Geek Misogyny

The last several weeks we've seen a lot of attention placed on the treatment of women in the geek community. A few months ago, Brianna Wu, a game developer that happens to be female, published an opinion piece about the treatment of women in her industry. I found it enlightening and, as the father of two daughters and a human being, a bit disturbing. A few days ago, some anonymous person posted Brianna's home address and then she started receiving death threats.

Peter Cohen at iMore covers this subject today with particular aplomb. One of the best explanations I've ever heard of geek misogyny came from John Siracusa a few years ago on the Hypercritical podcast.

I am not going to pretend to have all the answers to this problem but I do think we, as a community, should all shine as much light on this problem as we can and support our female geek friends in any way we can in confronting and eradicating this problem.

Jazz Friday - Birdland

This week’s Jazz Friday pick is my first pick from the fusion jazz movement. In the 1970s and 80s, a lot of jazz musicians started fusing jazz to R&B, rock, and other genres of music. One of the pioneers in this form of jazz was Weather Report, founded by more traditional jazz artists Wayne Shorter, Miroslav Vitouš, and Joe Zawinul. (Zawinul composed a prior Jazz Friday pick: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.)

Weather Report saw itself as jazz pioneers and over the years came to define the fusion jazz movement. Their most popular song by far is Birdland from the Heavy Weather album. The song was named after a New York jazz club that was ground zero for a lot of the bebop, cool, and post-bop eras that I keep writing about. Interestingly, the club itself was named after Charlie “Bird” ParkerBirdland also features bassist Jaco Pastorius, who is a legend in his own right and will get his own Jazz Friday post at some point. Birdland has become a standard with lots of jazz artists covering it over the years. I first played it with a big band in the 80’s. If you add one fusion song to your library, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Birdland.

This is from the Stadthalle Offenbach Concert in 1978. You can tell it is the 70s because Jaco and Peter Erskine took off their shirts.

Transporter 2.7 Gets Version Histories

I've been real pleased with the way the Transporter software team keeps adding features to my Transporters. They've added an API that lets developers connect to my Transporter, introduced photo features, and most recently added version support. Because the storage is on your transporter in your home or office, there is no limit on the number of versions of a document (so long as you have sufficient drive space). I like the way they keep rolling in these new features.

I started out using my Transporters as a family photo and video backup system. I then started adding files to it that I don't feel comfortable putting on someone else's cloud but with versioning and API's, I'm finding myself increasingly using it for working files.  

The Super-Sized iPad

There seems to be a lot of smoke around the idea of a super-sized 13 inch iPad early next year. Rumor sites are posting that they will come in multiple colors and have high resolution screens. One rumor even claims it will run both the Mac OS and iOS, which I have a hard time believing.

I love and use my iPad Air every day. I like the bigger screen because it’s easier to read and since I only carry an iPad in my bag, the bigger one is no less inconvenient to carry around than a mini. I’m sure there are people that would love a super-sized iPad. If nothing else, I think it would be interesting to see what the world does with a large tablet computer. If Apple adds the ability to split the iOS screen between multiple apps, the bigger screen may be important. 

Based on the number of rumors in circulation, I suspect we will all find out some time next year.

MPU 218: MPU Live, A Festival of Skeuomorphism

This month's live show is ready for download. We’re joined by Luke Soules of iFixit to talk about iPhone 6 repairability and follow-up on our own experiences with the iPhone and iOS 8. We also discuss security concerns and FileVault, review listener feedback and workflows in Education and review tips on a variety of topics including uses for TextExpander, automated filing services, and travel.


Clips for iOS

Today Clean Shaven Apps (the same developers behind Dispatch) released Clips, a wicked useful iOS app that leverages the iOS 8 extension frameworks to give you a clipboard manager on your iPad and iPhone.

If you spend any time writing in iOS, you know how frustrating it can be collecting bits of text and links for use in whatever you are creating. The iOS clipboard only holds one entry. If you are pulling text and data from multiple sources, the process of copying and pasting gets tedious real quickly. Moreover, if you decide you want to go back and use something you clipped earlier, you’re going to have to go and copy it again. There is no way to keep a list of all your clippings and easily access them without doing something silly like opening a separate document just to hold clippings (which you still need to go back and repeatedly copy before pasting). At least that was the case until now.

