Chris Hannah

Nothing Ear (stick) #

A few weeks ago, I got myself a pair of the new Nothing Ear (stick) earphones. They're an intriguing product, and they're certainly a breath of fresh air compared to the competition. So since I've now used them for a while, and in quite a few scenarios, I thought I'd share my feelings on them.

There are two main reasons why I bought them. The first being that I wanted an upgrade from the original AirPods, ideally with better sound quality and battery life. But I didn't want to get AirPods Pro, because I'm really not a fan of in-ear earphones at all.

Secondly, the Nothing brand, and its recent products, are making me think differently about technology. They're making fun products, with slightly quirky designs, and not forcing themselves into being yet another bland tech company, obsessed with specifications and just one number being higher than another. I've been getting bored of technology recently, both hardware and software, but these  seemed to stick out, so I thought I'd give them a go.

Design

First off, I'm a big fan of the design. Both the individual buds and the case. I like how they're not just the most minimal design and colour, but instead feature transparent sections, and a bit of colour. I also appreciate how the case isn't just a flip-up container like the rest. It has personality.

That's not to say the design is perfect. Because the design isn't just how it looks, it's also how it works. And I have felt at some points that they weren't sitting securely in my ears. That may be due to my ear shape, or maybe I just needed to get used to the feel of them. But I'd say they feel slightly less secure than the original AirPods, which fit perfectly for me.

I did have one of the buds fall out of my ear once. But I'm not quite sure if I had put them in properly because this was only a few days after getting them. Nevertheless, I still don't think I would ever do something like running with them. (Not that I plan on doing that any time soon anyway)

Once you get past the slight feeling that they may not sit as snugly as other earphones, they are quite comfortable to wear. I'm hoping it was just an adjustment period, and that they won't fall out again. But I'll wait and see.

Sound

I'm not a sound expert, so I can't offer any technical expertise. But I am a person with ears. So for what that's worth, I have found the sound quality to be very good. As in, they sound better than the original AirPods to me, and I've never noticed a problem with any kind of audio.

I've used them in my home, while walking, on the train, and in a busy office. All have been fine. Although from what I've heard, in a quiet environment, any volume over 50% starts to become audible to people nearby. (Not that this is a problem, these things can get pretty loud.)

I've had to go on quite a few work video calls as well during the past few weeks, which have all sounded fine. The microphone is also good enough that no one on the calls ever seemed to have any issues hearing me.

If you want more control of the equaliser, there is an app that you can download. From there you can boost the bass, treble, or highlight voices. I haven't played with this much myself, as the default settings have been fine in every circumstance for me.

Battery

I didn't actually know the official battery life of these until just now, which is earbuds having 3 hours of playback on their own, and the case holding another 12 hours.  I didn't know this, simply because, they've never gone flat.

I remember one time I had used them for multiple days in a row, listening to music on my commute, video calls at work, etc. Then when I next picked them up, I checked the battery, the buds were at 100%, and the case was at 50%. That may sound useless to some people because I can't say exactly how long I used them. But, I remember thinking "surely they're nearly flat by now", but nope!

It's definitely helped by the fact that it charges by USB C. So while I'm at my desk, whether at home or in the office, I can either find a dedicated cable or just quickly unplug my Mac for 10 minutes and top them up.

I think the fact that I hadn't needed to know about the battery life until now is a very good sign. I wanted earphones that lasted long enough so that I didn't need to think about it. I give them 10 minutes or so when I can, and that seems enough to keep them around fully charged most of the time.

Misc

A few small things that I noticed:

Overall

After a few weeks of using the Nothing Ear (stick), I can definitely say that I will be keeping them and that I will continue to use them as my primary earphones.

There are some minor downsides, like any product, but the benefits outweigh them personally. I love the design, the battery life, and also just that they're not the standard earphone design that the AirPods introduced. And at £99, I think they're an absolute bargain.

I'll certainly be looking forward to more products from Nothing in the future. Maybe I'll even switch to their phone at some point. Either way, I hope more companies start to act like Nothing and add a bit more personality to their products. Because there's no rule that says technology needs to be boring.

Apple Wants Yet Another 30% #

Mitchell Clark for The Verge:

Coinbase has accused Apple of forcing it to remove NFT transfers from its Wallet app on iOS. On Thursday, it tweeted that Apple “blocked our last app release until we disabled the feature” because the iPhone maker wanted the blockchain fees associated with an NFT transfer to go through its in-app purchase system, giving it a 30 percent cut.

