Posting on Mastodon Scott Jenson suggested that text editing on the iPad is “tedious”. My initial reaction was, no, it’s not. I read through the thread and I think it speaks more to his lack of experience with the iPad. From his various posts it would seem he decided to jump into one of those “can the iPad be my computer stunts” and bumped into a variety of bugs and differences he didn’t like. Now, I can’t speak to the bugs as I’ve found the iPad with keyboard/trackpad to be rock solid for years.

    I hopped over to his very in depth blog post. He makes some great points there in regards to touch-based editing of text but it seems to be oriented towards phone-based editing.

    I’ve been coding and writing with a variety hardware keyboards and text editors on the iPad for years, have I just adapted to a poor experience? Is text editing that much better an a Mac? I don’t think so but I’ll get back to that comparison in a bit.

    His primary point is that while typing initial text is fine, it’s the going back to edit text that is broken. He attributes this to the origins of text editing conventions established with desktop computing being adapted to touch screens.

    Text editing on mobile isn’t ok. It’s actually much worse than you think, an invisible problem very few appreciate…

    Android and iOS share a common problem: they copied desktop text editing conventions, but without a menu bar or mouse. This forced them to overload the tap gesture with a wide range of actions: placing the cursor, moving it, selecting text, and invoking a pop-up menu. This results in an overly complicated and ambiguous mess-o-taps, leading to a variety of user errors.

    My first thought on reading through his post is that it’s certainly true that text editing can be more difficult if one is only using touch. I think the experience is far better today than it was but it can be frustrating at times. But I would add that I think some of the frustration likely comes from a lack of practice. There’s a fine line between spending time and learning the features and process of touch-based text editing and spending time with a touch based device and adapting to a bad experience. That’s a nuance I’m not sure how to define.

    While his post is focused on Android he makes it clear that he thinks the problem crosses over to iOS. He conducted a ten person experiment giving users simple text editing tasks like deleting a character or moving a word to the end of a sentence:

    Every single person had problems with targeting, using the clipboard, and made lots and lots of errors…

    They all expressed frustration, but not so much with messaging or social media apps, where they typically only needed to write short bursts of text. However, when it came to composing more complex text, such as multiple-sentence emails, they often said things like, “I’ll start it on my phone, but if it gets too complex, I’ll just finish it on my laptop.”

    Well, I can certainly relate to that. But he’s mixing things up a bit here. Notice, he wrote “composing more complex text, such as multiple-sentence emails”. See, now he’s talking about both the typing of initial text and editing. For people used to computing with a hardware keyboard composing with a touch screen is very likely going to be a subpar, slower, more error prone experience. I dislike it and won’t do it at all. Anything more than a couple words and I go to dictation. But that’s composing from scratch and then also editing. Yuck.

    The experience I have tapping with my fingers on my iPhone is NOT the experience I have on my iPad when it’s attached to keyboard.

    In discussing text editing with a desktop/laptop he writes:

    The combination of these three features—an accurate pointer, simple selection, and a menu with command keys—made text editing easy, relatively error-free, and unambiguous.

    Fair enough and agreed! But much of the post is about editing text with touch. Now, up to 2020 I was using the iPad with an external keyboard and touch-based editing and had become very proficient. Was it as easy as a desktop with a pointing device? Perhaps not but the combination did work very well for me in part because I was starting with a hardware keyboard for input. And with practice I was quite good with touch-based selection, etc. It was not as accurate as a cursor but it generally worked for me in part because I used the touch-tap to move the cursor and then used the keyboard to select/copy/cut text. Then tap/touch again to paste, etc. Also, when one is proficient with a touch screen on an iPad, it’s second nature to quickly scroll with the fingers. Moving in a large text document can be very fast. The touch screen is a very nice trackpad!

    He really doesn’t address text editing on the iPad with a trackpad or mouse for cursor support. In my time revisiting the Mac to compare to the iPad I didn’t find it easier on the Mac. Perhaps that’s because I’ve become familiar with any differences between the two. The iPad with an external keyboard/trackpad have been my daily experience for 4 years now. With one finger using the touch screen and the other on the keyboard/trackpad, the combination of inputs can be very powerful. In this way an iPad in the Magic Keyboard with a trackpad is, with practice, better than a laptop with just a trackpad.

    That said, I would highlight one problem area: inconsistency in selecting text to move. Some apps allow for selection and then dragging the selection to a different spot in the document. Others don’t. Some seem to support it with touch based selection and moving but not with a trackpad cursor. Those that do support selecting and then moving with a trackpad or mouse can be very clumsy or inconsistent. In particular I noticed Textastic on the iPad does not allow for a long press to move selected text via drag and drop. It does work on Textastic on the Mac.

    This may be a problem for some. It’s never been a problem for me because I don’t select text for movement via drag and drop. As I’ve got a keyboard attached I select text then use the keyboard shortcut to copy or cut and then paste. I had to go out of my way to discover that it didn’t work in Textastic.

    I do think there is room for improvement with touch-based text entry and editing but this sort of post just gets messy trying to cover too much ground with too many variables. Different people with different experiences, needs, temperments, etc all influence expectations, willingness to learn and final outcomes. We have very powerful computers that come in radically different form factors that are suited to different tasks, users, and situations. Find the mix of devices that work best for you in whatever situations you tend to be in. Learn how to use them, be ready to learn more with new device form factors and OSs. Prepare to be frustrated at times, delighted at other times.

    A quick follow-up to my post earlier this morning about blogging from my OBTF. One issue I mentioned as a possible friction point was posts containing images. I solved it easily with a Shortcut that I’ll use for every post regardless of whether they contain images. It’s a simple Shortcut that shares the text as an individual file in Obsidian. This allows for the same, easy posting from iA Writer when I’ve got images in a post. I’ll go ahead and do this for every post as it will continue adding those individual files to the blog posts folder in Obsidian. If I decide in the future not to blog from OBTF all of my posts are still intact as individual files. I’ve also set the Shortcut to copy the post text and open a new post on the Micro.blog website. If you’re an Apple user and you’re not using Shortcuts you’re missing out!

    A few spring 2024 iPad thoughts.

    In the first months of 2024 the story of the iPad being told by the Apple pundits was along the lines of “2023 was such a disappointing year for the iPad because there was no new hardware”. An oddity given that the same group has been complaining for years that the iPad Pro hardware is too powerful for its OS along with a complaint of no Apple Pro software for the iPad. Their story being that new hardware isn’t really what’s needed but, rather, pro apps and a better OS. Even stranger given that in May of 2023 Apple had surprised everyone with a pretty huge iPad release: Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad!

    But really, it’s old hat at this point, the goal posts are always moved or the story is just flipped: improvements to iPadOS, the new pro apps were largely ignored in the buzz of “where was the new iPad hardware?” New iPad hardware rumors changed from a March to April to May release. So, any day now. And, predictably, the pundits that have been clamoring for new hardware will be disappointed. Review headlines will, across the board, exclaim with great frustration: “Amazing new hardware but it’s too pricey for hardware running such a limited OS! Apple should just allow macOS on the iPad!” And, predictably, the pundits will then all echo one another for the few weeks leading up to WWDC: Apple should just let us run macOS on the iPad.

    I’ll guess that their frustration will continue after Apple does not announce macOS for the iPad at WWDC. Apple will continue to improve iPadOS year to year. They’ll continue to improve FCP and Logic Pro on the iPad. Those improvements will never be enough for Mac users. But here’s the thing, those frustrated pundits and Mac users are only a tiny portion of the iPad user base and I’m not just talking about the casual users but also “pro” level users. Take this relatively small bit of iPad hardware news announced last week: Blackmagic Design releases a DaVinci Resolve editing panel for iPads - The Verge:

    Blackmagic Design announced its video editing software, DaVinci Resolve, was coming to the iPad back in 2022, and although it supports multitouch input and the Apple Pencil, sometimes, nothing beats purpose-built hardware. On Friday, Blackmagic announced the $495 DaVinci Resolve Micro Color Panel, which it says will be available worldwide in May and is specifically designed for the iPad.