Clips in Nutshell

Using Clips you can collect bits of saved text and links into the Clips application. Then you can use, modify, and paste those clips easily in other applications using the Clips Today View widget or its custom keyboard. The clippings can be used repeatedly without having to go back and recopy them. It’s not as seamless as a clipboard manager on Mac OS, but it is pretty close and exponentially better than anything we’ve had before on iOS

Copying Clips

iOS doesn’t let an app monitor your clipboard. This security motivated limitation is probably a good thing. I’m not sure I want any application to be able to see everything I copy. This limitation does, however, make getting copied bits of text into Clips slightly more tedious. 

Rather than having the ability to grab everything you copy automatically into Clips, you have to paste the information into Clips. There are a few ways to pull that off:

  1. Save in the Clips App When you open the Clips app, you are presented with a list of your previously saved clips. Additionally, if you have anything currently saved in your copy buffer, it is displayed in a red box at the top of the screen. Tap the plus sign next to the text and your copy buffer has now been sucked into the Clips list.

  2. Use the Today View Widget Clips also has a Today View widget. If you enable it and pull down the notification center with anything in your iPad or iPhone’s copy buffer, Clips again gives you the ability to tap and add the data to your Clips list.

This manual process of adding copied data to the clips library is the only significant difference between a Mac clipboard manager and Clips. On the Mac that process is automatic. With Clips on iOS, you need to do it manually. The developers make it pretty easy though and in testing the app, it has become second nature for me to pull down the widget while inside Safari (or any other app for that matter) and add to Clips. While doing it manually adds a bit more work, it also keeps your Clips library of copied text to just those bits you actually want to use, which makes it easier to find later.

Pasting Clips

Using your clippings is just as easy as copying them. From inside any application, you can pull down the Today View widget and paste with a single tap. There is also a specialized keyboard that holds your clippings if you roll that way.

If the Clips feature set stopped right there, I’d be a happy user. The ability to store and access multiple clippings is something I’ve always missed on iOS and this is exactly the kind of innovation I was hoping for when Apple announced iOS 8 extensions.

However, as I mentioned earlier, this app is designed by the same people that develop Dispatch, which is one of my favorite 3rd party email clients and one of the best apps on iOS at sharing things. Of course they took this further.

When pasting a clipping with Clips, you have options. If it is a clipping from a website you can include the text, the URL, or both. You can customize these copy templates from inside the app but the built-in ones should suffice for most.

It also includes a “More” button. That takes you into the Clips application. From there you have additional tools to make the text all caps or all lowercase. You can also access the rest of your installed iOS 8 extensions to share the text to a text message, email, Twitter or any of the other extension enabled applications on your device. For a no-brainer $2 in-app upgrade, you keep an unlimited number of clippings and sync them across all of your iOS devices.

I’ve been using the Clips beta for a few weeks and, as someone who spends a lot of time writing on my iPad, find the application liberating. It has spoiled me and now I can’t imagine not having it on my iOS device. You can learn more (and watch a video) at the website and get the app in the App Store.

Picking Between the 6 and 6 Plus

Until a few months ago, as an iPhone user getting the new iPhone has been pretty easy. There’s only been one. This year Apple, for the first time, released two different iPhones in the same cycle. (I’m not forgetting the 5C. That just doesn’t count.) Now there’s choice. Specifically, a big one and a bigger one.

For some reason, this choice of iPhone really threw me for a loop. I was pretty torn about the that beautiful big 6 Plus screen and increased battery life versus the problems that come with carrying a phone bigger than a Pop Tart. I purchased the 6 Plus with the idea that I may end up turning it back in for the smaller one. Indeed, that is exactly what happened. I used the 6 Plus for a little over a week before exchanging it for the 6, which I’ve also now had for a week.

I’ve been living out this first world problem all over the Internet so I thought it was at least worth writing the epilogue. 

6 Plus Praise

I liked the big screen 6 Plus quite a lot. That extra screen real estate came in handy. I spend quite a lot of time reading PDF documents. Using the 6 Plus I was able, for the first time, to read PDFs on my phone. That is pretty handy considering my phone is always with me. The 6 Plus optimized applications have not rolled out yet but I suspect they are coming and in the next year, smart developers are going to jump in with both feet. Productivity apps (which are my particular weakness) stand to improve the most with this extra screen space.

The battery life was also a marked improvement. I spent the day at Disneyland with my family shortly after getting the 6 Plus. The Sparks family makes regular trips to Disneyland and we usually carry an external battery in our bag because Disneyland is hell on phone batteries. While there, I took pictures, fiddled with Twitter, and did the other things I usually do on a phone at Disneyland. When we returned to the car, I looked at my battery to see that I still had half a charge. That has never happened to me with any prior iPhone. Not once. There is a lot to like about the big phone.