Lol, what?

Coinbase via Twitter:

Apple’s claim is that the gas fees required to send NFTs need to be paid through their In-App Purchase system, so that they can collect 30% of the gas fee.

Apple did update their App Store guidelines in October to mention rules around NFTs. App Store Review Guidelines (3.1.1):

Apps may use in-app purchase to sell and sell services related to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), such as minting, listing, and transferring. Apps may allow users to view their own NFTs, provided that NFT ownership does not unlock features or functionality within the app. Apps may allow users to browse NFT collections owned by others, provided that the apps may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.

I guess it's a rule now. So you could argue that Coinbase just have to get on with it. But this all does seem like yet another greedy move from Apple.

Reaching the Hacker News Front Page #

As you may have seen, last night I wrote about my experience using Arc Browser. I then submitted this blog post to Hacker News. Usually this gets a tiny bit of attention. But this time, it managed to get on to the front page. The highest I saw it was at 12, although the bulk of the views were once I went to sleep, so who knows, it could have been higher.

Nevertheless, it's been common to write a post to analyse the impact of being on the Hacker News front page, so since it's now dropped to the second page after around 14 hours, I thought I'd write about the impact it had.

How much attention did it attract?

I was awake for just over an hour after the post hit the front page, and I think it had about 200 views in that time. In my head, it wasn't going to get much higher than that. So I was rather surprised when I looked at the analytics this morning.

Overall, the page got 4,272 views, and as you can see above, over 75% of this came from Hacker News. And I'd argue that probably a lot more also came from related aggregators and websites.

On Hacker News, the post has (at this moment) reached 92 points and has received 72 comments. Surprisingly, the comments were not as bad as I had imagined. I know how comment threads of Hacker News can get, and while some were rather odd, I was happy with how the discussion went.

Did it reflect on the ad revenue?

I'm not afraid to say that I don't make much revenue from the single ad at the bottom of the website. So I'll happily share the impact that it had on the revenue.

As you can see, the average day doesn't go above $1. However, with the suddent increase in page views, and a few apparent clicks, the revenue certainly jumped. I think I can estimate around $8 in earnings from that single post.

How did the website hold up?

One thing I had definitely heard about being on Hacker News was that it the traffic could bring down your website. Fortunately for me, this didn't happen.

This blog is a self-hosted Ghost blog, and it's hosted on a relatively small virtual server on Digital Ocean. It has a single CPU and just 2 GB memory. And it seemed to cope just fine.

Digital Ocean can provide a nice graph of the CPU usage, and you can see it never even reached 40%. As for the memory, I was monitoring this during the early peak via htop, and I can't say I saw the total memory usage even reach 1 GB. Maybe this isn't great and it should handle more. Who knows. All I can say is that it was clearly enough for me. And this is for only just $10/month or so.

Overall

Overall, I'm pretty surprised with the fact that it reached the front page of Hacker News, let along how well the impact was. And because of the reaction, I'm going to try to analyse if there's anything about this post that I can use again in the future. For example, a similar topic, post length, etc.

Now I'm intruiged to see if I can get a post even higher on the front page. Maybe even break the top #10?

Arc Browser #

Just a little over a month ago, I was pretty enthusiastic about a new web browser called Arc. My exact feelings were:

I’ve been using Arc browser for about 15 minutes, and I’m already happy enough to set it as my default.

My reasons early on were to do with its attitude on what a browser should be, how feature-rich it was, and how I thought it was designed for the modern web.

Well, I can say that after a month of using Arc, both for personal use and at my day job, I've switched back to Safari.

I have to point out that I am not completely against Arc, nor am I declaring its existence to be a failure. I've just decided that it's clearly designed for a different type of user.

For a moment I was mesmerised by its features, how it behaved, and the quirkiness of it. Maybe it was because it was the new and shiny toy I wanted to play with. Regardless, the way in which I want to use a web browser doesn't quite fit with Arc.

You could say, I discovered that I wasn't a fan of the modern web. That would be somewhat true. I am a big fan of relatively-small websites, personal blogs, and any website that is free of the usual bloat. So there was part of me that was always falling back to a more traditional web browser like Safari.

However, there are definitely features of Arc that while may be fun for others, made my use more difficult than it needed to be.

