Opinion


Opinion

What's Not in the Box

3rd July 2020

If you’re interested in Apple, or you simply follow tech news, then you’ll probably be aware of the rumour that Apple may not include a power adapter and EarPods in the box with the 2020 iPhone models. If you’re somehow in the weird intersection of not following iPhone news, but do read this my blog, then I’d recommend Sam Byford’s piece on The Verge as a brief introduction.

I’ll prefix everything in this post with the fact that this is just a rumour. So while it’s getting a lot of attention, it’s not official. Therefore every reaction to this is purely based on a hypothetical situation.

My opinions on this rumour are predominantly based around the potential lack of power adapter in the box. Not specifically because I don’t care about EarPods. I mean, I don’t care about EarPods. But that’s not the reason I see them as two separate scenarios to be discussed. The obvious distinction is that you need to be able to charge the iPhone to be able to use it, and EarPods are an optional accessory.

I haven’t used EarPods since I got a copy of the very first AirPods. In fact, the pair of EarPods that I got in my most recent iPhone two years ago, the EarPods went straight to my girlfriend. Who incidentally is starting to think about making the switch to AirPods as well. So while my sentiment is more than likely clouded my by own bias, I don’t think not including EarPods with every iPhone is a big deal. Simply because they are not required for typical use, and I bet a lot of people don’t use them at all. And that could also be for a few reasons, maybe they don’t need EarPods because they have a third-party option already, or maybe they already have a pair from their last iPhone, or maybe they just don’t use earphones at all. Nevertheless, I would assume that the people that really want to get a new pair of EarPods when they get a new phone, would most likely be willing to purchase them separately. Or that the amount that would mind, wouldn’t be a large enough of a percentage to matter.

The power adapter, however, is a completely different story. Because without one, you wouldn’t be able to use your phone after the battery ran out. Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it? Imagine paying a huge amount for a phone, only to find out that you need to buy a power adapter separately. That’s going to get you some bad press. And surely a lot of confused and angry customers. It certainly sounds like a case of Apple being greedy.

However, that reaction would most likely only be the case if Apple didn’t include a power adapter in the box, but offered no reason why, and let customers pay extra for it. And like most situations, there would probably be a lot more nuance that can’t be captured by a headline.

Because let’s face it, most people that buy the iPhone probably don’t need another power adapter. And in a lot of cases, it will be left in the box, which obviously means unnecessary waste. In Dieter Bohn’s piece on The Verge about the situation, he quotes an interview in 2018 between Nilay Patel and Steven Yang, the CEO of Anker, where Yang estimated the level of waste from smartphones that include a charger in the box:

[Say] every smartphone has a charger with it. We had 1.5 billion smartphones that shipped last year. … That’s only for phones. When we have tablets, laptops, power drills, [and more], we estimate a total of four billion chargers (were shipped last year). We estimate about 300,000 tons of e-waste just from these in-box chargers.

So there’s the environmental angle that Apple could push, which to be honest is something that Apple likes to do. But I still think that if they simply said “Most people don’t use the power adapter that we include in the box, so to reduce waste we’re not giving you one”, then they will still get a ton of bad reviews. And for a CEO that loves his “customer sat”, I’m not sure if he would do that. Or at least, I don’t think he would do something as simple as explaining it was better for the environment and leave it like that.

I think the general angle will be on reducing waste, but in my opinion, there are a few different potential benefits:

  • Obviously, the lack of EarPods and power adapters means less waste for people that wouldn’t use them.
  • If the box contains just the iPhone (and all the paperwork), then the box can be really small. That’s a good win for waste reduction, but it also benefits the logistics side of things as more boxes will be able to fit in a smaller area.
  • This may or may not be passed down to the customer, but the costs would be reduced. Meaning higher margins, or lower prices.
  • This is just a thought, but maybe by not including a pair of EarPods in the box, if they do decide they want a pair of earphones/headphones, they may decide to buy something more upmarket. Maybe a pair of AirPods, or even a pair of Beats. The same could also apply to power adapters.

There’s also one more thing that probably isn’t a real benefit to anyone, but I think it makes things simpler. Well, maybe more so for the EarPods. Because if you buy an iPad or Mac, you don’t get a pair of EarPods. I’m not sure if that thought process works regarding the power adapter but is certainly takes the product to it’s most essential form (Apart from going as far as removing the need for a power adapter, but I’ll get to that later).

Alongside the potential benefits, there are also potential drawbacks:

  • First-time buyers will need to purchase a separate power adapter.
  • Even current iPhone owners that are buying a new iPhone may need a new power adapter or EarPods, so they are in the same situation as first-time buyers.
  • Damage to Apple’s reputation. They’re already thought to be a greedy company by some, and the products are expensive. So this will only make that worse.
  • If people have to purchase a separate power adapter and earphones, then that purchase might not be made through Apple. Meaning they lose out on potential revenue.