    It’s the sort of news that won’t likely get much attention from Apple pundits because it is a niche iPad peripheral created for a very small subset of pro video creators. But it demonstrates the gap in their thinking and a lack of recognition that there are people and companies that are using and investing in the iPad as it is today. Whether it’s video oriented creators using DaVinci Resolve or Final Cut Pro, artists using Procreate, designers using the Affinity suite of apps or even folks using more mundane tasks completed with Microsoft Office apps.

    I’ve shared this list before but I think it’s worth sharing again as it illustrates that while pundits have gotten stuck in a very negative rut regarding their view of the iPad there are millions of users out there just doing their thing. Here’s just a quick sample of some of the big hitters I looked at. These are the number of ratings and average rating, not the number of app downloads:

    • Microsoft Word, 2 million ratings, 4.7 stars
    • Microsoft Outlook, 6.6 million ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Microsoft Teams, 3.2 million ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Microsoft Excel, 1 million ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Microsoft OneNote, 855,000 ratings, 4.7 stars
    • Microsoft Power BI (I’d never heard of it but it’s for business data analytics ) 67,000 ratings, 4.7 stars
    • Salesforce, 295,000 ratings, 4.7 stars
    • LinkedIn Sales Navigator, 42,000 ratings, 4.8 stars
    • LinkedIn Learning, 78,000 ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Procreate, 40,000 ratings, 4.5 stars
    • Sketchbook, 216,000 ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Canva 1.9 million ratings, 4.9 stars
    • LumaFusion 23,000 rating,s 4.8 stars
    • Adobe Premier Rush, 120,000 ratings, 4.6 stars
    • Adobe Photoshop 61,000 ratings, 4.4 stars
    • Adobe Lightroom, 40,000 ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Adobe Illustrator, 32,000 ratings, 4.5 stars
    • Adobe Fresco, 39,000 ratings, 4.7 stars
    • AutoCAD, 6,000 ratings, 4.4 stars
    • Morpholio Trace - Sketch CAD 9,600 ratings, 4.7 stars

    That is just a small sample. The reality of the iPad in use by hundreds of thousands to millions of users in 2024 is a very different story from that being repeated by the pundits to themselves. Perhaps in 2024 they will notice that it is their story that needs an update.

    This is a crazy good deal if you want or need an alternative to Adobe apps. One time purchase, 30% off.

    Affinity – Professional Creative Software

    Affinity V2 Universal License

    Get Version 2 of Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher on all operating systems, including iPad, for one low bundle price.

    All apps. All platforms.No subscription.

    Was USD$164.99 Now $114.99

    The always evolving iPad set-up (and speculations on the iPad's future)

    It's March of 2024 and we're expecting new iPad and likely a new Magic Keyboard sometime this month. Given Apple rolled out 2 new MacBook Airs on Monday I'd guess iPad releases will be next Monday, the 11th. My main interest isn't the iPad itself but the Magic Keyboard. I'm doubtful that it will be backward compatible put I'm not ruling it out. My hope is that it's backward compatible to 2018 models and that it's something closer to the Brydge keyboard offering. Heavier than the current Magic Keyboard for iPad, with a base that includes a battery and ports. Basically leaning into the laptop form factor.

    Read More →

    The Apple pundit club strikes again

    Hey hey, look, the Apple pundit club have gotten together to do their Apple report card again! Not a surprise but they’re all declaring the iPad is still dying? And then of course there are the folks like Steve Troughton-Smith chiming in on Mastodon but he and other commenters in the thread aren’t offering anything new either. It’s just a repetition of the pundit echo chamber.

    Even worse, many commenters proudly proclaim that they’re still using old hardware from before 2020. One even stating he uses a 2017 iPad Pro while complaining about poor multi-tasking. They’re so busy proving that they can’t be bothered with the iPad they are that they apparently haven’t stopped to consider that 3GB of memory in a 2018 iPad might not function as well as a modern M1 iPad with 8 or 16GB of memory. Maybe base your judgment on the real-world capabilities of current hardware?

    Let’s see, no, really, this is going to be fun. A year ago, February 2023, “the iPad guy” as he calls himself spent 12 months complaining that the Stage Manager was broken. He made a big show of switching to the Mac.

    Many others said the Mac and iPad OS’s needed a “Snow Leopard” year. Yes, that’s an Apple trope when they all conclude that there are too many bugs and that Apple should go easy on new features, take a year fixing bugs. Yes, the Pundits were in quite an uproar about the redesign of the Mac Settings app. Meanwhile they were all also saying that the iPad Pro was overpowered with no pro apps.

    Now, keep with me here. In late spring Apple released Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, their two most well known pro apps. The pundits reaction? “Finally!” But many of them immediately panned the releases because the new iPad apps lacked some features. You know, sort of ignoring that these were entirely new, version 1 apps for iPad. BUT, BUT, BUT not perfect, lacking full feature parity… FAIL!! Also, same day, BUT, BUT, BUT, no Xcode!!! FAIL!!!!

    By late May the Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro releases were old news and hardly mattered. WWDC was around the corner. And yes, some new features were announced but, you know, nothing that interesting according to the pundits. At least Stage Manager seemed to be getting a fix. In summary, big MEH. Never mind that they’d all been clamoring for a “Snow Leopard” release which is what they got. Though not really as there were quite a few new features but not enough to impress. And yes, Stage Manager was fixed. And even enabled for older iPads which had been a big complaint. But, you know, MEH. The star of the show was Vision Pro.

    Jump forward to the end of 2023, no new iPads! Oh, this is terrible. No new iPads!! Where’s the new new? The new hardware? Where is it!!! A thousand pundits needing clickbait fodder cried out.

    But wait, the previous group think was that the iPad hardware with the M2 was way over-powered. How is the lack of new over-powered hardware a problem?

    My take on the pundits and their iPad “analysis”: Garbage. It’s self-contradictory, confused cry-baby group think. They ignore the progress that’s made and forget what they’ve complained about the previous year. And when prevous critiques are addressed they ignore it, likely having forgotten what a big problem they’d claimed it was.

    And they ignore the fact that tens of millions of iPads continue to be sold even with the boring old design.

    Do none of these people have family that they still speak to? Does my family happen to be a bunch of weirdos? Because I’ll tell you, in my family of weirdos iPads are the second most popular computer to the iPhone. There are only 5 Macs, 3 PCs and 8+ iPads.

    Pundits think themselves the center of the tech world but seem to forget that, in fact, they’re the weirdos that change their to-do apps, notes apps, text editors 3 times a month. It’s pundits that complain that the iPad can’t be used to code apps in Xcode or be used to record multiple streams of audio at the same time. Pundits that are the edge cases.

    So a few pundits can’t seem to figure out what to do with their iPads. Meanwhile millions of iPads are, in fact, being sold. Millions of users are buying apps on the App Store. Huh. What are millions of users getting from the App Store?

    Here’s just a quick sample of some of the big hitters I guess at. These are the number of ratings and average rating, not the number of app downloads:

    • Microsoft Word, 2 million ratings, 4.7 stars
    • Microsoft Outlook, 6.6 million ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Microsoft Teams, 3.2 million ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Microsoft Excel, 1 million ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Microsoft OneNote, 855,000 ratings, 4.7 stars
    • Microsoft Power BI (I’d never heard of it but it’s for business data analytics ) 67,000 ratings, 4.7 stars
    • Salesforce, 295,000 ratings, 4.7 stars
    • LinkedIn Sales Navigator, 42,000 ratings, 4.8 stars
    • LinkedIn Learning, 78,000 ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Procreate, 40,000 ratings, 4.5 stars
    • Sketchbook, 216,000 ratings, 4.8 stars
    • Canva 1.9 million ratings, 4.9 stars
    • Lightroom, 38,000 ratings, 4.8 stars
    • AutoCAD, 6,000 ratings, 4.4 stars
    • Morpholio Trace - Sketch CAD 9,600 ratings, 4.7 stars

    The list goes on and on and on. Gosh, well, I mean, maybe I’m getting the wrong idea here, but it seems like if one were to step outside of the pundit club and spend just a minimal effort thinking about sales numbers, app downloads, app ratings, one might actually come up with another narrative, one in which millions of iPads are not just purchased but then put to actual use out there in this big world.

