Dealing with Email

25th January 2021

I’ve been thinking a lot about email recently. It’s been a thing that’s mildly annoyed me for some time. But the episode Federico Viticci and John Voorhees did on App Stories about email and switching to Hey, triggered me to properly think about my situation and my options.

So to explain my situation, I have three email addresses that I regularly deal with. An iCloud one that's kind of been my primary account for quite some time, a Gmail address that is tied to my Google account and a few other things online, and a G Suite account with my domain.

One thing I've wanted to do for a while is to use a singular email address for everything. Ideally my one. I think I could make that work relatively easily, but it would most likely take quite a long time until I could be sure that everything important has been migrated. However, that's only one improvement I want with my email.

I also want a new way to deal with email. I find that too much nonsense gets through to my inbox, and even if I have filters to move some emails to various folders, it's still visible and distracting. So I want to stop some emails getting through to me, but also once I’ve dealt with an email I want it to get out of the way.

All of this is very much making me think about giving Hey a try. Except for the fact that I don’t want an email address. I don’t want any new email addresses. But, if they add support for custom domains, I think I would at least give it a try. Although I do have some more reservations about Hey. Such as paying quite a large amount of money for an email service, when others are free. And also that from what I’ve seen, I’m not sure if I like how emails are organised once they are dealt with.

Maybe what I need is a client-side change, and that’s certainly possible since I only use email on the usual devices — iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Or maybe it’s something like SaneBox that I should try since I could migrate my emails slowly to one, and at the same time keep my current client apps (The default Mail app on all devices).

No matter what happens, I guess I’ll be thinking about email for some time.

I’ll try to write about anything I try along the way, and hopefully, I can find a solution that fits my needs.


Photos in the Snow

24th January 2021

It snowed pretty heavily near my house this morning, which meant I had to go out and take some photos.

Luckily for me, there's a small area of woodland just behind my street. So I grabbed my iPhone 12 and my Fujifulm XT100, and went to see what I could capture.

The iPhone 12 seemed to put a green tint on most photos, and sometimes over-exposed the photos. Halide seemed to work great though.

After playing around in Lightroom, I've got 12 photos that I'm happy with. They're pretty similar, since they were taken in the same area. But I have tried to give them slightly different looks.

You can see them all on my Flickr, but here are my 6 favourites:

Text Case

Text Case 2021.1 Beta

17th January 2021

After quite a long time of development, the major update to Text Case that I've been working on is finally ready for a public beta.

This update changes the focus of the app from simply using built-in formats, to focus on user-created flows. A flow is a collection of formats, which together can become a more complex text transformation.

Along with flows, 6 more complex formats have been added. The complexity in them is that they support parameters. So when you add them to your flow, you will need to configure them. The new formats are:

  • Replace all occurrences of text a specified string of text another string of text.
  • Replace the first occurrence of a specified string of text with another string of text.
  • Replace the last occurrence of a specified string of text with another string of text.
  • Remove all occurrences of a specified string of text.
  • Remove the first occurrence of a specified string of text.
  • Remove the last occurrence of a specified string of text.

As they are more complex actions, they have specific Shortcuts actions, Replace and Remove. You can obviously also access them if you add them as part of a flow, as flows are now accessible via the Shortcuts app too.

There's a few extra tweaks to the design, and also some configuration options for the Share extension. But that's essentially the main changes in this update. I'll write a much more comprehensive post when the update is finalised and ready to download from the App Store.

If you want to give it a try, you can join the TestFlight beta. Any feedback or ideas are completely welcome.

Custom Key Caps for My Keychron K2 Keyboard

12th January 2021

A new set of key caps for my keyboard finally arrived yesterday, after nearly a month of waiting, so I thought I'd share some photos and also how I got them made.

For starters, the keyboard I own is the Keychron K2. From what I've seen, it may not be the most popular board, as it's relatively cheap, and a small form factor. But I find it to be very solid and one of the best keyboards I've used. However, the basic light/dark grey keys always seemed a little boring to me.

That's why when I saw much more hype around custom mechanical keyboards, I thought I'd finally look into seeing if I can customise mine at all. Turns out, the Keychron K2 uses Cherry MX style key caps, which are very common, so it looked like I'd be able to find a new set for myself.

