It’s now almost midway through my holiday in Tenerife, and I’ve been noticing a few ways I’ve been using Twitter differently, seeing as I’m not constantly being updated.
As most people would expect, I haven’t been constantly stuck to my phone (with the exception of music and podcasts), so I haven’t been able to be 100% caught up with my timeline. Whereas I’m usually a maximum of 1 hour behind, given that I’m awake. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, or whether it’s good for productivity, but that’s what happens.
But instead of my usual Twitter activity, I’m hardly posting anything, but I still want to keep an eye on anything significant that’s going on.
I actually have three Twitter clients installed on my phone at the minute, and they’ve each gained a temporary place in my daily usage. My client of choice was previously Tweetbot, but I was getting bored recently, and was checking out the current state of Twitterrific, so that’s the reasons for the first two. The last one is the official Twitter app, and that’s purely for keeping up with what updates are being added, and also so I can see a poll if I need to.
So seeing as I just want to see the most essential/interesting content from the day, my Twitter usage normally consists of:
Checking the official Twitter app for the “What you’ve missed” section (I’ve 99% got the actual name wrong, but you get the idea). I may read some related tweets, but I feel this gets me updated.
I use Tweetbot every now and then for push notifications, and also to check out the Activity section. Which shows follows, likes, and mentions, all in the same list, so that’s how I make sure I’m up to date on anyone interacting with me.
Any “normal” use of Twitter where I want to search for someone, specifically see a users timeline, or just checkout the most recent tweets (not particularly often, but when I’m bored), I do all of this in Twitterrific.
Looking back on my usage, it seems pretty standard. Apart from the use of three different apps of course. I’m going to try and force myself to use Twitterrific a bit more, and then make a decision on that, so then it’s only the two.
The biggest plus for me for the last few days has been the official Twitter app, because it’s pretty quick to read the curated list of tweets that apparently I’ve missed out on. I’ve found to be a pretty well curated list, and unless there’s some big thing that I just haven’t seen, I feel as up to date as usual.
Maybe this will prompt a change in how I use Twitter when I get home, but I’m not putting any importance into that idea.
The very first Apple Watch was released 21 months ago, in April 2015. It was to me, a revolutionary new product, and I just had to get it. So I did.
In September 2016, 18 months after the original Watch was released, Apple then updated the original model, naming it Series 1, while also releasing a whole new version, Series 2.
You could argue that the Series 0 (first edition) to 1 change wasn’t even worth noting, the only main difference was that the Apple S1 processor used in the Watch was replaced with a dual-core variant. However in the Series 2, they added a newer Apple S2 processor which was also dual-core, but also an ambient light sensor, 50 m water resistance, 2x brighter display, and a GPS sensor.
So we can all agree that Series 0 → 2 was a decent update.
Therefore, you would expect that because of this, along with the fact that the Series 0 is a version 1.0 of a new product, that the need and desire to upgrade would be huge.
Except for me, it wasn’t. And it still isn’t.
My Watch is a 42 mm Sport in Space Grey with the original matching Sport band, it still provides the same use as when I first purchased it, but now so much more.
At The Beginning
When I first started using the watch, the main feature that I used was the notifications. This was the major benefit for me, as it meant when I was on the move, be it walking or on the train for example, I didn’t have to keep taking my phone out of my pocket to find out what was trying to catch my attention.
Since then, I have rethought my take on how I manage notifications, but this has been a steady constant on the benefits of wearing the Apple Watch.
Of course, like everyone else, I thought the Apple Watch would be the kickstart I needed to become more active. I would start a new workout whenever I was walking somewhere, or maybe I’d try and jog, or maybe I would take an extra trip somewhere simply because I knew it was tracking me.
Then there was the apps, they took an awfully long time to load, and at the beginning they were run off the paired iPhone, so even at runtime they weren’t the best experience. Although in September 2015, Apple released watchOS 2, which meant that apps could be installed directly on the watch, and therefore would be faster. This was slightly the case, but it still wasn’t the best situation, as sometimes it would be much faster to take your phone out of your pocket, than it would be to just do the simple task on your wrist.
By wearing my watch more often, I was getting more comfortable with it, sometimes even forgot I was wearing it. Slowly I was realising that the things I was using my watch for, simply were being forced, and I didn’t actually want to do them. I just wanted to use the watch.
With the release of watchOS 3 in September 2016, the Apple Watch was suddenly brought back to life.
This update brought significant increases to the speed of the device, which was helped out largely by the new Dock. By choosing to keep apps in the dock, the system would automatically keep them in memory, and therefore would be quicker to load. Alongside the speed benefits, there was also a bunch of new watch faces, and a huge overhaul to the way that the watch worked.
It also meant that because of these updates, developers were more likely to spend more time working on quality apps for the device, since they were able to provide a better experience for their users.
This really was the rebirth of the Apple Watch.
This Moment in Time
So right now, my watch has become a really essential part of my life, and it’s started to feel like it’s providing me with a use.
Here are the main things I now use my watch for:
Telling the time.