    But no, no, that doesn’t fit well with the story these guys are telling each other.

    Do better pundits. If you’re going to make a living demanding that Apple do better, that Apple meet your high standards, hows about you raise your standards for yourselves. Do some actual thinking. Step outside your own preconceived notions about how tech is used.

    Try doing your jobs.

    The iPad Pro, Mac and Vision Pro can all co-exist

    It’s been a couple weeks since Apple released it’s iPad Face Computer and various memes are bouncing around the pundit echo chamber. I’ve not tried it and don’t expect to anytime in the foreseeable future. I have issues with vertigo that would likely make it less than optimal but, also, it’s far beyond my budget. All that said, as the iPad is my preferred computer, I see the merits of VisionOS being based on iPadOS and that brings me to the primary point of this post.

    It’s been an ongoing meme in the Apple pundit and social mediaverse that Apple should bring macOS to the iPad Pro. I don’t think it will and I hope it doesn’t.

    For those that want macOS on an iPad, VisionOS has the solution. Build in native support for screen sharing with a Mac. If your preference is the Mac and the iPad is a secondary device then you’ll likely have a Mac nearby and the screen sharing that VisionOS offers would likely work just fine. I’ve got a Mac as a file server and when I need to check in on it to update the OS the Screens app is perfect. I login and it feels as though I’m using macOS on the iPad. The only drawback that would likely be solved by a solution provided by Apple is that the Mac’s screen dimension is different resulting in black bars along the top and bottom of the iPad screen. I’d guess Apple would provide a full screen solution.

    Why not have macOS as an option for the iPad Pro? If you want macOS buy a Mac. If you really enjoy and want an iPad, buy an iPad. If you enjoy both, buy both.

    I think there are those out there that are suggesting they would just purchase an iPad Pro instead of a Mac. That the iPad would be the one solution that could do both, boot into either OS as desired. Or that what they want is a touch screen Mac. Here’s my prediction of variations of the reviews of the real-world experiences of that device:

    • “The iPad Pro that can boot with macOS is great until I need to do this particular task that is too slow because the iPad is thermally constricted because it doesn’t have fans. iPad is great for light duty work but for my pro work I need the upper end of Mac hardware with fans.” These are the reviews from people that currently use MacBook Pros, Mac Studio, etc.
    • “Sure, it’s great that the iPad Pro can boot macOS but I don’t want to pay an extra $700 for the touch screen and extra Magic Keyboard. I don’t use iPadOS and the touch screen enough to pay that extra cost. I’ll just buy a MacBook Air for less.”
    • “The iPad Pro with macOS is underpowered and still requires a trackpad and a keyboard. And I don’t really want to use iPadOS, I might as well just get a Mac and save money.”
    • And if Apple were to provide a touch interface for macOS on the iPad hardware: “This touch experience doesn’t feel right. Apple needs to fix it. I’m just going to turn it off and use a trackpad and keyboard.”
    • Or, “It’s great that Apple provides a touch-based macOS experience on the iPad, why not just call it a Mac? We don’t need the iPad Pro anymore, it’s all just so confusing. Look at that confusing lineup.”

    Taking off from the last two points, many Mac users argue that iPadOS is too limited in many ways and that a touch optimized macOS would allow for all the Mac things. True. But I don’t think it will happen and I don’t want it to happen. Here’s why.

    • Apple has spent the past few years increasing the capabilities of iPadOS. It retains the simple user mode that came with the original iPad. But it now has a far more capable Files app and Stage Manager for the advanced users. Every year the advanced features of iPadOS get better. I don’t want Apple to turn it’s attention away from that effort to accommodate users that prefer macOS. .
    • Apple has spent time and resources to bring Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro to the iPad Pro. I don’t think they’re going to back track on that kind of effort and I don’t think they would have taken that step if they had plans to bring macOS to the iPad.
    • There are now features for visionOS that could come to iPadOS. Primarily I’m thinking of the above mentioned Mac screen sharing that would address the “put macOS on the iPad” problem. But perhaps others might follow. Would eye tracking and the finger gestures work on future iPad hardware with improved cameras? I’d rather see Apple’s focus be on improving and innovating iPadOS instead of accommodating users that prefer macOS.

    And finally, a last point to the small group of pundits that are breathlessly enthusiastic about the Vision Pro eventually replacing the iPad and/or the Mac, just stop. Stop. The Vision Pro is its own thing. It doesn’t need to replace anything. There are far too many iPad users that could never afford even a cheaper Vision Pro and many that would never want to strap on a face computer. So, just stop with the hot takes that are not grounded in reality.

    And to the pundits and YouTubers that will spend the next 5 years trying to make a living off of clickbait stunts like “I sold my Mac/iPad! Can I get all my work done with the Vision Pro!?”, again, stop. Don’t. Just don’t. That whole meme has already outlasted its welcome and usefulness with the iPad version. Find something more original to talk about.

    Apple getting weird?

    Jason Snell wants Apple to get weird. Here’s my pitch for a new iPad Studio. Hang with me for a minute because this is, well, weird.

    The M series board, battery and everything that we now know as an iPad is not behind a screen. It’s a keyboard. It’s the base where most of the weight is. And it has more ports.

    The touch screen would be thinner and lighter than what we now know as an iPad. It would also have a battery just for the screen and the most minimal hardware to connect the two wirelessly. Dock the screen to the keyboard to charge the screen and Pencil. Use it docked as a laptop. Remove the screen to use it as a tablet. Hold it, put it in a raised stand, walk around within the wireless range of the base unit. It’s thinner and lighter when used hand held. Comes as a 13 and 15". This is the mobile screen for the laptop form factor.

    An additional, desktop form factor is possible with an add-on accessory: a 24" desktop touch screen for graphic design that has a base unit that allows it to fold down at a low angle for use as a graphics tablet or positioned upright as a traditional screen. Or use it with any Apple Studio Display without touch input.

    This would NOT run macOS. iPadOS only.

    What we currently know as the iPad Pro would also continue in a less radical form. The screen would remain the iPad with a new, more lap-top like base as is rumored. It would have its own battery. The current iPad Pro battery would retain it’s current 10 hour life but could be charged by the base. The base would add additional ports though the iPad itself would still just have one USB C port.

    There you have it. The new iPad Pro and iPad Studio.

    An easy hack for an ever present clipboard history for iPad!

    This is fairly easy and straightforward though it requires more than one Apple device. Ensure that you’ve got handoff/continuity turned on for the shared clipboard on your devices.

    Install an app like PastePal or another similar app that has iCloud sync and the ability to automatically monitor the clipboard. PastePal is a one-time payment and works on iPad, iPhone and Mac. My iPad Mini is always within reach as is my iPhone. For now I’ve added the app to both of those device home screens. It does require that the app be active on the device, not in the background. So it’s not a perfect solution. In theory a nearby Mac should also work but my Mac often stops seeing shared clipboards whereas the iPhone/iPads almost always work.

    Anytime I copy on my iPad Pro my secondary “PastePal Server” gets the clipboard and it syncs back to my iPad Pro almost immediately. I’ve been using it all day and it’s worked flawlessly. Editing to add: It’s important to check the settings for the app. Turn on Monitor Clipboard, iCloud sync as well as “Save images in iCloud Drive”.