6 Plus Problems

I did have problems though. The phone fit easily in the pockets of my various pants, jeans, and shorts. I never felt it was at risk of falling out. I’ve always carried my iPhone in my front left pocket. That’s my iPhone pocket. Keys and other bits and bobs don’t go there. The 6 Plus in my front left pocket always made its presence known. Taking a walk with it in my dress slacks, it would audibly smack against the front of my thigh. Sitting down at a restaurant, I could feel the pressure of the pocket and leg against the phone. I never experienced these issues with prior iPhones.

Another problem I never overcame in a week of usage is the delicate nature of the big phone. It is large and thin with lots of curvy bits. Handing it to my wife to take a picture felt more like transferring nitroglycerine than sharing a phone. It just felt like I needed to be very careful every time I handled the beautiful beast. Some people on Twitter suggested I put on a case but that just makes the phone bigger.

I understood the 6 Plus is a two-handed phone but it doesn’t really sink in until you face it directly. At one point I was expecting an important text. My phone buzzed in my pocket and I knew that was it. It took me too long to get out of my pocket and the message was gone by the time I could see the screen. I was holding a briefcase in my other hand and tried, very carefully, to unlock the phone one-handed. I couldn’t without balancing it on just a few fingers and risking dropping it. I think I could have handled the “big in pocket” problem. The “can’t get at my message one handed” problem, however, was my own personal deal killer for the 6 Plus.

A Little Perspective

The Apple Store is pretty nice about these things and they swapped me to the smaller phone without trouble. I held off on this post because I wanted some context for the smaller phone too. In general, I also really dig the 6. I can check messages one handed. It is easier to handle and not as large in my pocket. 

Having spent time with both phones, I’m still not entirely clear which phone I liked better but the 6 feels right for me, at least for now. If the Apple Watch delivers and I can get that important message on my wrist, I may find a little bigger phone makes more sense in the future. (In other words, I get to deal with this all over again next year about this time.) One point in all of this that I find interesting is the unusual amount of angst I’ve had over this decision. I’ve never had a problem picking iPad or Mac screen sizes. The new phones, however, really threw me for a loop. I think there is something to all this talk about the personal nature of these small electronics.

No Guidance Here

If you are reading this post for guidance as to which phone you should buy, I can’t help you. Nobody can. They are both great phones. There is no magic formula that will tell you which is right for you. One is more portable and the other has a bigger screen and more battery life. Pick your poison.

On the Rumored Retina iMac

Rumors are heating up that Apple is about to reveal a retina caliber iMac. Having used a retina MacBook Pro now for two years, I can tell you I love it. After all of this time I still sometimes look at text on this screen and just drool. I'm so spoiled. 

If Apple releases a retina iMac I'm sure it is going to be gorgeous. I do, however, have a few tips if you are thinking about this currently-mythical device:

1. Don't Buy on Launch Day

The first generation retina iMac may have issues. Specifically, every time retina screens are added to a new device, there is a performance hit. Usually, it takes the second-generation device for the graphics horsepower to catch up with all of those pixels. Recently, we have seen this in the third generation iPad and also the first generation retina MacBook Pro. This may not be a big deal to you, but you should at least go in with your eyes open. Shortly after the product releases, there will be benchmarks that will give you an idea of what you're getting into.

2. No Cinema Display for Awhile

Don't hold your breath for a retina Cinema Display anytime soon. In an iMac, the screen is, in essence, jacked straight into the graphics card. With an external display it would have to go through the Thunderbolt port. The amount of data required to drive that many pixels through a Thunderbolt cable is going to be difficult until Thunderbolt cables get faster (which is planned).

3. Be Prepared to Pay a Premium

When the retina screens found their way onto the MacBook Pro, Apple added the "retina" moniker to the front and a few dollars to the price tag. I wouldn't be surprised if the same thing happens to the retina iMac.

4. Don't Look at One Unless You're Willing to Buy One

I love my retina display on my MacBook Pro. Text is gorgeous. I could never see myself buying another non-retina screen Mac. This screen has ruined me. I will intentionally not look at the retina iMacs if/when they show up.


Yosemite Conference

Next April, CocoaConf is hosting an Apple conference called, "Yosemite" held in ... you guessed it ... Yosemite National Park. I'm not going to be able to make it but if you've never been to Yosemite, this is an excellent excuse to go. Next to a few reefs in Hawaii, Yosemite is my favorite place in the entire world. April is an ideal time to go. The snow will have melted and the falls will be in full bloom. In addition to seeing Yosemite, there is also an outstanding slate of speakers, several of which are former MPU guests like Michael Lopp, Jim Dalrymple, and Serenity Caldwell. Learn more here.