I’m sure there are more pros and cons to the potential situation, but that’s what’s in my mind. And to be honest, my first reaction to it was a negative one. It seemed like such a fundamentally stupid idea that you could buy a smartphone, and have it not come with a power adapter in the box. Because at the face of it, it’s absolutely a dumb thing to do.

Having said that, I then read other articles about it, including M.G. Siegler’s, and also watched MKBHD’s video, and my mind started to change. I decided to step back and truly take a look at how Apple could deal with the situation, and I’m starting to think that’s there’s a potential to do it well. So I’ve come up with a few things that I think Apple could do to make the best out of it, some of them better than others. They won’t be able to do them all, but maybe just one of them, or even a mix would be beneficial.

Reduce the cost. Simply subtract the retail price of the EarPods and a suitable power adapter away from the cost of an iPhone, and have them available as optional extras on the product page. This one would be difficult to see on its own though, seeing as by subtracting the retail price would be reducing the margins of the iPhone. So it would have to be part of a bigger story about reducing the cost of an iPhone or adjusted slightly to make it possible.

Offer a discount for a power adapter or earphones/headphones. Probably the most obvious idea. But, essentially if Apple wants to sell the iPhone as a device-only package, by offering a discount on EarPods or the power adapter that would have typically come in the box, then at least customers have a less annoying solution if they really wanted one of those. Then the message becomes a bit more friendly, and not as if the decision is purely about trying to make customers pay full price for every accessory.

Don’t change the default configuration but let customers “opt-in” to not having EarPods or a power adapter included. This way no-one is negatively affected. In fact, it only benefits people that don’t want these “extras” and would be happy for them not to be included in the box. Although this would make logistics more complicated, as there would need to be flexibility for the product to come with different things in the box.

Have different configurations of each iPhone. In a similar vein to the previous idea, Apple could have multiple “default” configurations of each iPhone. If they did it this way, you probably wouldn’t be able to have all four options (with/without either EarPods or a power adapter), so it might just be that you get the iPhone as we expect, and a “device only” option.

Differentiate based on the model. One way to try and please more people is to decide on a model-by-model basis. It just allows for slightly finer control and has a chance to give more people a better default. My first thought was that maybe the base iPhone would just be the device, but maybe the “Pro” model would include EarPods and a power adapter. However, I can imagine it wouldn’t be as simple as that. Seeing as you might find that customers that opt for the more expensive model, might also have their alternatives, so you’d be benefitting the wrong side. I’m sure Apple would have more data on this, so if for example they knew that the majority of customers for a certain model threw their power adapters away, then they could make the decision specifically for that model. It has the potential to be messy. But one example that I think may work, is singling out the cheaper model, which right now is the iPhone SE, and having the “main” set of iPhones device only.

Go full-on configurable. One way to ensure each customer gets what they want is to let them configure every part of it. So instead of having one default configuration for the iPhone, or even just having the option to include a power adapter or not. What if, when you went to buy an iPhone, you could choose from the usual model, colour, and storage size, expand that to audio, charging, and maybe even a few other types of accessories. For example, Apple wouldn’t be removing EarPods, they would simply be letting you choose from having nothing, EarPods, AirPods, Beats, and maybe select third-party options. The same applies to charging as well, maybe you don’t need another power adapter, but at the same time, you might want to buy a 5w charger, a fast charger, or even a Qi charger. So instead of the story being Apple removing things from the iPhone box, it becomes a story about Apple giving customers more freedom and flexibility to choose what’s right for them.

After thinking about all of these ideas, and potential ways Apple could handle the situation, I’m not 100% certain what I would do. As it stands now, I think the best solution is to lean into the idea around letting users personalise their iPhone package, and making everything configurable. But that would need to be coupled with discounted options for things like EarPods and power adapters.

However, I am aware that if I was in charge of this decision at Apple, then I’m sure I would have totally different motives behind the decision. For example, if it was to increase the margin on the iPhone, to reduce electronic waste, or even because they want to encourage more people to make the switch to Qi or AirPods. But as I don’t know Apple’s motives, I can only offer an outside perspective on the situation.


It all changes though if the iPhone didn’t need a power adapter, or at least what we expect as a power adapter, a cable and a plug. What if the iPhone only charged via a Qi-compatible For example, what if the iPhone had no ports? And you had to have a Qi-compatible charger. Then it would be a whole new set of circumstances to deal with. And maybe all of this is simply preparing people for that future. But that debate will have to wait another day.

Opinion

Why I "Force" Quit Apps

27th May 2020

Ever since you could open the multitasking interface on iOS, you’ve able to “force” quit apps. And not long after that, there’s always been people telling you that you shouldn’t, and that it was bad practice.