    I’d tried this awhile back using an app called Yoink which also has iCloud sync and clipboard monitoring. It should work in the same way but I found it unreliable so gave up on it. Yoink does okay to monitor the clipboard on the iPad using a kind of hacky method using the picture-in-picture to remain active. But at some point fairly recently I noticed that not all clipboard items were being reliably saved in the app.

    What's a professional?*

    I opened Mastodon this morning to find this fun thread about the iPad. It seems to be a reference to the latest episode of the Talk Show, with John Gruber and Casey Liss.

    Gruber continues with his odd, angry fixation on the iPad:

    You’re making excuses for a platform that has baby computer limits. It’s a 14-year-old platform and you still can’t make iPad apps on an iPad.

    Lol, really? Again, I’ll just say that I find it bizarre that pundits are so frustrated, angry even, about a device that they don’t even use. It’s as though they can’t conceive that not everything is made for them. Guys, use your macs and be happy that you have a computer that works for you.

    Not everything in this world is made for you. It’s okay to just move on.

    Along with Gruber Casey Liss chimed in calling the iPad a toy but suggesting it’s a matter of perspective.

    I engaged with Casey a bit and during that back and forth I shared my observation that many if not most tech/Apple podcasts are casual banter meant to be entertainment rather than journalism. Not meant to be derogatory, just a simple statement. He didn’t think it was fair.

    LOL. Wait. Fair?

    For context, I mean, really. Listen to any random episode of these guys' podcasts, the Talk Show or Accidental Tech Podcast and it’s immediately obvious that this is not journalism.They’re doing casual banter full of opinion, speculation and hot takes often dramatically expressed with great exasperation. I mean, with ATP that seems to be their schtick, right?

    I mean, look, at least some of these guys seem to make a pretty good living from podcasting. Which is to say, it’s their profession. They are, ostensibly, professional podcasters and writers. And it’s fine that what they are offering is punditry but they shouldn’t claim otherwise.

    The downside is that, at least in the tech “press”, punditry has largely displaced actual, fact-based journalism. And I suspect that many in the public don’t always discern between the two. So when popular podcasters that are viewed as having some authority are casually sharing misinformation, that’s not great.

    I’ve written about it before:

    • For the iPad fans, in case it’s not obvious, that’s a reference to Apple’s “What’s a computer” ad from several years ago.

    I love Warner Crocker’s incredibly detailed post about the various ways the iPad fits into his workflow. He gets into the specifics of when the iPad Mini is the better device, when the larger iPad is better and then how the Mac and iPhone are used. Making the best use of the strengths of each form factor for different parts of the process.

    I think this might be my all-time favorite “how I use the iPad” posts. Helpful and entertaining!

    The iPad Is My Perfect Theatre Rehearsal Tool

    I own the latest models of an 11-inch iPad Pro and also an iPad mini. Love them both. I use them in similar but different ways, fitting the tool to the job of the moment. I may be a gadget geek, but I’m primarily a theatre professional. Most of my work is directing plays. Both serve me well in my job. Currently, I’m working out of town on staging The Lehman Trilogy. Both the iPad Pro and the iPad mini suitably fill my down hours with entertainment and are reliable work horses for the gig. To be honest, their roles as tools are so familiar that to call my usage “rote” would be accurate.

    There’s quite a bit more I’d like to quote but better you just read Warner’s post.

    Several years ago Apple did a story highlighting how the iPad was being used by archaeologists. This is exactly that kind of story without the corporate baloney.

    2023 Year in Review (Also, a few interior photos of my tiny house, pardon the mess😂)

    My life is generally best characterized as small, slow and steady, I suspect a sharp contrast to most. If you're someone primarily interested in a tech oriented accounting you should skip to the last section. What comes before that is fairly comprehensive and even a bit philosophical in nature. I'm mostly writing this for myself so it's chock-full of details most people likely won't be interested in.

    Home and Landscape

    I live in a 200 sq ft tiny house that doesn't need much in the way of maintenance or improvements. I often make small adjustments to the arrangement of the space.

    The more significant work is spent outside managing various aspects of the landscape. My garden has been small to nonexistent the past couple of years but I still end up spending a lot of time with various projects. This year it was transplanting blackberries and then, later, keeping them alive during a bit of early summer drought. Then daily harvesting in July.

    In late August after a third extreme rainfall event and increasing run-off damage to our gravel roads I decided to take care of some long over-due maintenance. As I don't have a tractor this was my daily exercise, 1-2 hours a day. When I started I was unsure of the scope of the work. My intent was to start with the most problematic 40 feet of road and if it went well to continue on to another section. That first section went very well and I had it completed in 4 days. I ended up working on the remaining damaged sections through early December. I'd estimate 90 days averaging About 1.5 hours a day. It went very well. Various sections of road and driveway are much improved and the exercise generally felt very good. There's more to do but I'm taking a break now that it's gotten colder and the road is somewhat frozen.

    Another fall project was clearing out several years worth of growth around our well house. I live in the woods and love it. I'm not in the habit of aggressively cutting back trees, shrubs, vines unless there's a reason to do so. This fall some new forest critters decided to make their homes in our shed and well house. Wood rats! These are about the size of squirrels but without the fuzzy tails.

    I started noticing nests and food caches of acorns and wild grapes appearing in both my shed and the well house. I removed them and started taking steps to remove any sense of comfort my little friends had in these spaces. I decluttered the shed and made a point of just being out there a bit for a week. It's an old shed, somewhat open to the environment. Not sealed off tightly. My strategy worked.

    The well house was another situation. Autumn olive bushes, wild grapes and honeysuckle had crept in all around the well house. The thick growth right up to the building was perfect for my friends. Food, cover, and nesting material. I don't spend much time in the well house but check it in the fall to prepare for winter. That's when I discovered my friends had started moving in.

    It prompted me to take a closer look at the building and the surroundings. Where previously I'd seen the approaching mini-forest as a welcome wind break and habitat for birds (hummingbirds like to nest in the thick growth) I now had to reckon with the fact that it was also habitat for these new neighbors that were very determined to get inside the building and build nests. I sorted out their various access points and started patching old wood they had chewed through. And during the same couple of weeks I began, reluctantly, cutting back all of the growth of the mini forest. It took about three weeks in total. I cleared the area, patched the walls, sealed the outside of the building around the crawlspace.

    A final part of this project was tearing down the original, still attached mini-well house structure that had been built by others many years ago. It still served as cover for our well head and the piping into the well house. I removed that and built a much smaller structure using some salvaged wood and windows. It looks a bit like a tiny A-frame greenhouse. It will serve for this winter and will likely be replaced next year as I suspect that the larger well house is going to need some significant work.


    I'm still dealing with some sort of inner ear issue that began with a severe, daylong episode of vertigo in September 2022. Without a doctor I've self diagnosed as some sort of Labyrinthitis. The general cause of that condition is bacterial or viral infection. Treatment seems to be centered on steroid shots and vestibular therapy. Generally the advice is to get on living life and allow the brain to adapt. Over the past 15 months it's gotten better allowing me to do normal day-to-day.

    Another symptom is tinnitus which I counter with background audio from the DarkNoise app playing 24/7. I've found a pleasant mix of crickets, creek and frogs helps a lot. The crickets are the key frequency/pattern, the frogs/creek are just there to create a pleasant background.

    Other health, once I got past the first three months of intense vertigo I was able to get back to my normal routines of daily dog walks and even short 20-30 trail rides on the bike. Strangely I notice the vertigo less when riding the bike.

    A last health note, I've had to be much more attentive to drinking enough water and salt intake. I've probably always taken in too much sodium and not enough water. Noticed high blood pressure a year ago. Careful now to drink a minimum of 70 ounces of fluid a day and generally have sodium intake down to 2,200 mg per day. BP has returned to normal as a result.

    I'm very happy to have gotten into the habit of daily diet tracking via iPhone app as well as exercise tracking with the Apple Watch. Both devices/apps have been very helpful in making sure that I'm being honest with myself about keeping a balance.

