Two years ago today I quoted Ben Thompson of Stratechery saying that, rather than try to hide it, Apple went out of its way to emphasise the presence of the notch despite it being controversial.

The notch came in for a lot of criticism (still does) but soon became a de facto standard feature across all sorts of devices despite the initial protestations.

Similar criticism has been levied at the iPhone 11 Pro's triple camera setup. Apple could have tried to make it more aesthetically pleasing but decided to draw attention to it through design. The company is saying "we've made a technological advance and we're damn well going to make sure you know about it!"

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So far, so good.

I deliberately left the MacBook in sleep overnight and it woke up fine this morning.

I’d also been getting occasional issues with WiFi not reconnecting on wake but this has not happened so far.

I’m considering dropping hibernatemode back to 3 to see whether it’s that or the profile recreation that seems to be doing the trick.

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On the subject of the MacBook, you may recall I was having an issue with it crashing while in/waking from sleep.

I thought it was because of third party software running in the background and seemed to have narrowed it down to the Logitech mouse software.

Apparently not as I’ve had a couple more crashes.

A further search found a thread in the Apple Communities that gives an interesting possible explanation:

”It seems that the initial upgrade from Sierra to High Sierra 10.13 might lead to some corruption of the admin account from which the Mac was upgraded.”

And, while the errors seem to indicate a power management issue, corruption of the admin account can lead to wake/sleep errors.

The proposed solution is to create a new admin account, log in to it, delete the original account (leaving the home folder intact) and recreate it pointing back to the original home drive.

I also found a thread suggesting that changing the MacOS hibernatemode from 3 to 25 (safe sleep to proper hibernate) could also help.

So, I have recreated my admin account and changed the hibernate mode. We’ll see if they help.

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Just a beginning

In keeping with the season there have been a number of “best of” posts with folks outlining their favourite Mac software of the year which all leave me feeling like mine is horribly underused.

Maybe it’s because I’m still learning what I can do with it since moving from Windows but it’s also that I tend to keep things relatively simple.

Beyond Safari and Ulysses there’s very little I use on a regular basis.

I still run Magnet for docking windows, Filezilla as my FTP client, and have the likes of Slack, BBEdit and Visual Studio Code installed but nothing really gets that much use.

With two exceptions:
- the micro.blog app, and
- Pixelmator

I’ve written a lot about micro.blog recently so don’t need to go over the same ground here.

As I mentioned in October, I had previously used Gimp (still hate the name) as a free option but the updates to Pixelmator were very tempting. I thoroughly enjoyed using it during the free trial so snapped it up.

I can’t remember the last time I actually opened VS Code and removed it from the Dock, so that tells you something, while BBEdit is operating in its free, reduced functionality mode because I can’t justify the cost for the little that I use it.

I’ve looked at Alfred and LaunchBar again but still not yet found a compelling reason to use them. I was very much the same with Workflow on the phone - I originally couldn’t think of anything to use it for until it suddenly clicked. Now I couldn’t be without it and still fret over what happens if/when Apple finally pulls the plug - hopefully in favour of extensive native automation.

I think it’s a bit of a catch 22 situation: I can’t think of ways to automate what I do because I don’t do that much on the Mac but would probably do more if I had it automated.

Despite all this I’ve been really enjoying the MacBook as my laptop of choice (it’s still not my primary computer - that’s the phone) but still see this as just the beginning.

It’s been less than 6 months since making the switch so I feel like I’m still finding my feet. 2017 has been a good start but next year will be when I kick it up a notch.

Just a beginning

iPhone X first impressionsComments

I’ve had a couple of hours with the new phone (mainly setting it up as I started from scratch rather than a backup) and I think we’re going to be firm friends.

Feel

The phone feels lovely. It is so smooth and the glass back looks gorgeous (I’ve got the silver model) but I’ve stuck a case on (ultra thin so as not to add any extra bulk) straight away to keep it scratch free.

It is significantly smaller in the hand - and in the pocket - than a Plus but I don’t really notice because of the larger screen. The weight balance is also much better.

Notch

Let’s get it out of the way: the notch. I knew it wasn’t going to bother me and it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. I just don’t notice it as I’m not normally focusing on the very top of the screen.

Even when I do focus on the notch, because of where it is and how crisp the lines are, it almost looks like it’s a software feature rather than hardware. It’s strange.

Screen

The screen is great and I love True Tone. I used to like it when Nightshift kicked in on the 6S Plus as I much preferred the screen warmth but True Tone takes it to the next level.

The only downside is that the off-angle blue tint to the OLED screen is made more apparent by having True Tone turned on but, even then, it just looks like the normal blue/white of an LCD without any warmth correction.

Navigation

Although I made a point of learning about gestures and navigation on the X in advance I’m surprised at how quickly I’ve gotten used to not having a home button. I’ve not once accidentally gone to tap on the “home indicator” bar.

The only thing I have to think about is the control center now being triggered by a swipe down from the top right.

Cameras

The rear cameras are so much nicer than the one on the 6S Plus, and how I’ve been waiting for a dual camera setup having missed the 7 Plus last year.