Most of the time these people will use the reasoning that having an app running in the background, doesn’t actually use up your memory or battery, and that that’s clearly why people are doing it. Others will say that resuming an app from the background is less CPU intensive than launching it from scratch. And there’s even the argument that it’s a waste of your time.

Even in Apple’s guide how to close an app has the prefix “How to force an app to close”, and in the guide, it tells you to do that “You should force an app to close only if it’s unresponsive”. So it’s not something they really endorse doing


So that’s why I’m going to explain the main reasons why I do quit apps on my iPhone and iPad.

Clutter

It’s the same as why I like to have a tidy desktop on my Mac and organised home screens on my iPhone and iPad. I don’t want clutter on my devices. And I find it irritating when I see apps that I’m not using when I open the app switcher.

It Helps To Signify the End of a Task

Similar to my disgust about the clutter, it helps to signify when I’ve stopped using an app.

For example, if I’ve been writing on my iPad, I’ve probably got iA Writer open, maybe Safari for research, Agenda for my overall planner, and even Reeder where I’m reading articles I want to write about. When I then finish writing, I’ll close all of these apps at once, and I no longer have to think about writing, until I actually want to start writing again.

What Does the Opposite Look Like?

Fine, let’s look at the opposite. What’s going to happen if you never quit apps on your devices? Well, one thing’s for sure, you’re going to have a lot of apps open.

I have 97 apps installed on my phone. So if I was to never quit an app, then by the end of a week, I’d expect to have quite a large number of them open. And eventually, surely the expectation is that every single application will be running?

Maybe there’s not much difference in battery level of memory usage when you’ve got a few apps in standby. But surely there’s got to be a difference at some point?

Either way, there’s certainly one place where you’ll see a difference. The app switcher. Imagine having 50 apps open, and you’re trying to find an app that just happens to be at the beginning of the list. That’s bound to be irritating.

Maybe the answer to that, is that if you do have 50 apps open at once, then the app switcher isn’t the place where you’d actually launch them from. Since having every installed app running and visible in the app switcher is essentially a giant home screen. In which case the app switcher becomes pointless.

What’s the Alternative?

Finally, the last reason why I “force” quit my apps, is because there is no alternative.

No matter what the system does in the background to running apps, they are still open. They are not closed.

Therefore, seeing as there’s no “nice way” to quit apps, I force quit them.


I’m aware that this topic might be unpopular, and there’s a good chance that you might think that quitting apps is plain stupid.

I’ll just leave you with one question:

If it’s a task that shouldn’t be done frequently, then why is it so easy and accessible to do?

Opinion

Working From Home During the Lockdown

9th May 2020

Because of the current situation with COVID-19, I’ve been working from home. It’s been quite some time as well, I think about 9 weeks so far. Which is probably slightly longer than most, but that’s because my company enforced remote working (where possible), around 2 weeks before the UK went into lockdown. As you can imagine, I’ve found some things about remote work enjoyable, and also quite a few things that I actually prefer about a physical workplace.

But just for a bit of background information: I work as a software engineer, mainly as a mobile developer, but I’ve also built various REST APIs, and worked on SSO while I’ve been at my current job. Right now, I’ve actually been going through a lot of training, as we’ve been bought by a much larger company, so we’re adapting a lot of our software to their tech stack. But essentially, everything I’m doing is possible from home.

However, I’ve noticed that while the main chunks of my work are possible from home, there’s a lot of extra things that I do that just aren’t as easy. Or sometimes they’re not more difficult to do remotely, they just take some getting used to. For example, our standup1 meetings are usually done in front of our whiteboard, which we use to track the progress of different pieces of work. This is quite good at helping the team visualise the overall progress, and keeps us aligned. It’s completely possible to do this meeting over a video call, but I don’t think it’s quite the same.

The small interactions that happen in a physical workplace are something that I miss as well. Because sometimes you just need to bounce ideas off someone, double check something, or just have a quick chat. Working remotely just makes this seem like more of a hassle.

What I’m discovering, is that my previous idea of remote work wasn’t necessary that accurate. In a normal situation, I would work from home occasionally, but only for one or two days at a time, so no real adjustment was needed. It was just a case of carrying on working on whatever you were previously, join a video call for standup, and possibly one for a meeting. But at least for me, it still felt like the “team” was operating out of a physical location, and I was temporarily separated. My expectations for this period of remote working was that it would be an extended version of my past experience, but now I realise I wasn’t truly “working remotely” before.

Obviously, my current experience of remote work is still not going to be a true representation either, as we are all dealing with the lockdown at the same time. Which I assume clouds my judgement about this quite a lot. So I can’t quite claim that my views now are absolute, and given a different scenario, I would probably have completely different opinions on it.

