Chris Hannah

AppRecap

Quite some years ago, I used to have an Apple blog called AppRecap. It contained a bunch of Apple-related news, but I also reviewed a load of iOS and macOS apps.

Well, today I realised that I had a backup of the website stored in Digital Ocean, and wanted to do some digging to see what was actually backed up. I did a small tweet thread on my initial findings, but I wanted to put something here on my blog so I have at least some reference to my old blog. Mainly because I plan on deleting the backup as it's costing me money.

Some general things I noticed:

I thought about migrating the entire collection of posts to my personal blog. But that was pretty much stopped when I realised I didn't have the admin password anymore. I then thought that I should at least go through all the posts and add anything that was still useful. Well, I did that. And, well, I won't be migrating anything.

Turns out, what I wrote about for AppRecap was very much only relevant in the moment. That's pretty obvious for news-related posts, but also my experiences with software aren't that valuable to read now, and most of the apps I covered are either substantially different or just plainly not available anymore. Weirdly, I recently wrote about blog posts having an expiry date, and turns out these definitely did.

However, I will share a few snippets, just because they're pretty funny to read again in 2022:

Here is what I wrote about the Single Sign-On feature that was announced for tvOS at WWDC 2016:

It’s a pain to authenticate services on things like the Apple TV, especially when you have to find the app, go to a browser, enter a code, etc.

But now with Single Sign-On, you just need to authenticate to a service once, and then apps that require the same authentication, can just access it themselves.

I guess this will only be useful for people who use apps from the same company, maybe as part of a television subscription. But if you use individual apps from multiple networks, I can’t see this helping. Maybe it’s different in the US

Not sure about anyone else, but I can't remember actually using this. And I'm not sure if it's still a thing.


On Instagram's initial move to "optimised" feeds:

According to the post, the actual images that are in your feed won't change, however the order of them will be. I guess this is useful for people who follow a stupid amount of accounts, and this could help them find the best posts, but isn't this just a reason to not follow too many people?

I'm not a fan of non-chronological feeds for social networks, it's one of the flaws in Facebook, and maybe soon, Instagram. When I use a service like Instagram, all I want to do is to be able to follow accounts that I like, and then see their posts in a chronological order.

We should see this new "experience" in the coming months, I certainly hope we don't.

I still feel the same way about this one.


Another on Instagram, this time on a new design and icon (the purple/pink/yellow gradient with the white symbol):

The changes they've made to the actual app are really nice, and I much prefer the new black and white interface.

But I do not like the new icon.

Yep, the original icon is still the best in my opinion.


On Siri being added to the Mac in OS X 10.12:

I’ve been anticipating this feature for ages, it makes sense to bring it to the Mac when other companies such as Microsoft have done the same.

I’m not sure how much functionality it will have compared to the iOS version, but I would personally think it should do more. However you could say that Siri is more beneficial for handheld devices, as it lets you perform more complicated functions easily. But with a Mac everything is pretty easy anyway, it’s just cool!

I was apparently very optimistic about Siri back then. It's certainly gotten better since then, and I use it semi-regularly on my iPhone and HomePod, but I only ever invoke it on the Mac by accident.


On Twitter thinking about increasing the character limit from 140 to 10,000:

I’m not sure how I think about this at the minute, but my instant reaction was “this is a terrible idea”. I personally think the best thing about Twitter is the short statements, and a quick way of sharing with everyone.

I also dislike the thought of scrolling endlessly through massive tweets, but I guess this could be fixed with an expand button for larger ones. This could also get annoying though, as you would be constantly be reading the headings and not real content.

They, obviously, only ended up increasing the limit to 280 characters, which turned out pretty well in my opinion. Although they did add a Twitter Write feature a while ago that added long-form text content, which for some reason, Elon wants to reinvent.


If you've made it this far, then I want to share another little funny story about AppRecap that I've just rediscovered.

So, back when I was writing AppRecap, I was still at university, and not exactly making much money. And for some reason, I liked the idea that I could one day sell a domain name for a high amount of money. That led me to sign up for Sedo, and place the apprecap.net domain for sale.

Well, in March 2016, I got an email from Sedo saying that I had actually successfully sold a domain name. And going by my tweets at the time, this was a bit of a surprise:

I just got a email saying AppRecap has been sold :O. I made it available on Sedo ages ago when I didn’t want to continue with it anymore. Tweet
But then I changed my mind and kept working on it, but forgot to make it unavailable. Is there a way to reject it? Tweet

After digging through my Sedo account and some old emails, turns out I had sold the AppRecap domain name for a whopping £299. But at that time I wasn't ready to let it go.

So I talked with Sedo for a while, and eventually, they ended up cancelling the sale, luckily before the buyer made any payment.

That was around March 2016.

My last post for AppRecap, before starting a new blog called "Radical Thinker" (because I was cool and thought I knew some stuff), was about Tumblr adding live broadcasts, and that was on the 21st of June 2016.

I denied a sale of £299 so I could blog for another 3 months.