Although, when I saw the specification for the key sizes for the K2 (included on the page for the K2 key set page), I started thinking that the task would be much more hassle than I imagined. Since I was expecting that I'd need to go and purchase either a massive set of keys and hope the weird sizes of my keyboard are all included, or I'd need to find a way to buy seperate keys using the sizes from the spec sheet.

Luckily, I was doing some searching on the WASD Keyboards suport page, and found an article for "non-standard layout keycap sets". There have some information regarding colour availability for certain sizes, and information on how backlit keys show throw their keys. But I was more focussed on the fact they specifically mentioned the 84-key Keychron K2 layout, and had a link to their online customiser tool.

From there, I just needed to choose the colour of each key, legend, and also select that I wanted the Mac modifier keys. And after a while, I was pretty happy with my design.

The main colour I liked was the mint for the modifier keys, but I wanted to mix a bit of pink in there somewhere. And also, I wanted to seperate the top row somehow, and the four keys on the right that I really never use.

So I ordered the keys, and after them being sent through the U.S., they eventually arrived, and this is what they look like:

Replacing the keys was pretty easy, there was a key remover tool included in the box. But it sure took a while to remove all the existing keys. That's not something I could ever enjoy.

As you can see from a few close ups, I also went a step further than just having different key colours. On the top row, I styled the text in a few colours to make them stand out just a bit more. The brightness keys have yellow symbols, the media keys are the same mint as the modifier keys, and the volume keys are pink. And I also had to match the delete key, so that's red on dark grey, with the big delete key being white on red, just like the escape key.

I'm very happy with how they turned out. Maybe the only thing I would change would be the symbol colour on the arrow keys, but then again I'm not sure what I'd change it to anyway.

I definitely think that just by customising the key caps, the keyboard feels way more personal than it did before. Before I had a Keychron K2 keyboard, but now this is my keyboard.

If you're thinking about changing your key caps, I'd definitely recommend looking into WASD keyboards. The online customiser tool is really easy to use, and the results are great too. And while I'm happy with my keyboard, if you don't have a mechanical keyboard, it may be worthwhile looking at what WASD offer themselves, since you'll be able to get it ordered from scratch with a complete custom key layout.

Forced Detox

11th January 2021

I'm not sure there are many parts of being ill that I actually like, but one thing is certainly the forced detox of basically anything unessential.

If you noticed my sudden lack of writing here, or how I've been inactive on Twitter for a while, it's mainly down to the fact I was ill1.

A common trait of me being ill is a complete lack of energy. So for around a full week, I did nothing except wake up in the afternoon, watch a Harry Potter movie, barely eat anything, and then go back to bed. To be honest it wasn't all bad.

But because of my lack of energy, I couldn't exactly spend hours in front of a computer doing any writing, I wasn't interested in reading, and keeping up with Twitter felt like work. So I just gave it all up. It was pretty good.

Now I've essentially recovered, or at least I'm well enough to start working again, so I'm now trying to get back in to my normal habits. But like any good detox would do, the way I think about things has changed.

Twitter has become too political for me right now, which makes it super boring to use. Especially when it's mostly US politics, which I don't have an interest in. So I've been using Instagram and TikTok more. Mainly because the content is more fun, and not just online bickering.

As for reading, I haven't been keeping up with my RSS feeds at all, and I haven't read any books recently either. But I've started to go through my RSS reader now, and I do plan on starting On Writing by Stephen King soon.

This might not exactly be a revelation to most, but I'm impressed with how much just a little time away can clear your head and put things into perspective. Maybe getting ill isn't the best way to start a detox, but it worked for me.

  1. Yes, coronavirus ↩︎

The Division of 2020

2nd January 2021

One thing that really bugged me last year was the apparent level of divisiveness that seemed to grow between people. I think most of it was caused by politics, with the popular reasons to divide being the US elections and UK leaving the EU.