However, that doesn’t mean I’ve not noticed anything I like more about working in an office. A few probably apply to quite a lot of people: face-to-face conversations, small informal discussions, and an easier way to separate work from home.

One thing I miss that possibly is not that popular, is the commute to and from work. Mine is about an hour and a half in total, and involves walking to a train station, getting a train into London, two underground trains, and finally another walk to the office. To some that may seem tedious, but for me that’s time that can be spent listening to a podcast or music, watching a video, reading a book, etc. But I also enjoy walking, and my commute involves about 40 minutes of walking each way, and I find London to be a pretty good place to stroll around. Especially when I go in early at around 6/7.

There are, of course, quite a lot of things that I enjoy about working from home so much. There’s the time that I’ve gained by removing 3 hours of daily commute from my day, the money I’m disabling by not paying for the daily commute, and also the fact that I don’t have to wake up as early to start work. The extra time in the day means that I’ve got more time to do things like cooking dinner, having a proper lunch, and seeing my girlfriend more. We’ve gone from seeing each other in the evenings and the weekend, to practically every second of the day, apart from when she has to go to work (key worker).

All things considered, the hardest part of this situation is the lockdown, not working from home. And the fact that everything seems to have suddenly changed. We can’t just go outside anymore, see our family, or go out with our friends. One that’s especially difficult for us Brits, is the weather. We spend all of our life moaning about it, but right now we are having some pretty great weather. Lucky for us we have a garden, but I’m sure we’d all much prefer to enjoy it properly.
But for now that’s out of our control, and we’ll just have to get on with it.


  1. A quick daily meeting that happens in the morning to synchronise the team, e.g. what everyone worked on the previous day, what they’re doing currently, and if anything is impeding their progress. 

Opinion

I've Taken My Watch Off

22nd March 2020

I’ll start by saying, I haven’t worn my Apple Watch in about two weeks. There was no big decision when I stopped wearing it, but I’ve noticed that over the past month or so, I would just be less bothered about wearing it. So much so, the tan line on my wrist has near-enough disappeared.

I know it was about two weeks because that’s when my heart rate data has ended on the Health app. But it occurred regularly before that, where I would wake up and instantly grab my phone and watch. But I would sit down with a coffee, put my phone and my watch both on the side, and never pay any attention to my watch until it was time to put it on charge again.

My original lack of interest with the watch started I think when I wasn’t going to work. Because that’s probably the only time that I felt I needed constant access to everything. Whether it’s the time, the weather, access to music that’s playing from a device just in my pocket, or all the notifications that I would instantly dismiss.

Now when I think about what I can actually gain from the Apple Watch, I’m not sure if I’m ever really going to wear it regularly again.

Here is a list of all the things I’ve ever done with an Apple Watch:

  • Get the time.
  • Pause/Play/Skip music/podcast.
  • Track a workout. (Not a real workout, just small walks)
  • Checked the weather. (Not that it matters to me that much, my outfit doesn’t change all year-round)
  • Tracked my sleep. (It didn’t take long for this to stop)
  • Played a game called Field Day for a while.
  • Triggered a few interactions with Pokémon GO.
  • Checked football scores.

And that’s about all I’ve ever done.

Now for what I use my watch for, just before I started to not wear it as often:

  • Get the time.

I’m starting to think I don’t need a smart watch anymore.

No music/podcasts are being controlled on the watch anymore, because I have AirPods that can do that. I don’t track workouts because they were never real workouts anyway. I don’t play Field Day or Pokémon GO anymore. And if I want to check anything like the weather, football scores, text messages, I just take my phone out of my pocket.

I’ve started to actually like not having my wrist being the interface between myself and the internet. And I’ve grown tired about being notified about things that I just don’t care about.

Maybe I’ll eventually put my watch back on charge and then I can see if there is any remaining use for it. But for now I’ll be keeping it off. Maybe I’ll even think about buying an analogue watch.

Opinion

iPad, 10 Years On

1st February 2020

Matt Birchler, with his 10 year review of the iPad:

10 years ago the iPad was “about to replace the personal computer.”

Today the iPad is “about to replace the personal computer.”

10 years from now I suspect the iPad will be “about to replace the personal computer.”

Meanwhile, people like me and millions of others will continue to work on an iPad, not really trying to prove a point, just trying to use the best tool for us.

When Steve Jobs debuted the iPad in 2010, he described it as a device that would live between a laptop and a smartphone. By that measure, I think the iPad has more than lived up to that positioning, and I don’t think anyone would disagree. It’s more capable than an iPhone, but not as capable as a Mac.

I’m with Matt on this one.