Eventually, I decided to stop renewing the domain, and some time since then, it was registered by someone else. Sadly, it's not being used though, as it's been set up to redirect to apprecap.io which doesn't seem to work at all for me.

Going back over this blog has made me remember how much I enjoyed reviewing apps and covering Apple news. Maybe I'd enjoy writing about similar things again. But I have a feeling that it would end up being a lot of effort, and probably not provide enough value.


Finally, so I have at least some visual memories of the website, here are a few screenshots of it's final form.

The first blog post (that was available in this backup, I'm pretty sure older ones have been lose):

The last blog post:

And a small glimpse into the sort of content I thought was relevant:

(It wasn't.)

iPhone 14 Sales

I've seen quite a few articles recently that claim that due to worrying sales of the iPhone 14 models, the price of next year's models will likely be lower. While that may seem rather simple to understand, and probably not even require a "leak" to back it up, I'd like to offer two (also obvious) reasons why the 14 may be selling a little less than expected:

  1. The price was increased at a time when a lot of people have less money.
  2. It's pretty much the same phone as the 13.

I'd argue that even if the 15 models go back to the "normal" (still hugely expensive) prices, it still won't be worth the upgrade if the phones are not substantially better than their predecessors.

I still own a 13 Pro, and I honestly can't think of any reason why I'd want to upgrade to a "better" iPhone. At least going by the improvements that were added in last-year models.

Now, if the next iPhone models are affected by the various E.U. rules that mean it needs to be USB C, have an easily (not sure what that even means) replaceable battery, and a few other improvements like that, then I'd probably be a bit more optimistic. But if it's the usual list of changes like a brighter screen, longer battery, faster chip, and some new cinema-grade camera certification, then I think I'll likely skip another generation. Or perhaps, even switch to a more interesting phone like the Google Pixel.

One of Those Linux Evenings

Fabian Sanglard wrote a blog post about one of those "Linux evenings" where you spend hours trying to fix something that clearly wouldn't be an issue on any other OS. But you go through it anyway, because, you know, Linux is cool.

The problem is that he is trying to use an external SSD. And it works on every computer, except one specific laptop running Ubuntu. (Note: It works with the same laptop when running Windows)

It's an interesting story, and he takes you through the various stages of the debugging process. But I had to share the part where he eventually discovered the fix on an online forum:

I google it and end up here. I don't understand any of the described solution. It looks like the kernel needs a parameter to set the bus size for a pci channel. After several hours in, I'll try anything.

[...]

The machine reboots. And to my amazement, it works.

I pause and wonder how many hours one must have invested to become so highly skilled on such an esoteric topic. I find comfort in user zxmth's question, asserting I was not alone left in awe.

Out of curiosity, how did you come up with this solution? - zxmth

The author, dkozel, never came back to answer. I imagine they typed the solution on a 40% keyboard featuring unmarked keys and then rolled into the sunset on a Segway for which they had compiled the kernel themselves. Completely oblivious of their awesomeness and of how many people would later find solace in their prose.

If you haven't used Linux before, then this type of experience might put you off forever.

But if you do use it, and you persevere through these long nights of random issues, you tend to bump into these Linux wizards that drop by to offer some magical advice to fix your specific problem, and then vanish to never be heard from again.

Sometimes using Linux can be as easy as any other OS. Then again, a simple interaction can transform into a fever dream.

Weirdly, it's those fever dream moments that keep Linux interesting for me.

My Writing Cycle

I think a lot of internet writers go through a stage where they focus more on refining their workflow than they do than actually writing. What I've noticed is that for me, this can be represented as a sine wave. In that I go through phases of really wanting to nail a perfect workflow for every situation, then periods of time where I just don't care about how I write, I just get on with putting words somewhere and then publishing it to my blog.

Right now, I'm at a stage where I feel like I can write a blog post in any application that can handle plain text. In the past few weeks, that's mainly been Obsidian, but I've also used TextEdit recently, and even the Ghost web interface for my blog.

That may sound rather boastful, but I say that while thoughts about refining my workflow start to creep back into my head.

I already know now, that at some point in the very near future, I'm going to be spending more than necessary trying out new writing apps, working out more efficient ways to publish to my blog, and generally focussing on my writing process.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though. While it may seem like misplaced effort, a moment of introspection can be very valuable. Because it can make you think about not only the process of how you write, and how you publish, but also what you write about and who you're writing for.

The next stage I usually go through, after a short period of refinement, is that I usually write about what I've learned, and what my new writing workflows are. Essentially, I start to write about writing. At times that can be seen to be a tad too meta, but I've found that process useful to get myself back into the habit of writing regularly. Once you've built up that habit, you can start to relax back into the flow of writing more, and focus on the actual content. And with that, the cycle starts to repeat.

As you may expect, this will probably mean that I will no doubt be doing the above very soon. I'm sort of looking forward to it. Once I've improved my writing workflows, the tools I use, and also spend time deciding what I want to write about, I know I'll then be able to spend more time writing. Which hopefully means I can continue to improve.

Do Blog Posts Have an Expiry Date?