Portrait lighting looks like it could be fun but I was first mucking about with it in reasonably poor light so couldn’t get the best results.

Face ID has worked very reliably so far but seems quite over zealous and quick to drop back to passcode when someone else is looking at the phone. I shall have to experiment further.

In summary

The X is a lovely device that, at first glance, hits that sweet spot between size and comfort.

As I spend more time with it I’ll be able to refine my opinion but, for now, colour me impressed.

iPhone X first impressions

Blogging from the MacComments

My phone is really my PC - that’s Primary Computer - and, as I’ve written numerous times, that’s where I do just about everything including 99.9% of my blogging, image manipulations and even coding.

While I have an iPad I almost never use it; the phone is just far more convenient and easier to hold and use in so many more circumstances. People talk about a mobile mindset but, just because I use iOS on a phone it doesn’t automatically mean the same behaviour will occur when using an iPad.

Or a laptop for that matter.

I find that I use the MacBook far more than I ever did my Windows laptops but it still feels ridiculously underused. Perhaps that’s about to change.

I’m writing this in Ulysses, having subscribed to the app and pretty certain I’m going to stick with it, but Manton Reece has just launched a beta Mac client for micro.blog which may well encourage me to use the MacBook more than I ever have.

I was lucky enough to have an extra day to play with it before launch; I’d expressed an interest in testing and the fact that I’m using WordPress instead of a hosted blog was probably a good opportunity for early feedback.

Manton has repeatedly said that this is just a version 1.0 app but, I have to say, it’s been rock solid. Browsing, replying and posting to the blog have all been a breeze and I’ve not had a single issue or error.

It will be nice when some of the additional functionality from the iOS version gets included (such as automatically converting from status to standard post and prompting for a title when you go over 280 characters) but, other than, this is a fully usable and (so far) reliable app which is great to have sat open while doing other things.

Good job Manton. 👍

Blogging from the Mac

The MacBook woke successfully after preventing the following utilities from starting and running in the background:

  • Clipy
  • Faviconographer
  • iCanHazShortcut

That leaves me with Magnet and Scroll Reverser (just for the mouse) still running.

We’re making progress!

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A quick update on the MacBook.

I was prompted to submit the issue and looked at the error report details which including this:

Root disk errors: "Could not recover SATA HDD after 5 attempts. Terminating.”

A quick search doesn’t reveal anything too enlightening as, although it would appear to relate to the drive (and maybe APFS) this kind of issue can also occur due to software compatibility issues causing a kernel panic.

More testing required.

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Since updating the MacBook to High Sierra I’ve been having issues with it getting stuck on waking from sleep necessitating a hard shut down. I’ll try resetting the SMC and maybe the NVRAM to see if that helps.

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The rumour that Apple is working on a 6.5 inch variant of the iPhone X (possibly for next year) makes a lot of sense.

When you consider that this year’s 5.8 inch screen device is similar in size to the iPhone 6/7/8 then it follows that a larger version would be roughly equivalent in overall dimensions to the current Plus models.

Sure enough, the overall unit size of the current Plus phones are roughly 6.5 inches. A larger X should, therefore, be a little larger.

This would also tie in with the suggestion that the X is the future of the iPhone implying that the existing models will be phased out.

This year was an anomaly with Apple releasing three main devices. I would fully expect them to get back to releasing two with an updated X and a new X Plus.

And this is without touching on the obvious angle of competition.

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I'm trying not to go all Gollum on the iPhone X but "me wants it" - it's a shame it's not available until 3rd November but I suppose that will give my carrier time to get their act together.

The 'X' will, no doubt, take a bit of getting used to having no home button but it's not so much a learning curve (it all looks pretty logical) as re-training the muscle memory.

Still, now the announcement has happened and the GM build of iOS 11 has been properly released I've decided it's time to put it on my 6S Plus.

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When looking at some utilities for the MacBook I mentioned using Amphetamine to temporarily stop it from sleeping with keyboard shortcuts.

The helpful comments on that post gave alternatives including just using the 'caffeinate' command from Terminal and forms of automation such as Alfred.

While doing a bit of digging I came across the little tool "iCanHazShortcut" which lets you assign keyboard shortcuts to anything that can be run from Terminal.

Goodbye Amphetamine, hello ICHS!

I now have:

⌥ + ⌘ + = for: caffeinate -dt 3600
⌥ + ⌘ + ← for: killall caffeinate

It's more flexible and I don't need to have the icon in the menu bar.

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Useful utilitiesComments

As I am still really getting to grips with the Mac I look for ways to personalise it and make it for the way I want to work.

One thing I missed from Windows is the ability to snap applications to the side of the screen letting you display two or more side-by-side.

I had found a freeware utility but it was a bit buggy so bought Magnet from the App Store. At only 99p it is an absolute bargain letting you snap windows in position with the mouse/track pad like Windows but also define hot keys as well.

I had heard about Caffeine, a little tool to stop your Mac going to sleep but it doesn't look to be available in the UK App Store.