Whether the iPad can replace whatever “computer” you have currently, it doesn’t diminish its use for other people. Where I see the iPad now, is that it is simply another computer, just another option with different advantages and drawbacks. A few years ago I would have edged towards the perspective of the three devices (iPhone, iPad, and Mac) having a certain order of capability, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore.

The iPad has its drawbacks, sure, but it’s also a relatively young device. From where the iPad started 10 years ago, to where it is now, it’s pretty impressive in my opinion. Especially when you have people running their entire business from an iPad.

Opinion

The New 16-Inch MacBook Pro

13th November 2019

Apple today, took me by surprise and announced a new MacBook Pro. A 16-inch one to be exact.

I’m very excited about this machine, for various different reasons which I will discuss below. But it has come at a very good point at least from my perspective, as I’ve been recently feeling the need to upgrade my current Mac because of the annoyances I have with it.

My Current Machine

To provide some context, my current machine is the MacBook Pro 13-inch Late 2016 model (not Early-2015 that I somehow thought I had earlier). It has a 6th generation 3.1 GHz Dual-Core i5 CPU, a whopping 256 GB SSD, and 8 GB of memory.

I purchased this while I was at university, so my budget was limited. And that is clearly represented in the specs of the machine. I clearly did not think about the lack of upgradability when I purchased it.

It was a good machine when I first bought it, but over the years it feels like it’s causing friction whenever I want to get something done. Which is a big reason why I think I’m going to buy this new model.

What I Do on My Mac

Along with the usual web browsing, Twitter scrolling, and other common tasks, there are only a few main tasks that I use my Mac for:

  • Developing applications
  • Writing
  • Gaming

All of these are perfectly capable tasks for my machine, but I would say that each of them certainly comes with its own level of friction.

For example, I find developing iOS apps to be cumbersome on a 13-inch screen. This used to be fine for me, but I’ve since been using external displays at work, and I find the 13-inch to be just a bit too compact. The time it takes to compile my projects, and run simulators to be annoying. Not necessarily what I would call slow, but it’s certainly not enjoyable. And with the limited time I have to develop my own personal projects, I want my machine to be as accessible as possible.

The writing I do is essentially all for this blog. I use whatever text editor that tickles my fancy at a moment in time, and I write in plain Markdown. It’s nothing that demands much resources from the machine at all. But it does require a reliable keyboard, and while the current keyboard served me well at the beginning (I personally don’t mind the “clacky” noise it produces), I’ve been slowly finding problems with it. My command keys are a bit flaky, I still haven’t adjusted to the escape key being in the Touch Bar, I occasionally get double characters when typing, and it generally just doesn’t feel as comfortable as other keyboards have been for me.

To me, a keyboard is something that you shouldn’t really notice, but when using this machine to type anything (I don’t need Grammarly), I’m constantly aware of it. Even if it’s not making any errors, I know it can and it means I can’t always focus properly on my writing.

By gaming, I’d like to refine this to playing World of Warcraft. It’s the only game I play on my Mac, and I certainly do play it quite a lot. You may be surprised by the fact that I actually game on a Mac, but while this machine isn’t necessarily built for it (It only has integrated graphics and 8 GB of memory), it gets the job done. But I’ve always wanted a better machine for this reason alone. World of Warcraft can look amazing on a Mac, I’ve just never purchased one good enough.

What Can the 16-Inch MacBook Pro Offer Me?

Perhaps the most obvious improvement that this machine has over my current machine is the size of the screen. I really want a bigger screen, and now it’s an inch bigger than I thought I’d go. I used to be hesitant about this for many reasons, but because of my iPad Pro that I use quite a lot, I’m not taking this on as many trips as I used to. So essentially the only portability I need is the ability to move it around my house.

The keyboard is the most major difference that I think is a real problem solver. I have issues with my keyboard, and I would like to hope that with the new key spacing, increased key travel, and the early opinions of reviews, that this will fix my problems. It also features a hardware escape key, which I think is the perfect comprise between having the Touch Bar or not. I like the Touch Bar, but tapping a screen with no tactile feedback for the escape key has always been weird to me.

One improvement that I think shocked everyone with this new model is the new speaker and microphone systems. I don’t really use the microphone at all, but I watch a lot of videos and listen to a lot of music on my Mac, so these are all welcome changes.

Obviously, with this being a brand new model, using new hardware, it’s going to bring with it enhancements all over the board. I’m sure compile times will be faster in Xcode, gaming will be smoother and with much superior graphics, and everyday tasks will surely feel much more seamless.

What I’m Looking At

The spec I’m looking at getting is the base 2.6GHz 6-Core i7 model, but with an upgraded 32 GB of memory, 1 TB SSD, and the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of memory. I think that GPU would be suitable for my needs, but seeing as the next step is just £90, I’ll have to do some research and see if it’s worth the jump.

