A great utility app for Mac that makes it so much easier to join Zoom calls.

Instead of dealing with copy and pasting meeting IDs or passwords into Zoom, you just need to copy the details and QuickZoom will detect these details and show a prompt to join the meeting.

The Problem Of Scale

Greg Morris, on the problems that scale brings to platforms:

One thing that constantly surprises me on micro.blog is how nice people are. This has something to do with the barrier to entry being a bit nerdy, but everything to do with the scale of the platform. Although everyone seems to think that abuse and harassment is something unique to the main social networks, it’s actually a problem of scale.

I've got various opinions on scale when it comes to platforms, social media especially, but they're mainly based on the effect it has on people dealing with that scale. However, Greg has written about another perspective, and that is how it affects the platforms themselves.

The M1 iPad Pro

20th April 2021

The new iPad Pro has been announced, and I've got a few thoughts on it.

Of course, the most significant part of the announcement was the addition of the M1 chip. It brings the obvious added power and increased efficiency that we've seen in M1 Macs. But I think it also signifies something bigger.

Because Apple could have easily just called the iPad chip the A14X or something similar, that's essentially what it is. But they chose to go with the marketing term, M1. And with the M1 name being associated with Macs and desktop computing, I think it shows what Apple wants the iPad Pro to be.

I could be reading too much into this, but my opinion is that we're going to see a much more Pro-focussed strategy for the iPad Pro. And I'm hoping that kicks off with some real Pro applications announced at WWDC, especially Xcode.

The iPad Pro also now comes with more memory, with the 1TB and 2TB options coming with 16GB, and the rest with 8GB. Both options are an increase from the 2020 models, which came with 6GB. I think this will be a significant stepping stone in getting more powerful apps on the iPad.

Then there's the screen. The new 12.9" iPad Pro has a "Liquid Retina XDR" display, which means 10,000 mini LEDs, sorted into over 2500 local dimming zones (The Pro Display XDR has only 576), 1000 nits of brightness with a peak of 1600 nits, ProMotion, True Tone, HDR, P3 wide colour, etc. All of this sounds very appealing and partially confusing, to be honest.

Most of the other features, while mildly interesting, aren't exactly game-changers for me. Things like the USB -C port gaining Thunderbolt support, the curios Centre Stage feature where your camera can follow you, and of course, 5G.

One other thing did pique my curiosity, and that's the new White Magic Keyboard. While my initial reaction was that it would surely wear out quite quickly and get quite visibly dirty. I feel that the White Magic Keyboard combined with a Space Grey iPad Pro could look pretty good together. Hopefully, I can see a picture of it before they're ready to order.

However, all of this excitement also relies on enhancements to iPadOS.  The hardware has never actually been the issue when it comes to iPad. That has been steadily improving over time, and it's been pretty powerful for a while now. However, it's now time that the software matched the same level, and I mean that from both an OS perspective and Apple's app offerings. Apps like Xcode, Final Cut Pro, and Logic surely have to be coming to the iPad in one form or another? I'm starting to see little reasons why they couldn't.

Subscriptions for the Planet

5th April 2021

It's taking many forms at the moment. Still, it's evident that a lot more people are becoming interested in the planet on which we live, and some of them are becoming invested in the various processes in which people are trying to make Earth a better place.

Some choose to protest against global corporations that are performing harmful acts against the environment. Others try to develop small businesses that sell more sustainable goods, and there are loads more.

I am more interested in learning about ecosystems and the various connections between flora and fauna. And I'd like more of these ecosystems to exist. I want humans to learn to live with nature again, and therefore our landscapes to go back to how they were many years ago, when the Scottish highlands were full of forests, and there were animals such as the Lynx roaming Britain.

The terms used to describe such goals are "reforestation" and "rewinding". And while I'm not up in the Highlands replanting trees, keeping livestock from destroying more woodland, or campaigning for the return of apex predators. I've found two subscription services essentially, where you can help fund various activities such as reforestation and other climate-related projects. So I thought I'd share some information about them here if anyone else would be interested in helping their causes.


Photo: Ecologi. Showing the Reforesting Dalry project.