I'll start with the Sidebar. This is probably the most obvious visual difference when comparing Arc to other browsers. It's essentially a combination of a bookmark bar and a tab bar. Except there is a slight difference, in that instead of bookmarks, you have pinned tabs. Which can stay active, and keep your session loaded without needing to open the bookmark link in another tab/window.

I can see how the pinned tabs can be a smart idea, but for my use, they started to irritate me. In my mind, a bookmark is just a URL that I can then choose to open in a new tab/window. I didn't always want it to keep its state after I was done with it.

One good part of it is the player controls at the bottom if you have something playing. This worked for me with both YouTube and the Spotify web player. I used it a few times, but when I want to control what's playing when it's not the active tab, I just use the media controls on my MacBook keyboard.

The biggest problem I had with the sidebar was its prominence. It's simply too big to keep open at all times. As someone that constantly navigates between multiple tabs, it's quite hard to do that without the sidebar open. With it closed, I literally have no idea what tabs are open, where they are, and how to quickly navigate to them. Whereas in Safari, I can see my open tabs at all times, and I can either use the cursor to select one, or the keyboard shortcut (CMD + SHIFT + LEFT/RIGHT).

I must say, websites do look good when you hide the sidebar. But it does feel a bit restrictive. Especially when the sidebar also contains the address bar. And even when you do have the sidebar open, the address bar is tiny.

Password/Bookmark Sync

This may seem like it's more of a personal preference, rather an issue with Arc itself. But I would think most people would appreciate their passwords and bookmarks to sync between their devices.

I use iCloud Keychain for passwords on all of my devices, and of course, my bookmarks are synced via Safari. So when I tried to use Arc, nothing was in sync. I had to slowly move passwords into Arc (the migration didn't work for me), and if I created a password in Arc, I'd then have to remember it again when I used another browser.

Even if I conveniently forgot that iCloud Keychain also provides my passwords for apps, there is no Arc browser for iOS or iPadOS. So, that was always going to be a problem.

Command Bar

Another great feature that is packed full of functionality, but I found it more complex for my use case than it needed to be.

At the start, I would use the command bar to quickly make a web search, open a new tab, (try to) launch an existing tab by entering the name of the page, and even perform actions like pinning the current tab.

But after a while, it started to feel like it did too much. When I tried to quickly do a search, it would either autofill a URL, or match an open tab, so I was always opening things accidentally.

The command bar essentially becomes the entry point for most things in Arc. But it never felt fast to me. It's certainly powerful, but I'm used to using keyboard shortcuts to quickly navigate and use Safari, so I never found this to be very useful.

Conclusion

To wrap it up, Arc is a good browser, and I'm sure many people would find it fun and easy to use. It may even open them up to even more complex actions because of the command bar. But it's just not for me.

There are certainly good parts to the browser, I like the design, split-view, separate spaces, chrome plugins, the concept of a command bar, and a few other things. But for how I want to use the web, and a web browser specifically, I started to get the feeling like it was working against me. And I don't have the energy to use a web browser that makes me feel like that when there are much better options available for me.

So now, I'm back to good ol' Safari. Where I can see what I have open at a glance, navigate between tabs quickly, keep everything in sync with the rest of my devices, and in general not feel as if my web browser is trying to make an impression on me. It just lets me do what I want, when I want, and as fast as I want to do it.



Idiot Proof Git #

Doug Turnbull:

I’m an idiot. And git is hard. A lot of places use a rebase-based Git workflow, and I’ve made git less hard with a set of handy aliases. Put these in your ~/.gitconfig and turn git into an actually less painful command line tool to use.

For people that want to use Git, but either aren't a developer, or just want an easier way to use common functionality via the command line, these may be for you.

There's aliases to update your local code, publish your code, sync your code with the master branch, and a few other helpful commands like opening a PR on GitHub.

App Bankruptcy #

Lee Peterson:

Ever get to the point that you have too many apps that you’re either not sure about or serve the same purpose. I’ve hit that point again with productivity apps, so I’ve deleted them all and I’m taking a step back.

I think I'm going to have to do something similar myself soon. I wrote recently about the way I use my phone, and how I have over a hundred apps but rarely use most of them. It would be interesting to see what a more refined phone setup would look like.

