Speed Test by CloudFlare

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.)

The New Share Extension in Tot

28th May 2020 | Permalink

Craig Hockenberry, writing at the Iconfactory blog:

We’re happy to announce a new version of Tot with some features frequently requested by the app’s legion of fans.

The main focus of today’s release are system extensions that allow Tot to co-exist with other apps. To this end, we’ve added a Sharing extension for both iOS and macOS. Additionally, there’s also a widget for iOS that lets you quickly access any of Tot’s dots. Like everything else in Tot, attention was paid to minimizing friction, allowing information to be collected as quickly as possible.

I personally use the macOS version of Tot, quite heavily actually. And I think this share extension will be perfect when I quickly want to send text to a note.

It also makes me want to download the iOS app, because that probably has to be the best looking share extension I’ve ever seen. It does seem pricy for a simple note app, and that is the main reason why I haven’t bought it. But now I’m using the macOS version more, both of them as a package are starting to look like a good deal to me.

Trading Standards Squad Targets Anti-5G USB Stick

28th May 2020 | Permalink

Rory Cellan-Jones, writing for BBC News:

Trading Standards officers are seeking to halt sales of a device that has been claimed to offer protection against the supposed dangers of 5G via use of quantum technology.

Cyber-security experts say the £339 5GBioShield appears to no more than a basic USB drive.

This story is incredible in so many ways.

Especially when you get to this:

Each of these USB keys costs £339.60 including VAT, though there is a special offer of three for £958.80.

But, at first sight, it seems to be just that – a USB key, with just 128MB of storage.

“So what’s different between it and a virtually identical ‘crystal’ USB key available from various suppliers in Shenzhen, China, for around £5 per key?” asks Ken Munro, whose company, Pen Test Partners, specialises in taking apart consumer electronic products to spot security vulnerabilities.

And the answer appears to be a circular sticker.

The Miracle Sudoku

27th May 2020

A few days ago, I kept seeing a tweet regarding some kind of impressive sudoku puzzle. I was mildly interested, but not enough to trigger me to watch a 25 minute video. Then I saw Jason Kottke write about it, and that was then linked to by John Gruber. And as I had some free time tonight, I decided to give it a watch.

As soon as I saw that minimal sudoku board, I was intrigued. It had a single 1, and a single 2. And from that, somehow you could complete it.

It’s not just a normal sudoku puzzle though, there are two extra rules:

  1. Any two cells separated by a knight’s move or a king’s move (in chess) cannot contain the same digit.
  2. Any two orthogonally adjacent cells cannot contain consecutive digits.

After about 4 minutes into the video, the rules were explained, and I just had to try this myself. So I paused the video, and found the link to the puzzle. And after around 45 minutes (A rough estimate as I was doing other things at the same time), I finally did it. It truly is a fantastic sudoku.

I still had to watch the rest of the video though, and it was totally worth it. You watch him start with a seemingly impossible puzzle, which he starts to make progress on, and then suddenly it clicks. A fascinating thing to watch.


Watch the video on YouTube, and if you want, try the puzzle for yourself.

I’m now going to see if I can find some more puzzles I can do!

Why I “Force” Quit Apps

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?

Six Shortcuts Livestreams I’ve Done in May

26th May 2020 | Permalink

Matthew Cassinelli:

Since the start of May, I’ve streamed with the developers of Charty, Timery, and LaunchCuts (plus talked to the Data Jar developer), plus in the process reached out for more streams in the form of Chris Lawley showing my editing videos on iPad with LumaFusion, I showed Matt Cox the basics of shortcuts over an hour, and I had the pleasure of Jason Snell walking me through one of his Charty shortcuts.

Matthew has created quite a collection of videos with these live streams. I’ve just watched the Charty and LumaFusion video so far, and although I don’t use these apps myself, I still found them interesting. I’m definitely going to watch the rest!

The Awesome Mac OS Catalina Fonts You Didn’t Know You Had Access To

26th May 2020 | Permalink

Ralf Herrmann, writing at Typography.Guru:

Apple has recently licensed fonts from type foundries such as Commercial Type, Klim Type Foundry and Mark Simonson Studio to be used as system fonts on Mac OS Catalina. But since these fonts are an optional download, many users of Mac OS X are not even aware they have access to them for free.

To see and install these optional fonts, open the FontBook application and switch to “All Fonts”. Browse the font list and you will see lots of font families that are greyed out—either because they were deactivated or they weren’t downloaded yet. If you right-click on a font or font family that wasn’t downloaded yet, you see an option to download the individual font or entire family.

Who would have thought there was essentially “hidden” fonts in Catalina? I certainly wouldn’t.

Well, there’s tons. And it includes some pretty nice ones as well, such as Domaine Display, Canela, Proxima Nova, Graphik, and Produkt.

Apple Releases iOS 13.5 With COVID-19 Exposure Notifications, Face ID Bypass for Masks, FaceTime Setting, and Apple Music Stories Sharing

22nd May 2020 | Permalink

Ryan Christoffel, writing at MacStories:

Today Apple released what is essentially a COVID-19 update for iPhones. iOS 13.5 includes several features specifically designed for our current global pandemic, including exposure notifications, mask detection for bypassing Face ID, and a new prominence setting for FaceTime, along with a nice new Apple Music sharing feature optimized for Instagram Stories. With WWDC and iOS 14’s reveal only a month away, this is likely the last major update to the current OS release cycle.

This update is no doubt going to be known as the COVID-19 update, simply because of the exposure notifications. But seeing as we don’t have an app that supports that currently here in the UK, it’s really just the “Apple Music x Instagram” update for us. Which is totally fine with me. Because I really like how it’s been done, and it looks great!

Charty for Shortcuts

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.

The Best Way To Retain What You Read

21st May 2020 | Permalink

Brett and Kate McKay:

We’re exposed to a torrent of media these days, much of it dross that we’re happy to forget in the time it takes to scroll to the next thing. But sometimes we’re reading a passage in a book or article that is so interesting or inspiring we feel we’d like to remember it for a long time. 

Typically, even if we mentally repeat and rehearse the arresting content, we find ourselves in the position described above — just a day, or even an hour later, we can’t recall what we read. Interesting, weighty, even potentially life-changing insights have permanently evaporated from our minds.

The solution:

If you’d like to retain and secure more of the information you consume instead of letting noteworthy knowledge pass right through you, here’s the best way to do so: share it with someone else.

I’ve never known the science behind this, but I’ve certainly noticed that I learn things better when I’m teaching it to others. Just like right now at work, I was on a training course where I didn’t quite remember everything. But when I was tasked with teaching other people, I found that I could recall the knowledge much easier.