    Personal Climate-Adaption

    I've been on this one for a long time but have gotten even more restrictive with myself the past 3-4 years. I'm well aware that my singular efforts are irrelevant but I do it because I believe that if we humans had solidarity with one another and the planet we could fix this problem by common, collective action. Government or no, we could fix it by helping one another live differently. So, I'll keep talking about it, encouraging others and at the end of each day I know I've acted as though we were all working together.

    The top 5 cuts to make (according to data) are ones I've got covered pretty well.

    • I do own a car but miles driven over the past year are very low at 150. 300 miles over past two years. Only driving necessary trips for groceries/supplies from town. Around 10 trips per year.
    • Continue to conserve electricity as much as possible. Example data, it's 55° in cabin this morning. Winter is easier as it's no problem to just add layers as needed. Even at 55-60° I'm cozy and comfortable. Summer is more difficult. Lots of humidity in Missouri but summer temps have been lower than what most have had to contend with the past few years. In any case, as with heating, cooling a smaller space is less energy. I try to keep it between 76-80. Probably averaging 77-78 most days.
    • I've not traveled by air in 20 years.
    • I have no kids and at 54, single and having had a vasectomy several years ago it's assured I'l continue to not have any.
    • My diet is nearly vegan. I do ice cream, occasional cheese, occasional eggs, occasional fish. A note about meat: I don't buy it but if my family are offering fish caught locally I'll eat some of that. Also, if left-over meat of almost any kind is going to get thrown away I'll eat it so it's not wasted.
    • I do most outdoor work by hand. As mentioned above, most road work this past fall was with no fossil fuels. My uncle has a tractor and I did help him with his section of road. I worked by hand and helped direct him on the tractor. Surprisingly some things are actually better done with hand tools. I try to minimize grass lawn but I do have some to cut. Also, areas where invasive lespedeza has moved in has to be mowed. I use a battery/electric mower that's charged with solar panels.
    • Re-use and recycling. I continue my trend of few to no clothing purchases. Between clothing given to me by folks that are cleaning storage/closets I usually have far more than I need. I've nearly eliminated hard plastic packaging from store bought items. With just one or two exceptions everything I buy comes recyclable steel or in paper or paperboard that I compost. Some food comes in pastic bags (lentils, beans, tortillas) but that's about it. I've recently discovered the joys of waffles made from flour and a waffle iron. I'm not a big bread eater but I'm going to try to use waffes as a bread substitute.

    Working for income

    I continue to have a love-hate relationship with money. I love to hate it. But as a human living in a capitalist system I also need it. I continue to generally live far outside what is normal in terms of work and income. I was thinking about climate, biodiversity and other environmental problems in 1990 when I was 21 years old which was around the time I rejected any idea of going after the American Dream. With no kids and a very tiny dwelling I have fewer expenses. Add to this my general frugality in pursuit of limiting carbon and waste and it means I can get by with far less than most.

    My freelance work continues per the usual though in recent years I've had far fewer requests for new websites. Most of my client-work is maintenance of a websites as well as a mix of document layout/design and data/spreadsheet entry. In general, slower but steady.


    My tech purchasing this year was minimal. My AirPods Pro died after 3 years of use so I replaced those. I also added a small 15" portable display. My intent was to use that as a second display for the iPad when I'm working from the futon. It proved useful not only as a work-related display but I've also been using it with the AppleTV. I also added a new keyboard and mouse, both are working out very well.

    I have an older LED TV for movies but I've not been using it much. As I've gotten older and my eyesight worsens I'm finding I prefer a closer screen for entertainment purposes. The reason being I also browse the web with my iPad while watching some things. The TV 10 feet away requires my glasses but reading on the iPad requires that I take off the glasses. A second display within a couple feet allows me to watch and browse without glasses. I suspect I'll be trying to find a new home to donate the tv to later this year.

    In recent days it also occurred to me that I could reposition my 4K computer monitor. It was positioned at my desk but the truth is I don't sit at the desk that often so it generally goes unused. On a bit of a whim I repositioned the arm and lowered it to one of the shelves closer to my futon. It's a bit odd having such a big screen (27") so close to the futon but in a week of use I think this is where it's going to stay. I've got it hooked up to the AppleTV for movies/TV. Or, if I want to use it as a second display for the iPad I just plug in a USB C port that goes through a hub to the monitor. When not in use it is swiveled out further away from the futon.

    A desk with a cat sitting on it eating. Behind the desk are shelves with plants. To the right of desk is an Old Mac Color Classic sitting on a table.

    With these changes my small desk has more plants around it and is Rosie's dog-proof feeding area. The Mac Mini that is my file server/iPad back-up is in the same place and can be used with the monitor in its new location. The Mac Mini sits on the shelf/mini-wall between my desk and futon. My whole set-up is a bit weird but I attribute that to the fact that it's a one-room tiny house. It's nice though to walk into the cabin and see plants rather than a computer monitor.

    A futon on the floor of a tiny house. A dog is curled up on the futon and there are various shelves around it. To the left the shelves hold a keyboard, a monitor on an arm, speakers and plants. On the furthest side shelves with storage boxes. And to the right side an iPad on a shelf

    A futon on the floor of a tiny house. A dog is curled up on the futon and is nestled in with several pillows around it. there are various shelves around it. On the right side an iPad on a shelf as well as various other items Some amazing iPad hardware is coming from Apple soon but I intend to stick with the M1 iPad as it works very well for what I need. It's only 3 years old this spring. It will likely need a new battery later this year.
    An iPad attached To a stand which is attached to a wooden lap desk. A keyboard and trackpad are below the iPad. An iPad attached To a stand which is attached to a wooden lap desk. The wooden lap desk has a fabric covering over the wood. A keyboard and trackpad are below the iPad.

    Over the past year I’ve enjoyed my various and ongoing configuration experiments. Just yesterday I modified my lap stand so that I can easily center my trackpad below the keyboard. By adding two small sideboards it’s now a recessed trackpad. Works perfectly and there’s plenty of room for the mouse to the side. In use I keep a pillow case on top for comfort.

    Between this stand arrangement and having the adjustable shelf-clamped stand I have a variety of choices. A side benefit of this regular experimentation is that my set-up is fun and never feels stagnant.

    My iPad Mini 5 and iPhone 13 both continue to work well and I expect to get at least another 3 to 5 years from both. The responsible thing is to use all of this hardware as long as I'm able and that's the plan. I want to appreciate not just the resources each device embodies but also to appreciate a kind of connection that comes with using a tool for a while. I expect I'll be able to get another year from my Appe Watch 4.

    Among tech enthusiasts it seems fairly common these days to trade up to the latest, greatest fairly often. And so these valuable, powerful computers are being treated like disposable goods. Really, it's something that only a minority of the wealthiest and most privileged of humans can do and it's irresponsible. But also, it doesn't allow much room for the nostalgia that comes with long-term use. My 9+ years old iPad Air 2 still works and is put to use to run the DarkNoise app and occasionally for photo slide shows.

    All that to say that I've been very happy with the over-abundance of computer/tech hardware that I have.

    Image of one corner of the interior of my tiny house, 2024-01-03.

    A tiny house interior with wood plank walls. On the right of the image a ed refrigerator with an Air fryer on top. To the left Of that a flat screen tv on a piece of wood furniture. There are shelves with book and photos of frogs on the walls. In the foreground an old Mac Color Classic sits on a small table next to some shelves with plants.

    My current favorite iPad set-up, the work-around-the-cat configuration. My futon, placed on the floor with shelves on both sides in easy reach. iPad is snug in adjustable stand clamped to shelf and floats above pillows in my lap. Rosie is about to take the place of the keyboard.