The first one I'll mention is Ecologi. I've had a membership for over six months now, and the work they do around the world is excellent. Their main objectives are to plant trees and to fund the best climate crisis solutions.

A lot of the time, the projects are based around reforestation, protecting wildlife, and funding renewable energy projects. A few examples are protesting forests in Northern Zimbabwe, preserving prime Brazilian rainforests, and reforesting a place called Dalry in Scotland.

How Ecologi works is that as your money funds climate projects and tree planting, you get to visualise this in your digital forest. For example, my forest of little over 6-months has 472 trees and has funded 13.03 tonnes of carbon reduction.

The plans are pretty flexible, and you can add local projects to them. I have the "Booster" plan, which is just £9.40 a month and funds the planting of 24 trees per month and reducing an estimated two carbon footprints per year. I also pay an extra £10.65 a month towards a reforestation project in Scotland, which adds another three trees to their forest.

If that interests you, then I'd recommend checking them out, and if you do choose to sign up, then by using my referral link, and we'll both receive 30 trees.

Mossy Earth

Photo: Mossy Earth. Showing the wildlife that they are protecting as part of the realising projects in Scotland.

Mossy Earth is one that I've only just found, and that was through my research into various rewilding projects. The main aim of all of their projects is to "restore ecosystems and promote biodiversity".

They handle their reforestation and rewilding projects differently. As for the reforestation projects, after they have done enough analysis to decide to proceed with a project and a plan is drawn up, the process is essentially:

  1. Trees are planted
  2. Photos are taken and GPS coordinates are recorded
  3. Trees are assigned to members
  4. Trees/Forests are monitored and replanted

A few of their reforestation projects:

As for the rewilding projects, these actually include members involvement. They start with the same level of analysis, with the result being various projects being drawn up. These projects are then vetted to make sure they fit their criteria. First, to ensure that they fit within the broader context of ecological restoration for that area. Then to ensure that the drivers of degradation are actively addressed. And finally, that there is a strategy to monitor the impact of the project and potentially alter the practices used. The projects are then shown to members for approval. Here is the simplified version of that process:

  1. Project options researched
  2. Members cast votes on what projects should be implemented
  3. Projects are implemented
  4. Results are monitored and reported

Some of their rewilding projects:

They don't have specific plans like Ecologi but rather do it on a specific monthly contribution. For example, I'm currently paying £10 a month towards their projects, which they say will also go towards planting 48 trees per year.

If you're interested in signing up, then Mossy Earth also has a referral system where they will plant four extra trees for me and you if you sign up via my link.

I'm delighted these services exist. I find them to be particularly more compelling than simply donating to the equivalent charities. You get regular news and progress reports, which makes you see what your contributions are actually funding.

The Evolution of What I Write About

3rd April 2021

Something that I have been thinking a lot about lately is the content that I want to write about and how it's changed over the years.

When I first started writing online, I was focussed on writing about Apple, apps, and related technology news. At one point, I remember trying to cover all Apple-related news. That didn't last long.

Then I tried to do more app reviews. But after a while, this started to bore me as well. Since sometimes, it felt as if I was reviewing an app for the sake of it, rather than simply sharing something that I enjoyed using.

I've written a few blog posts about development and a few guides relating to development (which still get regular traffic). But I've never been the sort of person to spend most of their time on a particular thing, which means my development work is always done in bursts. So I realised that writing a development blog probably wouldn't be suited to me.

However, recently I've transitioned this blog to a "personal blog", and I think it's something I'm going to settle on for a while. I find it a lot easier to write about personal experiences, to share things that I've enjoyed, and also to sometimes comment on things such as news or other people's writing that I've read.

When I think back, there has always been a small part of me who just wanted to write something personal. But I think a more prominent role has always felt as if it wouldn't be that popular, so I shouldn't be writing about it.

That's also where my attitude has changed too. Whereas before, I would write reviews and cover news to appeal to as many people as possible. I've now adopted what may not sound like a very friendly attitude, where I don't particularly care what any "audience" may think about my writing. I write about what I want to write about, and I'm not contractual obliged to write about anything in particular.

It may seem odd to "not care" what your audience thinks, but I also believe that being more honest is better for myself and potentially for anyone that would be interested in what I have to say. But I'd much rather have no audience than have an audience that I don't want to write for.