What I’m doing differently now, is that I’m actually thinking about the future of this Mac. For example, I limited myself to 8 GB of memory last time, and while I think 16 GB is probably fine for me now. I think the extra jump to 32 is going to prove worthwhile in the long run. The same applies to the SSD. There’s no way I’m going to get anywhere near 500 GB, let alone 1 TB. But it removes a needless restriction, to a machine that simply can’t be upgraded at a later date.

Hopefully, this new 16-inch MacBook Pro can become a laptop that I actually like using again. And after writing this post, I’m even more sure that I’m going to get one.

Calendar

The International Fixed Calendar

12th August 2019

I came across the idea of having a fixed, 13-month calendar, on Reddit, and it immediately sparked my interest. Each month would have four weeks, and every month would start on a Monday.

Someone then shared a link to the Wikipedia page of something called the “International Fixed Calendar“. Either this is where the Redditor got the idea from, or it’s just a coincidence. Anyway, it sounds good to me!

It means that every single day of the year will always be the same day of the week. Which, in my opinion, makes so much sense.

So every month would look like this:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Thirteenth Month

The proposed name for the thirteenth month would be “Sol”, and it would be placed between June and July. The name Sol represents the Sun, as it falls on the mid-year solstice.

Recalculation

This would, of course, require all current dates to be recalculated. So your birthday would change, and other events like Easter, that change every year.

Leap Years

You may be thinking “this sounds good, but what about leap years?”. You’ll be pleased to know that the idea of a “Leap Day”, it occurs on the 29th of June. However, it is not classed as being part of any week, and is situated between the Saturday June 28 and Sunday Sol 1.

New Years Day

It’s a similar situation for New Years Day. But as you may already know, this happens every year. New Years Day would be another “bonus” day on the 29th of December. It too is between the last Saturday of the year, and the first Sunday of the proceeding year.

Why Aren’t We Using It?

There’s three main reasons why were aren’t using this calendar right now:

  • It doesn’t easily support quarters. Right now we have three months in a quarter, but in this calendar, it would be three months and one week.
  • Some religions oppose it, as traditions like worshiping on every seventh day, would mess up on a Leap Day or New Years Day.
  • We just aren’t used to it. And therefore a lot of dates would have to be changed, and the systems we have in place would need to adapt.

Converter

There’s no converter online that I can find right now, so hopefully I can find one soon, or maybe I’ll have to make one and upload it myself.

Opinion

Focussing on the Wrong Things When Starting a Blog

6th August 2019

Whenever I read about blogging, whether it’s people asking how to get started, tips on how to be better, or just anything in general about writing online, I tend to disagree quite a lot on the feedback that is shared.

I think that, especially when you are starting to write a blog, nearly everything that I see being suggested is detrimental.

Everyone’s telling you to start worrying about SEO, prioritise getting your website linked to from popular websites, working out monetisation, creating a schedule, creating the perfect design, blah, blah, blah.

If you are trying to start a blog, then the best advice is to just start writing, and then press publish. Sure, it might not be the best content you’ll ever produce, but it’s something. Then with the experience of writing and publishing that post, the next one will be slightly better.

Maybe no-one will ever see your first blog post, but that’s not exactly important. The most important thing is that you wrote it. And with it being made available for the world to read, I’m sure you’ll immediately find something you could have done better. So you learn from these mistakes and fix them in the next. These aren’t necessarily mistakes, just a representation of experience, which of course, comes with time.

Just like experience, in time your audience will grow, and if they like your content, they’ll come back. And maybe they’ll even think about sharing it with other people. But the content needs to be there before they can do that, and it needs to provide them with some level of value. But even that isn’t majorly important when you start.

Your aim should be to produce the best content you can. And if people value that content, then even better. If your aim is to make the most money possible or to get high numbers on your analytics, then in my opinion, you’re focussing on the wrong thing.

Maybe I’m too much a fantasist in that I think every blogger should at least be attempting to produce great content. But isn’t that the most logical target? If not, then I think you’re blogging for the wrong reason.

After you’ve built up a body of work, and still regularly providing content, then it wouldn’t hurt to try and get that content to more people. But it’s not the most important thing. And I would argue that it’s especially not important for people that just want to start blogging.

All I’m saying is, if you want to start blogging, then the only thing that matters is getting words out of your head, and published somewhere. You don’t need to worry about the overall theme of your content, your writing style, the name of your blog, getting the perfect domain name, figuring out what tools you want to use, you’ll figure that out once you’ve actually started.

The most important thing is that you actually start.


If after all of this you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. Simply write it all down and publish it to your blog. Then write some more, and some more, and maybe send me a link.

Ten Days With a Nintendo Switch and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!
Nintendo Switch

Ten Days With a Nintendo Switch and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!