    An iPad in a an adjustable stand floats above pillows in my lap. A keyboard on the pillows. Just behind the iPad, sitting on the shelf is a cat looking at the photographer. Moments after photo she took the place of the keyboard on the pillows. In The near background just behind the cat a speaker and plant sit on the shelves. Further in the background is the photographer's tiny house. Wood plank walls and colorful string lights.

    #Caturday #iPad

    Apple's machine learning feels like magic

    Over the past year one of the tech stories that I've seen pop up numerous times is that Apple has fallen behind on AI. The general idea being that AI is now to be measured in terms of ChatGBT which has come to represent AI. And, according to this narrative, it follows that since Apple has not produced a similar offering it is behind.

    It's a convenient narrative to fall into but it indicates a lack of awareness of what Apple has been doing over the past several years with machine learning. And yes, Apple uses the term machine learning rather than AI. And Apple's offering does not come in the form of a chatbot but rather as a myriad of features to be found throughout its operating systems.

    An example that prompted me to start this post. Just moments ago I began watching a video from one of my regular YouTube channels. In it Paul Beckwith is discussing a book synopsis. As he often does he zooms in on his screen and spends time on browser pages of graphs and text. He highlights text as he discusses it. Not for the first time I've wanted to open urls he is discussing. With Apple's machine learning I pause the video, tap/click the url that is visible on the screen in the video: A screenshot of a youtube video paused in an open Safai window. The url field is pretty small. A pencil is best to select. I not, a trackpad/mouse with cursor also works well the select. In either case a pop-up menu is presented for me to open the url. This is all via Apple's text recognition that now works on any image or paused video.

    A screenshot of a youtube video paused. In it text has been selected in the url bar of web browser and a contextual menu is available to open the url.

    Not all AI looks like a chatbot! This machine learning feature saves me a great deal of time and is a feature I use several times a week.

    Another fun and useful example is Photos' machine learning ID feature. Animals, insects, trees, flowers, food items and more. When viewing an image swipe down to get the info panel. If the app recognizes something you'll see a couple of little stars next to the circle i or it will have a tiny little overlay indicating some sort of ID. If it's a bug you'll see a little bug overlay. If it's a plant you'll see a leaf. tap the circle and you'll see a field to tap for more information. If it's a food item you'll get suggested recipes. A screenshot of the Photos app showing an image of waffles indicating a recipe

    Machine learning also powers language translation throughout the system. I use the excellent Mona app for browsing Mastodon and that developer takes advantage of the feature:

    A screenshot of the app mona shows translated text

    Not only does it work in text areas but I can tap into the image where foreign language is presented in a screenshot. A pop up offers to translate that text as well.

    Another recent example is are the new features around scanned forms and pdf forms that don't have form fields. As of the new OS releases in September 2023 Apple devices will now auto-detect form elements from such sources allowing users to type in new data. Take a paper form, scan it and type in your field data. Dictation, voice to text, is another example. Machine learning is everywhere in the OS and the processing is largely on-device rather than cloud based.

    Ars Technica has an excellent but somewhat dated article from 2020. Still an interesting read and underscores the point that Apple's been incorporating this tech into both the OS as well as in the processors for years.

    Of course much more is coming and in the not too distant future we'll begin to see more obvious features and improvements that people have begun asking for. Most notable, thanks to the visibility of ChatGBT will be improvements to Siri and similar kinds of contextual interactions be they voice or text in nature.

    #Apple #iPad #MachineLearning

    Unexpected App surprises of 2023

    Over at the Mac Power Users forums there’s a new thread about 2023 app surprises. I thought I’d also post my response here. The unexpected winners for me were Obsidian, Shortcuts, Siri, and Yoink.

    I’ve recently wrote about my Obsidian experience this year but will repost the recap. I tried that Obsidan several times before, but each time decided it wasn’t for me and generally went back to a combination of iA Writer and Notes for writing, notes, and collecting random bits. This time it’s proving a bit stickier. Why different this time?

    • I looked a bit further at what didn’t work before. Namely, the interface fonts were too small, especially the sidebar file navigation. Found a fix which made a huge difference.
    • Along the same line, I’d previously found the interface to be not quite right. As many have commented, it just felt a bit off. This time I’ve found a theme I like and am enjoying the experience more as a result.
    • I added a new purpose/task to the app that I’m enjoying. Daily interstitial journaling. Thus far that’s also fairly sticky and Obsidian seems to be a good place for it. Though, in truth, that could also be done easily in Notes.
    • Easy, one tap publishing to micro.blog. I moved away from WordPress entirely and have settled into micro.blog for 2 blogs previously hosted at WordPress. iA Writer has excellent publishing for micro.blog and so does Obsidian (via a plugin).
    • I have come to prefer Obsidan’s sidebar over iA Writer for file navigation. Obsidian uses disclosure triangles to dropdown the file list of a folder which seems a bit easier than iA Writer’s use of columns that move one back and forth.

    I’m thus far avoiding going crazy with Obsidian plugins. I have no desire to make this my do everything app. For me the job is for interstitial journaling, writing, blogging.

    Shortcuts is less of a surprise as I’ve used it quite a bit over the past few years. But I’ve used it even more this year. Actually, I’d describe Shortcuts as a fundamental side-tool to much of what I do. I don’t really look for ways to use it so much as I more easily, naturally recognize processes that can be automated. It’s what Automator never became for me: A fairly easy to use tool for practical automations. Some automations only save me a few seconds, some save me minutes. And, like any tool, it really benefits from use and familiarity.

    Siri! I know the popular opinion is that Siri as a big fail. Or at least that’s the way it’s usually discussed. I’ve always found it generally useful and the surprise this year was how much I appreciated the removal of the “Hey” part of the activation. Just a tiny word and tiny bit of friction. But a I use Siri constantly all day, every day I appreciated it immediately. Most used daily actions:

    Home actions: Turning things off and on, asking the temperature of locations. Reminders: This is the only way I add things to reminders. It works perfectly almost everytime. Timers: For cooking, fairly often Fact checks and searches: Constantly on the iPad Sending texts while I’m out on walks

    Yoink for clipboard management. Jason Snell recently wrote about wanting a native clipboard manager. I agree and would love Apple to add a native clipboard manager but until then Yoink works very well for me. On the M1 iPads it sits in the background monitoring the clipboard for hours everyday. Sometimes I’ll notice that it fell out of memory but that’s not often. With 8GB of memory it seems to be in a perpetual state of monitoring. Less so with an older device. As far as I know it’s the only app in this category (on the iPad/iPhone) that has this sort of background monitoring of the clipboard.

    #Apple #iPad #iPadOS

    A Mac shaped elephant in the room

    This post came to mind as I listened to the current episode of the Rebound podcast this morning. The fellas spent the first thirty minutes discussing a variety of bugs and problems that they've been having with their Macs recently. It's something I've often thought of when Mac users critique the iPad but I've never written it down.

    They don't just discuss their recent problems but ruminate a bit about the bugginess of macOS in general contrasting OS X with the Classic Mac OS pre 2000s. The specifically call out the fact that they're advanced users and the occasional difficulty of troubleshooting and the process of fixing problems that arise not from user errors but bugs. They discuss rooting around various directories normally invisible to users for cache files, etc.

    I started using a Mac in 1993 with System 7.6 on a Color Classic. Though it could be buggy and often required restarts, Mac OS was a pleasure to use. I remember excitedly installing the OS X public beta and though it had its bugs and was not as snappy as Mac OS I loved it from the start. It got better. It was rock solid in terms of system uptime. A huge improvement. And it didn't take long to see the snappiness return.

    22 years later users will still encounter bugs because computers are computers. Every year we get a new version of the OS, and in between, updates are released all the time to fix bugs, introduce features, and optimize. It never ends. And the OS of today is far more capable and complex than those of 22 years ago.

    This brings me to iOS and iPadOS. Bugs? Yes. They are computers after all. But generally speaking, the experience of using an iPhone or iPad is far easier and safer than a Mac.