I wrote about this a while ago in a piece called "Showing Your Own Perspective" but essentially, my point is that we should all be a bit more real* with our writing. Because I personally think there's so much more value to writing when it feels like there's a person behind it.

The Wrong Kind of Splash

Om Malik, on Unsplash being acquired by Getty Images:

I should rephrase part of that — I was a fan up until last evening when I got an email announcing that the company was being acquired by none other than Getty Images. Hearing this was like a red hot spike through the eyes. A startup whose raison d’être was to upend draconian and amoral companies like Getty Images was going to now be part of Getty. Even after I have had time to process it, the news isn’t sitting well with me. 


Naturally, the company and co-founder Cho denied that anything will change with Unsplash. Though he did write of his buyers that, over the course of many talks, “It also became clear we shared a similar view of the world.” If you are a platform that shares values and views with Getty, you ain’t for me. I couldn’t bear to be part of a platform that is owned by such a company. I have since deleted my Unsplash account — and I know others have, as well.

— Om Malik, The Wrong Kind of Splash – On my Om

I have an Unsplash account as well, and I put quite a fair amount of my photos there. I too felt a bit uneasy when I got that email announcement. While immediately I thought about closing my account, I didn’t want to make any rash decisions, so I left it. But after reading this piece, which goes into the history of Getty Images a bit, I don’t really want to be associate with them. Therefore I will be removing my photos and deleting my account.

There’s always room for optimism, and maybe Unsplash will continue to be a great service. But there’s always change when a company is acquired. Maybe it’s not always the worst-case scenario, but there’s always change.

WWDC 2021 Has Been Announced

Apple has announced the dates for this years WWDC, and as we all expected, its back in it's all-online format that we experienced last year.

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced it will host its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) June 7 through 11, in an all-online format. Free for all developers, WWDC21 will offer unique insight into the future of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Building on the record-breaking participation and learnings from last year’s online conference, WWDC21 is an opportunity for developers to learn about the new technologies, tools, and frameworks they rely on to build innovative and platform-differentiating apps and games.

I'm very much excited for WWDC this year. A bit more than usual as well. Since I'm on the lookout for a new project to work on, and I'm hoping a new API or technology can unlock something for me.

Optimising for Speed

29th March 2021

I’ve been trying out a couple of new apps this week, and although they aren’t related at all, I’m using both for the same reason.

The apps are Alfred 4 for Mac and Spotify. Both of these apps are replacing Apple’s solutions, Spotlight and the Music app.

It started with Spotify, and the reason behind the switch was the way search works in the Mac app. I have a thread with a few videos, but essentially Spotify searched as you typed your query, whereas the Music app only[1] allowed you to see the results after you finished typing a query and then pressed return[2].

This is most likely a minuscule quality of life enhancement to many people. But if there’s one thing I know about myself, is that I become frustrated quickly when it feels like I’m being held back. So I thought for once maybe I should try and see what I can do to make my life a bit easier.

This then opened my eyes up to Alfred.

I’ve been aware of Alfred for a while, but I always saw it as a much more advanced and customisable version of Spotlight. And while that may be the case, as I don’t need any advanced functionality, I didn’t give it a real go.

However, I started to think that forgetting the additional features, it might just be a better Spotlight. And after using it for a few days, I certainly think it is.

There’s not much I used Spotlight for, apart from opening applications, launching various system preferences, or looking up a definition. Alfred does all of these, and at a much faster pace than Spotlight.

I think it’s a bit of an odd situation where I’m using two alternative pieces of software simply because I can type and receive feedback faster, instead of it being a feature comparison. One thing is for sure. It does represent my recent attitude towards software. Where I would rather things “get out of the way” and just let me get things done and fast. It feels like a type of maturity.

I have many thoughts on how this relates to iPadOS because I think the OS is slower in general. But I’ll leave that to another day.

  1. Music does have a short list of suggestions which do slowly appear as you type, but these aren’t actionable. They are simply links to a page in Music. ↩︎

  2. Sometimes I’ve found that you actually have to hit return more than once to get the results. ↩︎

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