Those two examples are obviously contentious since both of them resulted in major differences in opinions. But that’s not what bugged me since you’ll always find people with different opinions to your own. Instead, it was the constant degradation of the “opposition”. Every situation was simplified down to two sides, all nuance was removed, and every side seemed to think the opposition were idiots. Not people with different opinions, instead they were people that you could look down upon.

I don’t want to get into specifics on this issue, since I think it will only cause more division. But I think a lot of people will recognise how split the world is becoming.

I’m not sure how the current divides between people can be fixed, but I know that the first step has to be recognising that other people won’t always have the same opinions or priorities as you, and it doesn’t make you or them bad because of it. And that’s something I’m definitely going to be focussing on this year.

Hello, 2021

1st January 2021

For many reasons, 2020 wasn’t exactly the best year for a lot of people. A lot of us were aiming for 2020 to be the magical year that we suddenly get a lot of important tasks done, and milestones reached. I suppose that was partly down to the attractiveness of the year 2020.

Nevertheless, 2020 is over, and I think everyone will be welcoming 2021. Hopefully, it can be the year we all thought 2020 would be.

As for myself, I’ve been working on some goals and themes for the year. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I have a few big ones that I think are pretty definite, so I’m happy to share:

  1. Finish and release the major update to Text Case that has been in progress for far too long.
  2. Develop and release a new app.
  3. Write more regularly, and publish more original writing.

As for the new app, I don’t have any specific requirements for a platform or type of app. I just think it’s good that I work on a new project.

The writing goal as originally planned to be a publishing a blog post every day. But I don’t think this is particularly sustainable, and a general theme may be a better fit for this. Although I still may come up with a loose set of aims to help me keep regular with my writing.

I have other goals, like trying new apps, reading more, etc. But I’ll have to work on them some more. For now, I think the most important one will be to build up a habit of writing every day, with the hope it leads to regular publishing.

David Attenborough's 'A Perfect Planet'

David Attenborough's 'A Perfect Planet'

24th December 2020

I don't know how the BBC and David Attenborough can be pushing out so many documentaries so often, but they've done it again, and there's now a incredible new trailer for the upcoming series, A Perfect Planet.

This time the focus will be on how natural forces affect and enable life on our planet.

There are five episodes planned, with the first one looking at how without volcanoes, there wouldn't be any life on our planet. And the second switching focus to The Sun, and how animals have come up with strategies on how to survive. The first episode will air at 8pm in the UK on Sunday, 3rd January, 2021.

There are another two previous trailers available for The Perfect Planet, a prequel, and also an extended trailer:

You can find out more about A Perfect Planet on its BBC page, where you can find a few more clips from the first episode. Although I'll personally be waiting for the first episode to air, and avoiding these clips.

(Photo credit: Huw Cordey/Silverback Films via BBC)


Rediscover Old Photos With Memories

23rd December 2020

Memories is a new app that lets you view photos from years gone by on your iOS devices, either inside of the app, or with its widgets.

Memories supports all three widget sizes, and they will each show a single photo from previous years. It won't just show the one photo for the whole day though, as it cycles through multiple photos throughout the day.

A lot of these types of apps exist, where you can go back in time and experience old memories. But personally, I know I'd never actually ever use them. That's why I like these widgets, since I can put a widget on one of my home screens, and my phone can remind me of various memories as I use it.

Download Memories for free on the App Store.


Ecosia Added to the List of Default Search Engines on Apple Devices

23rd December 2020

Apple has now added a fifth default Search engine option to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. And that new addition is Ecosia.

Ecosia is a search engine that has been produced to plant trees. Not literally, but the profit from the search ads are used to plant trees, and therefore to help the environment.

I heard about Ecosia quite a few years ago, but it didn't seem to work that well for me. I've tried it again recently, and it seems to have improved a lot. So I'm going to be setting it as default on all of my devices to really try it out. For the simple reason that if I can get reasonable search results, then there really isn't a negative, only a positive effect of trees being planted.

To be honest, although Apple added DuckDuckGo to the list of default search engines, I didn't really expect them to add any more. DuckDuckGo just seemed like a privacy-focussed alternative to Google.

I wonder how many people will switch to Ecosia, and if Apple will add even more options in the future? Maybe they will make their own?

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