The iPhone Will Switch To USB-C #

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Joswiak said that the company will comply as it does with other laws. He declined to specify when the iPhone may get the charger to replace Lightning.

[...]

He said Apple and the EU had been at odds over chargers for a decade, recalling how European authorities once wanted Apple to adopt Micro-USB. He said that neither Lightning -- the current iPhone charging port -- nor the now-ubiquitous USB-C would have been invented if that switch had occurred.

I wonder if the EU law works somewhat in Apple’s favour here. Apple were clearly already on a journey to USB-C with the rest of their products. Although some would argue, the iPhone was destined to be port-less. However, this allows Apple to redirect any possible negativity towards the switch to USB-C to the EU.

I wrote about this proposal last September, and it's funny to see how I felt just over a year ago. Especially since my position on it has softened quite substantially. To be honest, I'm now starting to think that it might be a good idea.

When I list all the devices I use, Macs, ThinkPad, Nintendo Switch, iPad, Pixel 6,  work phone (it's some Motorola Android phone), and iPhone 13, only one of them uses a port that's not USB-C. I didn't realise it until now, but the same applies for peripherals and accessories. The only non-USB-C (wired) accessory I use is my wired EarPods. And that's only because Apple removed the headphone jack and used Lightning on the iPhone 13.

So I think I'm quite looking forward to it actually. That might not neccesarily mean I'm going to buy the next iPhone, but it being USB-C is definitely a positive for me.

My next Mac might be the last

Yet another great piece by Riccardo Mori. A fascinating read, and one that has somewhat echoed feelings I have in regard to what Apple are doing with their software.

Random thought: Whenever I think about the best days of my life so far, or just days where I thought it was "pretty good", they very rarely involve technology.

As someone that has been interested in technology to a certain degree for most of my life. It's weird to think that most of the time, I prefer life without it. A day where I don't use my phone at all is usually a pretty good day.

The Way I Use Technology Is Changing #

A thought popped into my head the other day, about the apps I use on my iPhone. So I gave it some thought, and I didn't think the list was that long. I know I have a ton of apps installed on my phone (I checked, it's 208), but as for day to day use, I barely touch most of them.

I seemed to pique my own interest, so I went through the list of apps I have installed on my phone, and took a note of each app that I have used in the last week or two. Even when I was being a bit generous, I could only find 27 apps that I've used.

The majority of them are core phone apps like Camera, Mail, Photos, etc, then the rest are mainly entertainment, social, and football related.

Full list of the apps I've used:

Core Phone Apps

Shopping

Entertainment

Social

Sports

Other

That may seem like a relatively long list, but for most of them, I use them for a maximum of a few minutes at a time, and only a few times a week. I just went through them again, and I could probably drop 10 of them, and barely notice it.

This doesn't mean that I can now delete the other 181 apps that I haven't used this past week. (Although I should probably go through and clean some up.) Because there's a certain type of app that will only ever be used sporadically, like apps for flights or restaurants. So I'm not going full minimalist of anyone. But I did just look at my home screen, and of the 22 apps that are there, I haven't used 6 of them in ages.

I'm not writing this to say to everyone "hey, everyone, look at me, I use less apps than you". I just wanted to share something I noticed in my own behaviour, and maybe put a little thought into the possible reasons behind it.

One thought that entered my mind, was that maybe this is just how normal people use their phone? Maybe before, I was an iPhone "power user" but now I'm not? That does seem to match up with my current feelings about technology, and tech products in general.

In general, my interest in computing has dropped slightly, although to be honest, the biggest drop is my interest in Apple. And maybe this is because I've reached 30, but I just want things to work now. Sure, I can sit inside a command line for hours, and play around with silly customisations and tools, but when I'm doing a task like programming or writing, I don't care about the frills anymore.

Now I think about it more, that does seem to match up with a few more things I've noticed recently:

Even when I'm using my Mac, for both work and personal use, I rarely use anything other than a browser, text editor, terminal, chat app (for work), or email client.

It's fascinating to me to see how much my interests and feelings have seemingly changed so much recently. For quite some time, I was the "Apple guy" to my friends and family. Anything Apple did, I liked, anything Apple sold, I purchased. Maybe this is part of becoming older? If so, hopefully, that means I'm getting wiser.

Fortunately, I didn't build this blog around a niche, so I guess as I work out my new feelings on technology, and possibly my new interests, I'll keep on writing here.