As someone that tends to both subscribe to a lot of websites via RSS, and likes to sometimes quote what I've read on my blog, I sometimes worry if that piece of writing is too old. If maybe the post has had it's time.

This is mainly caused by my regularly high unread count, meaning if I always read the newest posts first, it can potentially months before I get to read something. Once in a while, I go through the entire list and clean out some posts that I know I won't read, and try to make it more manageable. But regularly, I find myself a few months in the past, with something interesting that I've read. And then I'll want to use a portion of the writing as a quote, and offer my thoughts/perspective. Except, I'll notice how old the post is, and wonder if it's worth bringing up again, or if it's moment has passed. Which means I refrain from writing. And I just move on to the next unread item in my list.

Maybe this is odd, but this is something that I've thought about quite a lot. And I've come to two conclusions. The first one being, yes, of course, you're "allowed" to quote a piece of writing many months after it has been written. And the second being that, if after a few months a piece of writing becomes "out of date", meaning the contend is no longer valid, the situation has changed, or it was only ever relevant in that hyper-specific moment of time, then has anything been lost? Because if I feel like the content I'm quoting was only ever relevant at that point in time, then anything I would have added, would have also become irrelevant as well.

This realisation has stemmed from thinking about my own writing, and that I don't always want my writing to be about current affairs, or reactions to immediate events. Because if that's the case, in a years time, nothing on my blog would be worth reading. I want to have pieces of writing that can stand at least some length of time. So with that personal goal in mind, if it's relevant, then I think quoting another piece of writing from months (or maybe years) ago, should be perfectly fine.

The New(est) Twitter Blue

Twitter announced yet another version of Twitter Blue, which is launching tomorrow. And in all honesty, if this was announced 6 months ago, I'd be all over it.

I mentioned this a few days ago, but it's now official. Twitter Blue will cost $8 a month if you sign up via the web, but if you do so via the iOS app, it will cost $11 a month. This is obviously to keep the revenue the same (or very similar) after Apple take 30%.

So, treating the web price as the de facto price, $8 (around £6.50) per month, I think is good value for what you get. Although I will add two caveats to that statement, the first being that it depends on if the people you follow are still on Twitter and have not migrated to something like Mastodon, and also that most of the features of Twitter Blue have been labelled as "coming soon".

If you subscribe to Twitter Blue tomorrow, this is what will be included:

And here is what is currently marked as coming soon:

The most valuable features for me would be the 1080p video uploads, tweet editing, and then the reduced number of adverts.

The problem for me is that I don't currently use Twitter as much. One reason is that I'm currently spending a bit of time on Mastodon, and the other is that I'm spending less time on social media in general.

However, if a time comes when I feel like I want to go back to Twitter in a more normal capacity. (And if Twitter is still standing at that point). I think this is something I would subscribe to.

It's also good to see that there's at least some level of verification happening before blue checkmarks are handed out. So at least they will mean something. And it's even better to see that the checkmark that a verified user can buy, isn't the same one that is applied to businesses or government accounts. With businesses getting a gold checkmark, and government accounts getting a grey checkmark.

One big complaint about the purchase of a checkmark was that you could pay for Twitter Blue and suddenly seem as official as any other previously verified account.  I think the distinction between different verification types, and that there is at least a phone number being verified for Twitter Blue subscribers, there's at least some value to it.

As for right now, I still plan on continuing to use Twitter. However, I won't rush into Twitter Blue, unless something terrible happens over on Mastodon, or something majorly impressive happens at Twitter.

Foundation Is Becoming Fully Swift and Open Source

"The Future of Foundation", Swift.org:

Today, we are announcing a new open source Foundation project, written in Swift, for Swift.

I saw this being talked about earlier on Twitter by people that understand this sort of stuff much more than me. But my first reactions were:

  1. I didn't know Foundation wasn't already in Swift.
  2. I wonder if I can become a contributer.

The post has the project launching on GitHub in 2023, which isn't that helpful. Still, it would be pretty cool to say I contributed to Foundation.

Twitter Blue Will Cost More on an iPhone

There are quite a few publications sharing information regarding the pricing of Twitter's Blue subscription, that it will be more expensive from an an iPhone. This is to cover the revenue cut that Apple take from all purchases on the App Store and their in-app payment system.

This isn't exactly a solution that everyone can suddenly adopt. However, I think for large companies such as Twitter, it's a clever decision. That's as long as there is an alternative method to start a subscription from another device at a lesser price.

It's one thing to offset the commission that Apple take, but I would imagine it also makes the cut that Apple take off all payments, a bit more visible.

Let's say Netflix added an option to pay for the service via Apple's in-app payment system, and also made the price higher to offset the commission. I'm sure a lot of people would suddenly be aware. And I'm sure, if the reasoning was made clear by Netflix, a lot of people would be aiming their complaints in Apple's direction.

I'm not sure how this will play out. Especially as to some, Twitter isn't even a place to be for free, let alone pay for it. But, if they can get more public attention on the cut that Apple takes from in-app payments, it would be interesting to see if the blame is directed towards Apple, or Twitter for not just accepting that cut, and keeping the end user pricing the same on all platforms.

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.