A free alternative available here is the unfortunately named Amphetamine which lets you specify a length of time that your device will ignore power saving rules. A quick keyboard shortcut to toggle it on and off and you don't have to keep tapping the trackpad.

I had previously looked at clipboard managers on my phone but it found a solution I really liked. For the Mac, however, I have found Clipy which is really lightweight tool for copying multiple items and easily selecting which one to paste with a handy keyboard shortcut.

I had, of course, heard about Alfred but I'm in a similar position to where I was with Workflow on the phone: I don't yet know how I would use it.

All the good stuff is in the Powerpack but £19 is a lot for something you don't even know you're going to use. Without the Powerpack you just have a Spotlight alternative without the integration into various apps. It looks better but doesn't do as much.

LaunchBar is another interesting alternative but, again, I don't know how much I'd use it.

I'm getting there.

Useful utilities

I used Apple Pay on the Watch for the first time last night. It felt a little weird, almost like the supermarket staff were watching me - they probably weren't and it was just me being paranoid.

Still, it probably felt just as weird the first time I paid using my phone.

People are getting used to paying with your phone but, where I live at least, smart watches are very uncommon.

I've seen a steady increase in Fitbits and other smart bands buts that's it. I'll see the occasional watch (mostly Apple) on my commute but the numbers aren't high. Although I did notice the waitress wearing one in the Chinese restaurant we went to while on holiday. 👊

There seems to be no consistency to who has or wears one.

Wearables are still in their "cultural" infancy even though they've been around for a while now. Smart bands, with their more targeted functionality, are better understood and it's easy to see why Apple had to change their approach.

Most, however, don't have a need for an additional piece of technology; the cultural positioning of the smartphone (and its capabilities) is such that a major shift, and a significant technological advance, will be required for wearable use to explode in the same way smartphones did.

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I am actually remembering to use the music controls on the Apple Watch; an improvement over last time I wore it.

Now I just need to authorise my card for Apple Pay and I'll need to take my phone out much less.

It's a shame UK cars are right hand drive as I can't easily stick my left hand out of the window at drive-thrus without some awkward contortions.

I had considered swapping wrists because of this but, being right-handed, it would feel too unnatural.

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Mail appsComments

Ever since Mailbox was shuttered by Dropbox I've been trying to find the "perfect" email client.

I spent some time alternating between Airmail and Polymail on my phone, via the likes of Spark and Newton, but settled on Email by Easilydo (now Edison Mail) as it was close to the standard iOS mail app but with proper support for the vagaries of Gmail.

Now that I have the MacBook I am looking at a more cross-platform solution so have reinstalled Polymail across my iOS devices and Mac.

I was using the native OSX mail app, and it is perfectly functional, but there's just something about it that doesn't quite sit right with me.

Then again, Polymail is an illustration of the inconsistency across Mac apps that I wrote about before. It has a distinct iOS look and feel to it which clashes with other apps, especially native ones.

Perhaps I'm just being too fussy.

This quest for the perfect mail client, however, has lead me to question a few things I currently do and expect:

  • Do I really need push notifications for my mail?
  • Should I finally move away from Gmail? (The email from my domains currently all forwards there.)
  • Can I get by with just the native apps?
  • Do I use any features (beyond push) that warrant a third party app?

So, I'm running an experiment: I have removed all mail forwarding and configured each of my addresses separately in both the native mail app and Polymail on both phone and Mac.

I never used to like checking multiple accounts, forwarding everything to Gmail was always a bit of a hangover from years ago but unified inboxes are a standard feature these days so it's no longer an issue - just a psychological hurdle.

I'm going to run the two configurations in parallel for a few days and see how they compare, and also which one I tend to reach for.

It will also help me better understand the flow of mail to each account and make decisions about what I want going to each one.

Mail apps

Part of my approach to using the Apple Watch again was trying to do something different. I didn't want to just pull it on again as if nothing had happened.

It may seem basic but changing watch face was a good way to do that.

I used to use the Modular face as I originally thought "why try to recreate an analogue experience on a rectangular, digital device." It also seemed to offer the most amount of information on screen at one time.

But thinking about it, this isn't all that important to me.

As the Watch is normally used for quick glances I wanted just the basics so moved to the Simple face (variant III) as I like the... well, simplicity.

Having the battery indicator on your primary face may be a bit of a waste of a complication slot but, at present, I've not got anything else that I need to have there. I still have a reworked Modular face available that I can swipe to (but I never do) so the battery complication could move in future.

One thing I haven't explored yet is using Workflow on the Watch - that's something I will need to investigate to see if it offers me any utility.

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I think I'm a convert to Visual Studio Code.

When I first looked at it I thought it was going to be too heavy because of having to install mutliple packages etc. That was on Windows but on the Mac this doesn't seem so much of a problem. it all seems a lot simpler.

I've installed a small set of extensions for PHP, CSS and Markdown which should cover my simple needs and upgraded the bundled version of PHP in OSX to 7.1.

Atom.io has been uninstalled along with a standalone Markdown app, although I have kept another editor called TextWrangler just as a lightweight scratchpad.

As a result, this is the first post not written on my phone since I can remember. Now I just need to find a way to post directly.

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