    A screenshot of a finder window on a Mac showing a list view of the User Library folder

    And while “power users” and pundits that prefer the Mac continue to deride iPadOS and the iPad as a “baby computer” it’s also true that iPad users do not have to waste hours upon hours digging through User>Library>Caches or User>Library>Application Support or some other directory to track down and delete files hoping to fix the problem.

    My elderly parents have been using iPads for 13 years with none of the problems that come with the Mac. Same for aunts and uncles. My granny, in the last 10 years of her life was able to use her iPad to stay connected to family and reconnect with old friends thanks to the iPad. On a daily basis she emailed, checked Facebook and used Apple Messages to check in with everyone. She was able to create and manage a photo library and download games. The iPad was her first computer and she did it all with practically zero need for support.

    And at the opposite age spectrum the iPad is often the first computer for many kids. The point is that the iPad is a generally safe and stable computer that requires near-zero maintenance.

    And, I will add here that through slow and careful iteration, Apple has gradually built a far more capable iPadOS. The iPad Pro running iPadOS 17 is far closer to the Mac experience than any iPad before it. With a far more robust Files app, windowing, external display support and cursor, I have no problem with more complex workflows. More powerful but without the need for troubleshooting problems found on a Mac.

    • With Textastic and the Files app I manage thousands of files in client websites.
    • As of 2023 fully featured "desktop" class apps like the Affinity suite from Serif are the tools I need to produce annual reports, newsletters and brochures for clients.
    • I use Safari and Numbers to help a client manage thousands of records in his email lists as well as class/workshop enrollments at his retreat.
    • I use Ferrite, Safari, iA Writer, Textastic and the Files app to produce and publish a series of oral histories for the local library.
    • I used Numbers and Procreate for my amateur astronomy recording of observations and occasional sketching/painting of astronomical objects.
    A painting of the Horsehead Nebula. The nebula is a cloudy mass of white and pinkish gas and dust in the shape of a horse head set against a starfield

    A photo realistic painting of the Horsehead Nebula made with Procreate on the iPad

    That's a sampling of a larger list of things I do with the iPad. For my work, hobbies and general needs I've found that the iPad is the computer I need and want. I can enjoy doing the work without the time spent trouble-shooting problems and bugs I didn't ask for.

    I'm happy we have choices. I've happily made mine and am content. I expect in the coming year with new iPad hardware on the way we'll continue to hear from frustrated pundits about how iPadOS is still too limited to get anything done. No, it's not open the way a Mac is. Yes, it's still missing some features and apps have to be installed via the App Store. But nor does it have the headache inducing, time-suck problems that the Mac often brings with it. No doubt, there are users that will still need one of the more open operating systems but they'll also need to spend more time doing maintenance. Some even enjoy that stuff. I certainly did. Past tense.

    My unsolicited advice:

    • If you truly feel drawn to the iPad then learn how to use it. Really learn how to use it. It's not that different from the Mac. But be patient, spend time with it and understand it feels different from the Mac. Similar, but not the same.
    • Going to say that again: Similar, but not the same. Don't expect it to be exactly the same. That leads to frustration.
    • Get a keyboard, mouse, trackpad.
    • You'll want the big screen if you want to use this like a full-on computer.
    • Before you jump in make a list of the things you need to do with a computer and compare to the things that can't be done on an iPad.

    If the iPad can do all the things you need to do, I'll reiterate, accept that it is similar but different and will require that you spend time getting comfortable with the differences. In most ways, it is very near to a Mac experience. The Files app is a good example. Very similar but not exact.

    If you're coming from a Mac you're used to a big screen so, GET THE BIG SCREEN if you want to do computery things. Also, consider connecting to an external display.

    Last, if this is just a performative stunt to re-write the same story already written a thousand times, just spare us the click-bait waste of time and stick with your Mac. Thanks in advance!

    Experimenting with a 15" monitor as my display while cleaning up a transcript for our local library oral history project. Watching MacBreak Weekly on the iPad off to the side.

    A 15

    A Day in the Life of Working with an iPad

    I've had a few interesting workdays recently that I thought would be worth sharing in terms of highlighting what's possible with an iPad. Before I dig in, I'll mention that I use the 12.9" M1 iPad Pro with 8GB of memory. For me the largest screen is absolutely necessary for more complicated tasks. Even the 13" (I'm just going to refer to it as 13") sometimes feels too small at which point I now have the option of connecting to an additional screen.

    I mention this in part because lately there's speculation about the 2024 iPads and along with that quite a few folks have shared that they are still happy with their 2018 iPad Pro because it's all they've needed. Sometimes these sorts of statements are praise of how long the iPad hardware lasts which I agree with and am happy about. These devices are resource intensive and should be used as long as possible.

    Some posts have a different tone which implies that iPadOS is too limited so they haven't bothered updating because it's not a device they rely upon or need. This post is, in part, to highlight what the M1 or M2 models are capable of with the additional memory and iPadOS 17.

    Here's the run-down on the previous five days' work and how I got it done with the iPad. The overview:

    • Monday - A client needed a questionnaire laid out in a 2 page spread that would fit in a larger document.
    • Tuesday - A different client scheduled their regular quarterly newsletter. Also, Tuesday, I met with the staff of the local library where I volunteer. The agenda was the reboot of our oral history interview series which is published as a podcast but is also being added to a new local history website.
    • Wednesday, Thursday and Fridaywere spent doing the work.

    Monday's task, the questionnaire, was done by end of day and I used Affinity Publisher. It was a relatively straight forward task that was finished in a couple hours. No big deal.

    Tuesday is where it starts to gets more interesting. The day started with the library meeting and then the email from client ready to start their newsletter. The newsletter took priority for the afternoon as it's on a deadline.

    The client shares the files via Dropbox, a folder of images and a basic pdf with the text content and any directions. Afternoon spent in Affinity Publisher. I bounce back and forth between Publisher and the pdf document opened in Files to copy paste text. I use Stage Manager with Publisher taking up almost the full screen. Files/PDF is just behind for quick access. I get this done in a few hours hours. Again, a fairly easy to manage task.

    Then it's on to the Library project. I use Safari to login to Omeka, the CMS we use for the library's local history website. I've not used it in awhile so I spend an hour reacquainting myself and checking for any changes made by the other user that inputs data.

    Before I go any further, a brief description of the Library project because I think it's a cool project worth sharing. In 2019 we recorded and published 19 oral history interviews. I was a co-interviewer. Each interview was 60 to 90 minutes and was recorded on a standard 2018 iPad with a USB mic. I Used Ferrite on my iPad to do light editing to remove audio gaps and added some intro/outro music that I made in Garage Band. I'd then use iA Writer to write an extended synopsis/abbreviated transcript with highlights. The transcript, mp3 and a photo of the interviewee were published to the Library's WordPress blog which was used as the feed for our podcast in Apple's directory. The interviews were paused at the end of 2019. The arrival of Covid in early 2020 put the project on an indefinite hold as the interviews were done in person and the interviewees were primarily elderly, often exceeding 75 years.

    In early 2023 the Library decided to resume the project but with the intent of adding new interviews to the Omeka CMS that was set-up to document local history. I did the initial, basic set-up in 2020 but it has largely been unused since. The first task is to add the 2019 interview audio, images, transcripts to this Omeka site. Then to continue adding material, largely consisting of the resumed oral history recordings set to resume in 2024.

    I'd initially planned to spend a couple weeks running the audio files through the Aiko app on the iPad to generate the full transcripts and then add these and the audio to the Omeka site.

    I started the process on Wednesday afternoon. A 60 minute interview takes 10 to 15 minutes to transcribe into text. I did 9 or so and saved the files to a folder in iA Writer. Then I spent the evening using Safari to create entries for each interview in Omeka, adding an interviewee image, text and mp3 files along with various fields of metadata. It's fairly time consuming as Omeka is designed as a CMS for historical/museum content with each record added along with many potential types of metadata. The CMS works very well in Safari on the iPad though so no problems doing it.

