI tests, etc.

The travelling was certainly something I also excelled at again, somehow I managed to fit in quite a lot of trips this year. I won’t set any expectations for next year, but I have to admit I’m already booked to go to Oslo in March!

The last plan for 2018 was to start some kind of 365 project. I started a photo challenge, and also a personal journal. Neither of them lasted the year, but the journal is something I want to try again.

Plans for 2019

For 2019 my plans are more refined than last year. I think this is representative of the stage of my life I’m going through, as everything has become a lot more stable. Especially as the time I have outside work isn’t as big as it would be as a student, and also as I’m moving out this year.

Most years I would desire to always do so many new projects in the new year, but my plan is to double down on what I’m currently offering, and then hopefully start one more project. I’ve spent the second half of 2018 working on Text Case, and that has been my most successful app so far. So I want to try and build on that success, however big or small that was, and see what I can do next.

Something I want to do more of is writing for this blog, and writing in general. I’ve grown a tendency to publish more linked posts on this blog than write my own content. I want the ratio to be flipped in 2019, and ideally at least one full piece every week, with a lot of smaller rambles, and opinions on various things.

The writing also leads me to another plan, and that’s to get back journalling. I’m still not sure what form that will take, whether it’s in the public on my blog, digitally on something like Day One, or full analogue inside a Leuchtturm notebook. I can’t see myself going full Bullet Journal, but maybe more in the form of a diary. The issue I will need to overcome in 2019, will be the periods of time where I don’t really have anything interesting to write down, as this was one of the main reasons why I stopped this year.

The last thing, of course, is to move out!

23rd December 2018

Yet again, I’m getting to a point where I think the number of projects that I have active, is getting too high. I had similar thoughts last year, when I wrote an article titled “My App Store Clear-out”. I explained how some projects weren’t getting any time, some we’re hard to maintain, and others were just stale.

Back then, I reduced my number of projects to 5:

  • Hydrate – A work in progress iOS app to track water intake.
  • Qwiki – A small Mac menu bar utility for searching and browsing Wikipedia.
  • Pretty Regular Expressions – An app to test regular expressions in a simple UI, for iOS and macOS.
  • Tap Gap – A very simple arcade game for iOS, that was made free, as no further work is going to be done on it. But there were still people downloading it.
  • Pixels Sticker Pack – An iMessage sticker pack that features a small amount of pixel art.

In the year since I wrote that, I’ve given up on Hydrate, and developed two new applications – Text Case, and SOLID. Text Case being the iOS utility to format text, and SOLID being another utility to create single colour wallpapers on iOS.

That leaves me with this:

  • Qwiki
  • Pretty Regular Expressions
  • Tap Gap
  • Pixels Sticker Pack
  • Text Case
  • SOLID

I’d very much like to get that down 4 or 5, with 5 being an ideal maximum. However, I would like to start a new project next year, so I should restrict myself to 4.

Of course, I will keep on the latest apps, which fills out one half. But there’s tough decisions to be made on the rest. Tap Gap is certain to be pulled, that’s already decided. But the future of Qwiki and Pretty Regular Expressions are currently unknown to me. I like both of them, and I think they’re good apps. But I just need to work out if they are realistically going to get any updates in the future.

So this is where I am right now:

  1. Text Case
  2. SOLID
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. 2019 Project

I don’t want to annoy users by making a product unavailable, or officially cancelling all future updates, but most of them have been growing stale anyway. And I think I’d rather sell a limited amount of products that get regular attention, rather than a whole bunch of them that are near-to-never updated.

14th December 2018

Apple have announced some changes to the Artists Pages in Apple Music for iOS:

Apple Music in iOS 12 makes it easier to browse an artist’s catalog and discover new music to play. You’ll find the following changes in the new Artist Pages:

  • Improved Organization: Artist Pages are now better organized to make it easier to find the music you’re looking for, including Essential Albums and a featured release at the top of each artist’s page.
  • Personalized Artist Radio: Every Apple Music artist now has their own radio station. Press ▶︎ at the top of any Artist Page to start listening to music from across an artist’s catalog.

Connect posts from artists are no longer supported.

So Apple Music Connect is no more. Not exactly a big loss in my opinion though.

My opinions are similar to Nick Heer of Pixel Envy:

Aside from Connect, I think Apple Music’s social features have been fairly successful. I check out what the users I follow have been listening to all the time in the For You section, and I like the new Friends Mix added a few months ago. I’ve even noticed a better selection of user-created playlists. I would love to see continued investment and promotion of these more passive social features, rather than another attempt to create a Twitter-but-for-music social network.

I can’t say I regularly check what my friends are listening to, but I too have been finding a lot more user-created playlists. And I’ve noticed that playlists that I have created have been getting more attention from others.

Receiving updates from artists in Apple Music always seemed a bit odd to me, as I never really thought any artists would spend much time creating content for a limited outlet such as Apple Music. Especially as they surely knew it wouldn’t be that popular.

What I do want to see more of though, are social features designed for the listeners. With things like user-curated playlists, and smarter recommendations that take into consideration your interests, your friends, what’s trending in a certain area, etc. I’ve always found Spotify to be much better at this, and discoverability in general. And I’d much prefer Apple to compete on that front, instead of trying to attract Artists to be social on a music platform.