This is where I write about my interests, share my opinions, and link to other things I find interesting. I've also got a section dedicated to photography if you want to have a look.

Alongside my blog writing, I also write a monthly newsletter where I share a deep dive into a topic or concept that I'm interested in. No tracking, no extra links, just one essay a month delivered straight to your inbox. The latest issue: Weeds are Subjective.

When I'm not writing, I'm developing apps. The app that most of my time goes into right now is Text Case, a text transformation app for macOS and iOS, and is packed full of customisation and automation.


The MagSafe Battery Pack

14th July 2021

Apple has just released the product that I think we've all been expecting ever since the recent addition of MagSafe in the recent iPhone lineup. It's a product that simply makes sense.

As you may expect, it's by no means the biggest battery pack you can get for your iPhone, with the capacity standing at 1460mAh, and it's not clear what this will mean in terms of actual extra use time. However, when you compare it to the iPhone 12 battery capacities, you can probably get a rough estimate:

  • iPhone 12 mini capacity: 2227 mAh
  • iPhone 12/12 Pro capacity: 2815 mAh
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max capacity: 3687 mAh

So maybe if you've got a 12 or 12 Pro you can expect somewhere near 50% extra battery life? I'd be fine with that. But I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Regarding charging speed, the battery pack can charge an iPhone with up to 5W of power when not plugged in, and up to 15W when plugged into a 20W or higher power source. 5W is the typical rate for a standard wireless charger, so there's no fast charging on the go. However, the benefit of MagSafe is that it simply attaches to the back of the device, so it's not as inconvenient to use online attaching it via a cable to a battery pack.

I can see this as the perfect solution for a travel charger. As when you're out and about, you have an extra punch of battery to get you through the day, but also the battery pack can serve as a wireless charger when plugged in. So I guess in that case, it's two products in one.

Another interesting part of this battery pack is that it can also be charged by the iPhone. So if you need to use a cable directly with your iPhone for whatever reason, your iPhone will then use reverse charging to charge the battery pack. This functionality was reported to possibly exist in the latest iPhones last year, but this is the first I've heard of it being used.

I'll wait until we hear more about the real-world capacity tests, and also when I'm able to travel a bit more, but it certainly looks like something I'm going to end up buying.

Check out the MagSafe Battery Pack on the Apple Store.

Weeds are Subjective

13th July 2021

Most people probably understand the concept of a weed - something that grows where you don’t want it to grow.

Well, maybe I’m odd for this, but this concept has been in my head for many years.

Mainly because of gardening reasons, but I also think my thinking can also be applied to more real-life scenarios. I’ll try to explain.

To start, here is the definition of a “weed” from the Cambridge Dictionary:

any wild plant that grows in an unwanted place, especially in a garden or field where it prevents the cultivated plants from growing freely

Seems simple enough. Things that appear where you don’t want them to appear.

Except throughout my life, I’ve noticed that here in the UK, “weeds” seem to be a fixed list of plants that people apparently don’t like on their lawn. So really they’re just native plants that sometimes spread relatively easy.

My problem is that the common meaning is seemingly a static list, rather than being subjective to the scenario. For example, in a small garden, you probably won’t want Japanese knotweed growing, as it’s an invasive species that can quickly overtake an area and is difficult to control.

However, I’ve never understood that dandelions, a small plant that produces yellow flowers, looks pretty nice, and is actually edible while also containing quite a few vitamins, is commonly classed as a weed. Whereas the daisy is exempt from the same criticism, even though it is too a small flowering plant that can appear in lawns and spreads relatively easily.

The only thing this has done for me is to further reaffirm my belief that weeds are subjective. But more importantly, that sometimes commonly held opinions (or definitions in this case) might not always apply to you.

For example, when reading a product review, whether it’s an app or a computer, it’s important to remember that a weed to them might not necessarily be a weed to you. So you need to take into consideration any biases that the reviewer might hold themselves, before applying their findings to your situation.

You could also apply to analogy to the common question of whether an iPad can replace your computer. Too many times, the fundamental parts of peoples arguments are what an iPad can do and what a “real computer” can do. And instead, the focus should be on three things:

  • What can an iPad do?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What weeds am I willing to deal with to use an iPad?

You can apply these three things to a lot of decisions, and make them a bit more generic:

  • What capabilities does X have?
  • What actions do I want to perform?
  • What am I willing to put up to perform Y on X?

Often it’s easy to see someone’s posts on social media and to try and apply their experiences and outcomes to your own life, but it’s important to remember subjectivity. And that their decisions could be based on beliefs that are different to your own, and that they may be willing to put up with a different level of “weeds” than you.

Racial Abuse on Social Media

12th July 2021

So about last night. England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy. That was hard to take.

But what was worse than the loss, was the racial abuse that some young black English players received after the game. The primary targets were the 3rd, 4th, and 5th penalty takers, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka, who are 23, 21, and 19 years old. Each of them had the courage to step up and take a penalty in a final when the entire country was watching them.

Whatever happened, happened, and Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties.

But what immediately followed were streams of racial abuse on those three players social media accounts. Most of them posted by freshly created accounts, that were created solely to abuse young players that were representing their countries at a major tournament.