22nd February 2019

I got my Nintendo Switch just 10 days ago. It’s the Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu edition. I have just that game for it, and I’ve been playing it pretty much non-stop since I’ve got it, and I thought I’d share my opinions so far.


Contents


The Nintendo Switch

The console overall feels like the ultimate Nintendo console. It’s perfectly capable of being a great handheld device, but also super easy to just place it in the dock and play games on a television. I especially like the controller combinations, as there are quite a few. You can simple attach the Joy Cons to the console, play with one/two separately, use the “dog ears” controller (I like that name so much, I’m not bothering to find out the official one), and even the Pokéball controller that came with my Switch.

It feels powerful, while also being really customisable, and flexible to your needs.

My Pokémon Background

I’ve been interested in Pokémon ever since I was a child, and to put it bluntly, I was obsessed. I watched every episode of the series, played every game, watched every movie, and had a ton of Pokémon toys. My first game was Pokémon Yellow for the GameBoy Color. It was released in the UK in the year 2000, just before my 8th birthday. I’m not too sure when I actually got the game myself, but I can imagine it was pretty near that date. I kept it on me at all times, and become pretty attached to it.

Of course, over the years I’ve grown to be slightly less obsessed with the franchise. But I still play all the games, watch all the movies, and try to watch some episodes of the tv series. I’ve also been a pretty regular Pokémon GO player since it was released a few years ago.

I’m a big fan.

Initial Reaction

When I first started hearing about the game I wasn’t sure about it. I remember people reporting that it would be very similar to the simple playing style of Pokémon GO, and I was not pleased about that at all. But there was an interview with two people from Game Freak that cleared up a few things, and reassured me a bit.

Then the videos started to come out and to be honest, I was still a bit unsure how the gameplay would feel, compared to the original games. The main questions I had were about how you caught Pokémon, not being able to battle with wild Pokémon, and that the randomness about finding Pokémon seemed to be ruined by your ability to see all the Pokémon walking in the grass before you even initiated anything.

However, when I first launched Pokémon, Let’s Go, I was pleasantly surprised. And all of my worries about the game instantly went away. It just felt as if it was a perfect evolution of the game series, and everything made sense. The artwork was brilliant, and I loved the initial introduction with Pikachu. While the map is the same, everything is brighter, in much more detail, and of course, it’s in all three dimensions! So even just exploring the map is fun.

Gameplay

Seeing Pokémon in the Wild

One of the biggest changes in the gameplay was that you now see wild Pokémon running around in the grass. Before playing the game I thought this was a terrible idea, after playing the game I now find it one of the best changes they made.

Turns out, seeing the actual Pokémon running around in their natural habitats is actually very enjoyable. And there’s a lot of fun to be had chasing down a Growlithe or swerving away from a Zubat. It doesn’t entirely mean that you will be able to see every Pokémon though, as I’ve had a few occasions where they’ve appeared right next to me, and started an immediate encounter. So there’s still some surprise-factor left in the game.

Catching Pokémon

Another thing that I thought would take some time adjusting to, was the new paradigm around catching Pokémon. Instead of the previous process, where you would encounter a Pokémon in the wild, battle it, and then lower its HP so you could catch it easier. You simply encounter a Pokémon, and you can start throwing Pokéballs at it!

There’s still a level of complexity to it though, as there are better Pokéballs you can use to have a better chance of capturing a Pokémon, and also berries. They were in previous games, but the actual implementation in this game comes from Pokémon GO. Each berry has its own benefit, and I think they work well. Especially the Nanab Berry, which when used, makes Pokémon move less and therefore easier to catch.

That also leads me into the thing I most enjoy about the new way to catch Pokémon. It feels a lot more realistic because some Pokémon move more than others, which may require you to move around to get a good shot. In general, it appears as if they’re acting with a level of personality. At least enough to distinguish behaviours between different types of Pokémon.

Comparison With the Original

Most of the game seems the same as the original Kanto games. But there’s a few changes and some improvements. Such as the music. It features the same melodies, but in much higher quality, and what feels like more depth.

The map is the same, or at least so far it seems to be. I can’t imagine there being major differences later on, but at least so far I’ve only noticed one small change. And that’s a little Meowth sleeping above an entrance to something.

The way HM (hidden machines) work is different in this game. And for me, the changes are very welcome. In the past, a HM was taught to a Pokémon as a move, so it would be available in battle. But of course, it would take up space. Now they’re taught to your partner Pokémon (Pikachu or Eevee) and are worded slightly different, with Cut being replaced by a Chop Down ability.

External TV

I know it’s a fundamental part of the Nintendo Switch, but I have to comment on the fact that it’s just so easy to dock the console and have it just continue on a television. Pokémon also runs perfectly, which I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by either.