Notifications (Only for certain apps).
Checking what’s next in my calendar.
Monitoring my activity and health.
Tracking my sleep.
Pokémon GO (yes I still play it).
Before I go into the “smart” side of the watch, it still is a watch, so I of course use it for the time. But very much like the iPhone, the “native” use of the device isn’t what brings people to use it.
Then there were the notifications, these have been narrowed down to the very few things that require my attention. So I have Messages, a select few email notifications from Airmail, and the occasional thing such as OneFootball when I want to specifically be updated about a game when I’m out doing something.
Recently I’ve been trying to use my calendar more and more, for university lectures, events, and time-sensitive events like flights. Because of this, knowing my next calendar event is essential, as the more I rely on the calendar as my primary schedule, I relinquish control over monitoring what I should be doing. Fantastical has a brilliant app for iOS, and I use their complication on the watch to check my next event, and with a simple tap I can quickly get a list of any other events in the future (made possible by the speed increases I watchOS 3).
It’s a similar situation to the weather, with DarkSky I can have a simple complication that updates super fast, so I can find out the weather in a few seconds.
In what has become a more silent feature of the watch, is the activity and health tracking. As I’m always wearing the watch, I get an accurate measurement of my activity throughout the day, how much I’ve walked, and of course my heart rate is also monitored. I don’t have any health conditions that I need to worry about, but it’s nice to know I have all of this data being logged without me doing anything.
In addition to the health tracking that is done automatically by the watch, by using an iOS app called AutoSleep, I can track the length and quality of my sleep by wearing my watch at night. It still of course needs to be charged, but as I’m sat at my desk, or when I’m not doing anything that involves moving around or needing to receive notifications, I pop it on my little watch stand, and it’s charges pretty quickly. The app uses a whole bunch of metrics to measure the sleep, such as the last time you used your phone, whether it’s on charge, or if you’re moving. But it’s the way in which you manage the sleep tracking is what got me, you just go to sleep. There’s no need to manually say “I’m going to sleep”, you just do it, and it knows. It’s the silent processes of the watch that makes me really love it.
So I’ve got the time, notifications, calendar, activity monitoring, and sleep tracking, there must be something I do on the watch for fun? Well, I do use the Pokémon GO watch app, in companion to the iOS game, in order to gain workout based rewards. It’s the closest to a game experience I have on the device, and it also doubles as a workout tracker, so there’s something else behind it as well.
I wouldn’t say there’s that much else that I use the watch regularly to do. Sometimes I control what I’m listening to, via the Music or Overcast app. As mentioned before, I use the OneFootball app to keep updated on certain football games. Once in a blue moon I use a timer, and that’s probably the only thing I use Watch Siri for. The only other thing I’ve been using is the iOS Wallet, which brings up my boarding passes whenever they’re needed.
When I look back at all of these activities that I now do on my watch, I can clearly see that it has become so much more than a time-telling, notification bringing device.
My Watch as an Appliance
Right now, I use my watch a lot. But even so, it’s not something I desperately need to get any better. I like it how it is.
With the benefits that came with watchOS 3, the device was given a new lease of life. Which made it feel like I’d already purchased a new watch.
I no longer need to worry about it syncing to my phone, whether the apps will be refreshed in time, or even about the speed of the hardware. It’s transformed to yet another computer that sits on my wrist, to a stable appliance that I can trust.
What I Still Don’t Like
Of course nothing is perfect, and I would like a few improvements to be made to the watch experience. But these are mainly down to the software, something that can be changed without the need for me to purchase a new device.
I really don’t like the grid layout of the apps, and I think that a redesign there would be a great improvement. But saying that, the way I interact with my watch is through complications via the watch face, or by launching apps from the dock.
I would also encourage the ability to customise the watch faces even further, so you would be able to have a more custom design and colour options.
A bit of a weird post today, but I’ve come to the realisation that I need to find a way to fund myself through the last bit of my university course.
I spend nearly all of my time doing one of two things, university work, or developing things for everyone. Whether it’s a new application, a website, or something, I’m always making stuff.
I guess most people would simply raise the prices of their products, in order to try and make more money, but I don’t really want to do that. I want to reward people for backing what I do, so this is what I came up with:
Qwiki, my Wikipedia app for Mac has been discounted (indefinitely) from £3.99 to £2.99.
Why would I make everything free, or really cheap? Because I trust everyone that finds my content useful, wants to help me in what I do, or simply is a super awesome person will back me.
And that’s why I’ve set up a Patreon page. Honestly I feel a bit dirty doing this, because I don’t want to ask for your money, but if I can balance this out by creating some awesome projects, then I think I can make sense of it.
If you can support me, then it really is a case of anything helps. The costs associate with University (especially in London) are stupid, and then there’s my desire to make things that also adds to that, even a coffee will help me through the day.
Don’t worry though, because I’ll have a good announcement in a few days relating to a certain app I’m making!