    I spent much of Thursday afternoon and evening finishing the task of processing the remaining mp3 files with Aiko then, again, creating entries with corresponding image, text and audio files. Happily way ahead of schedule and I learned more details about using Omeka. The CMS allows for two primary ways to display records to the public: Collections and Exhibits.

    I started by adding the individual interviews to a new oral history collection. I could have stopped with that but it's not the most pleasant way to browse content. It's just a list of the individual items, in this case, interview records. Each of those records displays metadata and links to view the txt transcript or an embedded media player to listen to the interview. It's basically an informational, academic database.

    The better way to present is via what Omeka calls an exhibit. I spent the remainder of Thursday setting up such an exhibit which begins with an easy to read introduction that links to the individual interviews pages that are designed like a more typical web page. Each page consists of the full transcript with an image of the interviewee and the media player in the top left of each page.

    In setting up the first page I found that, not surprisingly, pasting the plain text into the CMS text editor resulted in very unfriendly formatting. Instead I used iA writer to export each plain txt file into html which I saved into a folder in Textastic. I'd open these in Textastic, copy the html then hop over to Safari, create a page for the interview, paste in the html, then attach the associated mp3 and image of the interviewee. Save and move on to the next.

    A screenshot of three app windows open side by side on an iPad. The far left is a Safari window, in the middle is iA Writer and on the right is Textastic.

    Using Stage Manager on the the 13" iPad it was easy to arrange a Safari window along side of iA Writer and Textastic. This could also be done using Split Screen windows and a slide over but it would feel a bit more cramped with one window covering another.

    This is exactly the sort of day-to-day busy work that really is improved with Stage Manager on larger screen iPad Pro, on an iPad that accommodates multi-tasking with more windows at a time. In other words, an iPad that more closely resembles the experience of using a Mac. And I'll add that the 8GB of memory on the base M1 iPad Pro does improve the multitasking experience especially when as the number of apps being used increases.

    This is the type of more complicated workflow that frustrates users on older or smaller iPads with less memory and less working room. Even today, trying to accomplish this with Stage Manager on a smaller screen would be very frustrating for me. I see people all the time posting that their 11" iPad Pro sits unused or isn't good for "real work". I'd guess the same folks, if handed an 11" screened Mac, would also quickly grow frustrated. The nature of a small screen on any computer is less space to work with.

    In my day-to-day work with an iPad I've found touch and gesture based computing to be a real pleasure. And with year-to-year improvements of iPadOS like Stage Manager and pointer support that's only grown. But I've come to think that for anyone intending to replace a Mac the 13" is likely to be the right size.

    It seems likely that in 2024 we're going to see new iPad hardware with some big improvements and I don't doubt that with those new releases will come months of complaints from pundits that the iPad is still an iPad, that it's held back by the OS. To that I would say the iPad is not the Mac, it's a touch screen computer. Use it as it's meant to be used and if it's your intent to replace a Mac get the larger screen version.

    Apple Pundit Dick Moves

    Discussing a trick he learned with the multi selection of tabs on a Mac browser John Gruber feels the weird need to beat-up on the iPad:

    This trick does not work in Safari on iPadOS, because iPads are baby computers where you can’t select more than one thing at a time.

    He got it wrong but the big boy issued a correction:

    Update: In a reply on Threads, Jay Robinson points out (and includes a nice screencast) that you can select multiple Safari tabs on iPad with multitouch. Drag one tab out of the tab bar, then, while keeping the drag active with one finger, use another finger to tap additional tabs to add them to the collection of tabs being dragged.

    But then he gets it wrong again and, because he’s such a cool guy, offers another snide comment:

    But: all you can seemingly do with such a collection of dragged tabs is move them to another area in the current Safari window, or drop them as URLs into another app, like a message in Mail or Apple Notes.

    This is incorrect. You can do more with these tabs, keep reading.

    You can drag a single tab in iPad Safari to the edge of the screen to move it to a new split screen window, but if you have more than one tab in the drag collection, you can’t do that.

    The way to do it: Drag a tab into a new window or Command+Option+N to make a new window. Then multitouch to select the tabs you want to move, drag over to the top tab bar area of the 2nd Safari window. You’ll see the little indicator to drop your tabs to add them to this second Safari window.

    It’s not exactly the same as the maneuver on the Mac but it works just as well.

    Nor can you take group actions on the collection of tabs, like closing them all at once, or closing all tabs in the window other than the selected ones, like you can with the multiple-tab-selection feature in the big-boy Safari on MacOS.

    Okay, um, but if you just moved all these tabs to a new window and want to close the other window all you have to do is select it’s little 3-dot multitasking widget and close it. Honestly, is that so difficult?

    I’m going to just file this under Dick Moves by Apple Pundits.

    Daring Fireball: Dick move of the Day

    Obsidian and Interstitial Journaling

    It’s only been a couple weeks since I decided to give Obsidian yet another try and yes, this is going to work out. I’m so glad I decided to give it a try again. A few brief thoughts too about interstitial journaling.

    First, my primary use of any markdown/text app is for writing blog posts. In this regard Obsidian is generally on par with any other markdown editor and so it’s easy to just copy my archive over. That’s the beauty of working from folders of files. I duplicated and tweaked my previous Shortcuts for quickly creating new posts from the Home Screen or for link blogging from a web page that now save to my Obsidian folders.

    As for journaling, I’ve only ever been irregular at that effort. Obsidian has the daily note feature to help the process along so I took a look at various templates in the hopes that perhaps I’d find one that might help in the process. After a few days I found it wasn’t quite what I wanted. As I browsed around I hit upon “interstitial journaling”. My first thought was, no, not for me.

    If you’re not familiar, the basic concept is to just record a timestamped entry when you’re between tasks. Note what you’ve finished, what you might work on next or if you’re taking a break. A sort of running commentary on the day but geared towards productivity. But I wasn’t looking for a productivity hack or anything focused on that. I tend to do fine getting work tasks done without any additional tools or apps. I’d rather my journaling be a bit more open. But something about frequent, time-stamped writing appealed to me. The structure isn’t topical, it’s not definite or set. I’m viewing it as a tool for simple self awareness and as an opportunity to note thoughts and activities as they seem worth noting.

    A week in and I have to say that I’m really digging it. I set aside any desire to focus on some sort of constant productivity/task journal and have simply used it to check in. The time stamping pulls me in, I honestly don’t know why. But I do know that I’m writing more as a result. Also worth mentioning, there’s a behavioral phenomena called the Hawthorne effect that several folks have mentioned. The idea being that people “modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.” The idea in relation to interstitial journaling is that as one starts paying attention to the moments of a day with the added intent of recording those moments, a kind of self awareness sets in.

    I suppose in a round-about way I am, in fact, being more “productive” but frankly, I’m just not fond of all of the nerd focus on productivity. I’d much rather think of it in terms of cultivating self awareness. Regardless of the framing, I’m finding it enjoyable and useful. And, unexpectedly, I feel like my days are longer and almost more meaningful as a result of the increased focus on my daily activity.

    It’s worth noting, that most of what I’m doing with Obsidian I could have accomplished with iA Writer or other markdown editor. It’s a strange thing really but it’s a fairly small design detail that partly served to prompt my look back to Obsidian. I wanted to be able to more easily navigate and see all my files in folders at the same time. Most markdown editors have a sidebar file browser that functions as a singular column list of files. It makes for a lot of clicking or tapping to navigate. Obsidian offers disclosure triangles and it just feels easier and faster to view the contents of multiple folders at once.

    That said, Obsidian is extendable via plugins so it does actually do quite a lot beyond a standard text editor. But out of the box it can be used in a more standard way. As I poke and prod I expect I’ll share a bit about some of the more advanced features.

Older Posts →