This is the single way I charge the device as well. As I tend to only play it in handheld mode if I’m commuting, or if someone else is watching television, and I’m just sat on the sofa playing it. So I haven’t actually seen a low battery warning more than twice I think.

I also noticed that the graphics were slightly better on the TV, and since looking at the tech specs, I can see that the Switch can output 1080p to a TV, but the handheld screen is only 720p. It doesn’t detract from the handheld display though, as I find it absolutely perfect.

Playing a Pokémon game on a 50″ television is something that may sound a bit silly at first, but it’s a very fun experience!

Pokeball Controller

When I was looking to buy a Switch, this was something I honestly didn’t care for. As I expected it to be a “companion” controller, and would only add a minuscule amount of playability to the game.

I was proved wrong as soon as I started playing with it. Mainly because you can play the entire game with just the Pokéball, and even when it only has two buttons and a joystick!

There’s a lot of fun parts to it as well. It not only makes noises and vibrates as you play the game, but it also acts like a real Pokéball would do when you’re trying to capture a Pokémon. The lights flashes and changes colour like the one in-game, and it also makes realistic Pokéball noises.

It also comes with a Mew “inside”, which you can transfer immediately to the game!

My Overall Experience With How I’m Playing the Game

Okay, so you can probably tell that I’m really enjoying the game so far. But there are a few extra points that I’d like to make, that really add to how I played the game.

One thing I noticed, was that it seems as if there’s a more diverse selection of Pokémon that appear in the game. Of course, there’s still only the same 151 Pokémon, but they seem spread out a bit more. Maybe this is down to the fact that you “see” Pokémon before you start an encounter, and therefore are aware of it more. But it certainly adds to the realism aspect of the game.

Of course, you wouldn’t find a fish Pokémon running round in the grass, but I’ve seen Growlithe just south of Cerulean City, and also just north of Vermillion City, either side of the tunnel. That’s not something I’ve seen in previous games. I’ve also spotted Rhyhorn and Cubone in Rock Tunnel, which both surprised me! And I can’t remember where exactly, but I caught a Kangaskhan really early on, possibly in Rock Tunnel, but certainly before you get the fourth badge.

How I played the game was slightly skewed from my knowledge of the previous games, in that I know the entire map, and how everything is tied together. But there’s also a few things that are different in this game. So while I could play through quite quickly, I’m taking my time to experience everything as if I’d never played it before. Part of me wants to explore every single part of the game and trying to spot where it’s different. Another part of me wants to just enjoy the content. And at the same time, I just want to catch every Pokémon and complete my Pokédex.

Overall I felt that the game allows for various types of gameplay. Sometimes I’m sat down in front of a television and I want to really get into the game, and focus on every bit of the content, and other times I’m laying on the sofa and I just want to catch a few Pokémon with the Pokéball controller. Then there are times when I’m commuting to/from work, and I use it as a handheld device. It’s something that can be used wherever you are, no matter the situation, and that’s something I really enjoy about the console as a whole, and Pokémon specifically, as it’s a game that lends itself well to different contexts.

The Future

I haven’t finished the game yet, and although I got my first three badges in just a few days, I plan on playing the game at a slower pace. Especially as I aim to complete my Pokédex.

As a Pokémon GO player, I’m also interested seeing how they work together. As you’re able to transfer Pokémon GO to Pokemon Let’s Go, after you’ve reached Fuchsia City. But as I haven’t reached that, I don’t even know what it looks like. I’ll probably wait until I’m relatively complete though, as I don’t want to “cheat”.

What else is great, is that there’s also another Pokémon game planned for release in 2019! So hopefully I can completely finish the game off before it comes out. It will be interesting to see if that follows in the footsteps of Lets Go, or if it will continue where the traditional series left off.

Apart from Pokémon games, I’m also thinking about getting Zelda and Mario in the future. We’ll have to see how that turns out though.

Anyway, I better go now. The Silph Scope isn’t going to find itself!

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald
Opinion

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald

18th November 2018

I’ve literally just finished watching the second film of the Fantastic Beasts series, and I thought I’d try and get out what I thought of it while it’s still fresh. Just for additional information, I watched it in IMAX 2D.

It was incredible in so many ways, but maybe the best part was seeing the wizarding world from a whole new perspective. Everyone remembers Newt Scamander from the original Harry Potter series, but he was only an author of a textbook then. And in the first Fantastic Beasts film we did start to get to know him as a person, but you learn quite a bit more in this film.

I can’t fault anything with the film, but I will have to now go and do some research on everything, because I need a few things cleared up!

The revelations in the film will truly shock you. However, I cannot reveal anything. I already can’t wait for the next instalment.

#ProtectTheSecrets
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