Over the past few days I’ve been setting up my own media server, and in particular, Plex. Plex is a great tool that can do wonderful things to your media collection, but the one thing that I just love is that it can take plain video files, an then give it so much context. It really makes your library something to look at.
The actual server itself is my old MacBook Pro, which I don’t think is the best machine for the job, but it’s the best spare machine I have available at the minute. I’m not going to write down all the specs, but it’s got an i5, 4 GB Ram, and a 1 TB hard drive. The only job of this machine however, is to manage my collection, the storage is a 3 TB NAS drive that I’ve had for a while.
At the minute I have three different libraries in Plex, one for all the movies I have downloaded, second for the TV Shows, and then I have also included my iTunes Media folder as a library, as I have a huge number of films in iTunes.
Now let’s get on to how I populate these libraries (Leaving some ethical behaviour behind of course).
The TV Shows are just video files that I have collected over the years and obtain manually, there are a few applications that can track new episodes, and even download them automatically, but I haven’t found any that I deem good enough. I don’t watch many tv shows, so a tiny bit of manual work isn’t a big deal for this.
My Movie collection is a mix, I have ripped some movies in the past (I hate DVDs), and also have a rather magical automation for downloading other movies I like. Here is a step by step process on how this automation works:
Find a movie on Trakt, and add it to my watch list.
CouchPotato finds new additions in my Trakt watch list, and then populates them in it’s own database.
Every so often, CouchPotato will check to see if any of the added movies are available to download (with some quality preferences).
CouchPotato then sends these links to download to Transmission, which is currently running as a local web server.
Transmission will triage each addition, and with some specific restrictions like cumulative download limits and speed limits (that actually change depending on the time of day), start these downloads, and place them in the correct folder on the NAS.
Plex Media Server tries to detect when new files are added to the libraries (It also checks regularly), and then it will analyse the media, add it to the library, and also put together all the needed metadata.
It’s a really fast process, and I enjoy how little work I have to do to make something happen. I’m sure the process may change in the future, but at the minute it feels pretty seamless.
This is definitely where my main content comes from, it’s where I get all of my favourite content. Even to a point where I will have a copy of a film, but I will then also purchase it on iTunes. Because it means I get the best quality available, any iTunes extras, and I also feel like it’s future proofing my movie collection slightly.
I’m starting to really see why I hear so many good things about Plex, it’s easy to set up, it work’s nearly everywhere, and it just makes my media collection look amazing.
Running my own media server is something I think I will take further, and if I can pick up a cheap Mac Mini soon, that may be the next step. With my Amazon Dot, and now this small project, automation is becoming a fun hobby.
I’m just on the way home from finally seeing Lion King at the theatre. It was one of my favourite movies growing up, so it certainly had a lot to live up to.
In general I think that it was pretty good, there were some bits that were really enjoyable, and others not so much.
My favourite characters were easily Rafiki and Pumba, because they seemed the most “realistic”, and the songs seemed to be near original with them.
What I didn’t like was when scenes were added or removed. I understand that it may be slightly different, but there was a 2/3 minute scene that just wasn’t in the film. A slightly smaller example is when Timone and Pumba are tasked with distracting the Hyenas, instead of the little song and dance I remember from the movies, there was some random Irish dancing?
Of course there was some Frozen references, but I guess we can’t escape that anymore.
So as I said before, it was pretty good.
I would encourage people to see it, but I don’t think I’ll be going a second time.o
A lot of people write long year in review blog posts, so I also decided to do one as well. But it was also beneficial for myself, as it seems I did a lot more this year than I thought I did!
Qwiki is an app for macOS, that let’s you search directly and view Wikipedia articles, directly in your menu bar. It also has sharing and export options, but that’s basically what it is.
Now in version 1.3, the app has come a long way. And it is my first proper app, meaning I spent longer in development, I had a beta testing stage, and then I actually marketed the app. I learned a lot from this project, and it’s my best app to date.
I also started a weekly newsletter, which was fun when it started. But after a few weeks, I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write. So this was unfortunately stopped. Here is the first issue that went out, which I’m still pretty pleased with.
I also wrote about Apple’s “Hello Again” event, where they announced the pretty nifty MacBook Pro that I’m currently writing this post on. It was a while since I did a post like this, since covering loads of Apple events when I wrote AppRecap.
Although I started the year just coming back from Italy, I didn’t actually do much travelling in 2016.
I’ve always wanted to do a regular piece of writing, be it on a tech blog, magazine, or anything where I can cover a specific piece of news or opinion. But opportunities for this don’t come around very often, so I thought why not just start it myself?
So I’m going to now try and write one piece every week (separate to this blog), and share it via an email newsletter.
It’s all powered by TinyLetter, and I love how everything is very minimal, and focuses on plain content. I don’t want to create more junk for your inbox, so hopefully a small email every week will suffice.
I haven’t got any guidelines for myself yet, but I will aim to keep it around 500 words.
It would be awesome if you subscribed, I will get writing the first column and it will go out every Friday for your weekend reading.
You can subscribe using the form below, or by going to the TinyLetter page.