And for as many arguments I see and hear about football players “taking the knee” before games, most of them based on being against the BLM organisation itself, and either not agreeing with their politician stances, or just insisting that politics should remain out of sport. Last night was a clear example of why footballers feel that they need to continue with the symbol. Whether or not the gesture is aimed at supporting the BLM organisation itself or a symbol against racism, it’s very much clear that racism well and truly exists within a group of football fans that quickly turn on players after a bad result.

It’s very easy to jump to the opinion that social media accounts should require some form of identification, to try and deter the level of abuse that occurs every day on the platforms. I’m torn because there are a lot of downsides to no longer having anonymity online, but when things like this happen, I start to think is the price that we need to pay? Because something needs to change.

Several organisations and high-profile people have already released statements condemning the abuse, but I’m not sure if they will actually be effective at stopping it from happening again. Sure, it will offer a level of support to the players, but something needs to be implemented so that it’s not that easy to post racial abuse on social networks.

Maybe some will say this is against some kind of free speech rule, but are social media companies not capable of not allowing racist comments to be made? Instead of relying on their reporting tools after such remarks have been posted.

I can only hope that the press that will no doubt be created because of the recent abuse will force the social media companies to start thinking about what else they can do to prevent it from happening in the future.

World’s Most Expensive Houseplant Sells in New Zealand

Moss and Fog:

Houseplants garner a lot of love these days, especially when more people work from home, and put extra effort into making their homes look beautiful. Houseplants can now be ordered online, arriving in curated kits to give your home just the look you’d like

But some people get really into houseplants, spending big money for that especially rare specimen.

This rare white variegated Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma sold in New Zealand on a bidding site for $19,297, making it the most expensive known sale for a houseplant.

As much as I like plants (there’s 17 currently in my office), I’m pretty sure this is a tad too much.

Trying Out a New Email App, Big Mail

8th July 2021

I’ve been experimenting with email again over the past week. This time it was trying out the new email app, Big Mail.

I won’t do a full product review, but I just wanted to write about my own experience with the app, where it excelled, and also where it also fell behind.

So, if you haven’t heard about Big Mail, the shortest description that I can give is that it tries to combine a great reading experience, with a screening tool similar to Hey, and the automatic sorting features of SaneBox, into a universal mail app.

It sounds like an incredible app in theory. But I’ll be upfront, in its current state, Big Mail is not the mail app for me. Let me explain.

First things first, I really like the design of Big Mail, on all platforms. And I totally get the idea of having a place for discovering new emails, separate places for newsletters, purchases, etc. and an email screener is handy to block unwanted email.

I currently pay for SaneBox (which I disabled during this experiment), so I definitely think I’m in the target audience for this app. But I’ve felt that the sorting in Big Mail isn’t that proactive and that I’ve had to assign categories to emails as they come into my inbox. This organisation is supposed to be “intelligent” and “automatic”, and maybe it is working as intended, or possibly it requires me to kick off some base data for the AI to kick in? Either way, it feels like I’m doing way too much manual sorting for it to be useful. SaneBox has possibly affected me in this regard because it’s worked so well for me, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s doing enough.

As for the reading experience, I’ve found that to be pretty good. I especially like the little touches such as the little accent colours and format when reading newsletters. There’s a decent amount of things you can do to an email, there are things like reply later, sort into a category, always ignore, starring an email, and the expected ones that all other clients support.

The major issues I have with Big Mail, except for the automatic sorting, is actually what I feel should be classified as basic functionality that you would expect in all email clients.

Here’s a list of some of those features that I expect in all email clients:

  • Ability to perform actions on multiple emails at once.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for basic email actions: delete, reply, forward, etc.
  • Access to your folders.
  • Swipe actions to quickly perform basic actions.
  • Drag and drop functionality to move emails into categories/folders.

The problem is, none of those features are available in Big Mail.

As much as some parts of the app I like and enjoy using, if the foundations aren’t there, then I simply can’t use it. So, I’m going back to Apple Mail on all of my devices for now.

I’ve still got hope that Big Mail can turn into a great product, and they seem to be listening to feedback already (It launched without an archive feature for one). So hopefully I can come back to it in the future and give it another go because there’s definitely potential.

Text Case 2021.6

4th July 2021

The last few updates to Text Case have mainly been bug fixes and refinements, but in this update, there are 15 new formats!

These formats fall into three categories - Hashing, JSON, and Counts.

Hashing

  • MD2
  • MD4
  • MD5
  • SHA1
  • SHA224
  • SHA256
  • SHA384
  • SHA512

JSON

  • Format JSON
  • Minify JSON

Counts

  • Count Characters
  • Count Characters (Excluding Whitespace)
  • Count Words
  • Count Lines
  • Count Lines (Excluding Blank Lines)

The formats list has also ben organised into groups, so finding the right format should also be easier.

Just to confirm, these new formats, along with every other format in Text Case are accessible from inside the app, the Shortcuts app, via the Share Extension, and also via Services on the Mac.

Download

This update is available now for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS!

So-Called Imperfections

13th June 2021

Something that has intrigued me for most of my life is how people react to what is perceived to some as imperfections. I have multiple reasons why I think it's an odd situation, but mainly as these differences are usually so benign and minuscule. Nevertheless, they can cause huge amounts of discrimination and even anxiety.

The entertainment we watch often includes aliens from other worlds and other strange creatures, sometimes human-like. We accept the blue skin of the Na'vi in Avatar, the various creatures in Doctor Who, and even a talking Racoon in the MCU. But this level of acceptance doesn't always exist in the real world.

For example, I have freckles over most of my body. I've never found this to be a bad thing myself, and I think it's actually pretty cool that I have effectively patterned skin. But I do know that some people will wear makeup to try and hide them. Not even because they don't like the look of them, but sometimes it's the pressure of society and the opinions of peers that persuade people to not "be weird". And when you're young, being weird usually just means not copying everyone else.

Weirdly, a common thing nowadays is to draw on freckles as if it's a fashion statement. But that's a whole other thing.

So while having freckles isn't a massive deal, as in it doesn't tend to incite violence in people. However, it's an example of something that sets people apart, and while obviously minor, it's another thing that our society can pressure people into trying to hide.

There are many more of these perceived imperfections, and they come in all shapes and sizes. There's having a beauty spot, different skin colour, hair colour, hair type, an accent, foreign language. The list goes on.

We seem to be very judgemental creatures, and maybe that's our tribalism coming out, or it's a byproduct of the fight or flight response where we need to judge and react quickly. But I'm not sure if I can totally believe that in 2021, they're more likely to be handy excuses.

It's incredible to think of the number of species on our planet and how we seem to accept their existence relatively well, but members of our own species can be seen as enemies because of their physical characteristics.

What's worse is that I think our current society, mixed with the media and so-called "influencers", make the problem of discrimination much worse. Because I think nowadays we've all been conditioned to expect judgment. So we don't write what we believe on the internet, put filters over our faces, and change our fashion to suit what's popular. And when we mask even the slightest of differences, we're telling ourselves that whatever difference that was, it's not normal. And I think it's this perception of "normal" that causes most of the problems.

If you really think about it, normal doesn't exist. Instead, we are all simply humans with our peculiarities, interests, perspectives, and priorities.

A common thing I see on social media are people asking for certain behaviours or characteristics to be "normalised". But again, I think this stems from the concept of normality. And how we can only truly be ourselves if we can do that within the confines of society's current definition of what normal is.

I personally think that the only thing that needs to be normalised is the fact that we all have the ability to be wildly different to one another in nearly all aspects. And while our differences can sometimes be interesting, we need to remember that it's not up to any one of us to be the bearer of acceptance for others. Nor should we require the approval of others for our own lives.

Depending on the community you live in, the people you interact with, and society at any point in time, it may be harder to be yourself. And that's something that I hope changes in the future. Not by everyone having an encyclopedia of the differences between us, and then actively accept others. Instead, people being accepting by default. Because we realise that whatever our physical characteristics, quirks, priorities, or beliefs that we have, aren't necessarily the standard that everyone else should be held to.


Sorry if this is seems like a bit of a rant, or too negative. It's just something I've been thinking about for a long time, wanted to get off my chest, and to see if it was anything that resonated with people.

How to Add Support for Safari’s New Customisable Tab Bar in Your Website

9th June 2021

In the new (beta) versions of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, a redesigned version of Safari includes a new combined address bar and tab bar. Which although, isn’t winning over everyone, it allows for a slight bit of customisation. Your website can provide a colour that will act as a background/tint colour for the new tab bar.

This colour is defined in the theme-color meta tag, and the media attribute can be used to provide different colours for Light and Dark appearances.

Here is an example of what I currently have set up for this website to provide the pink accent colour that’s used for links as the theme colour:

<meta name="theme-color" 
      content="rgb(233, 0, 94)" 
      media="(prefers-color-scheme: light)">
<meta name="theme-color" 
      content="rgb(255, 0, 103)" 
      media="(prefers-color-scheme: dark)">

And here is what it looks like:

I’m not totally in favour of the new Safari design myself, but I’m definitely a fan of added customisation.

You can read more about the other changes in the Safari 15 release notes.

10 Colourful Wallpapers

4th June 2021

As you may have seen on Twitter, over the past few days I’ve been creating various wallpapers. I had a goal of coming up with 10, and I’ve finally hit that goal, so it’s about time I made them available.

I’m making these available as a paid offering (my first on the blog I think) which you can purchase via Gumroad. The price is £3, which equates to roughly just over $4.

Here’s a preview of what each wallpaper looks like:

CMYK

Coloured Glass

Ice Cream

Pink Hills

Sunset

Letters

Mint Stripes

Worms

Triangles

Pastels

All of these images are squares, and the intention behind that is to allow you to choose your own crop and positioning when setting them as your wallpaper. Each image comes in two sizes - 6,000 x 6,000 pixels, and also 12,000 x 12,000 pixels, because why not.

My intention with these was to create a collection of wallpapers with various styles and colour schemes. So I hope there’s at least a few in there for everybody.

Buy 10 Colourful Wallpapers on Gumroad.

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