Dispatch Update and Print to PDF

For awhile now I’ve been splitting email duties on my iPhone between the native Apple Mail application and Dispatch (App Store). I covered Dispatch in the Email book and there is a lot to like about it. Dispatch gives you the ability to attach actions to emails and easily ship emails off to Evernote, OmniFocus, or whatever other app you use to handle tasks out of emails.

The developer recently issued the 2.1 update that now lets you navigate between folders, meaning Dispatch is useful in all your mailboxes, not just the inbox. That really helps people like me, that use services like Sanebox to make sure the Inbox isn’t very large to begin with. They also added the ability to send and archive with one tap, which is pretty special.

All of this is swell but the reason I’m writing about this update is the addition of a feature I’d nearly given up on in iOS, Print to PDF. I’ve long pined away for a simple way to save documents, files, and emails to PDF from my iPhone and iPad. This problem is particularly difficult when you want to save an email, which is ridiculously simple on the Mac. Dispatch now includes its own service that will save the selected email as PDF and even let you share it to cloud storage or a PDF application. There are a lot of reasons to save an email as a PDF and now, thankfully, you can pull that off in iOS too. Now if we can just talk them into releasing an iPad native version of Dispatch …

MultiTasking Troubles

I really enjoyed Clay Shirky's recent piece on requiring his students to put technology away in class. While I'm not sure his decision was correct, the essay nicely describes the sins of multitasking. This is a thing for me. I believe that nobody multitasks effectively. Splitting your attention between various masters just means you will serve none of them very well. The elephant metaphor explains it far better than I could. Save this one and read it over a nice beverage, while not doing four other things.



MPU 216: iOS 8 Developer Roundtable

In this week's Mac Power Users episode we interview Ken Case (Omni Group), Greg Scown (Smile), and Dave Teare (1Password) about the wild ride they've been on since WWDC and the big changes they've been able to make in their applications with iOS 8. This is the first time we've done a developer roundtable and it came out great. We'll be doing more of these in the future.


Jazz Friday: Joshua Redman, Never Let Me Go

While I'll admit I have a particular affection for jazz artists from the bebop and cool jazz movements, there are also some contemporary artists I really enjoy. This week is the first time I'm featuring someone (slightly) younger than me. Joshua Redman (Wikipedia) is one of the best contemporary jazz saxophonists playing today. He is smart (Harvard educated!) and plays the sax with a technical expertise that makes my head spin. However, what makes him Jazz Friday-worthy is his artistry. Joshua puts himself out there when he plays and I find it almost impossible to play his music in the background because I always fall into it. There are several great albums. Two of my favorites are his Timeless Tales (for Changing Times) album, which features his take on several jazz standards and the more recent Trios Live album. The live recording shows off his talent. If you are going to just pick one track, I'd recommend Never Let Me Go from the Trios Live album.

Home Screen: Stephen Hackett

This week’s home screen features my pal Stephen Hackett (website)(podcast)(Twitter). Did you know that this month Stephen is dedicating his site to raising money for St. Jude? Did you know that as I post this, he has already raised over $11,400!? I contributed and ask you to consider doing so as well. 

What are Some of Your Favorite Apps?

Overcast and Tweetbot are my most-used apps by far. In addition to helping make some great shows, podcasts are my favorite form of entertainment. I listen to very little music in my car or while working around the house, and Overcast is just great to use.

Tweetbot is the best Twitter client on the iPhone. While the iPad version needs some love, I still use it for all the filtering and power-user options. 

Next in line usage-wise is probably Slack, which I use to communicate with my team at work and The Sweet Setup.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Currently, it’s a Risk-like game called Blood and Honor. My brother and some friends of ours are playing against each other online a few too many times a week currently. 

What does your “Today” screen look like? What widgets are helping you out?

I’ve taken it slow when adding widgets. Currently, I’ve only enabled OmniFocus’ and Evernote’s. Notification Center now shows me tasks due today and gives me a quick way to create a note, image or more in Evernote.

Any favorite iOS 8 extensions?

love the Day One extension. I can send a photo or URL right to a new diary post without ever entering the app. However, photo metadata isn’t passed in, so I’m having to add location data later, which is a bummer. 

What is the app you are still missing?

A couple of years ago, my needs outgrew what I could do with plain text files, but I only use about 25% of what Evernote can do. I’d love a light-weight cross-platform app that could do text notes with the ability to attach images and files to them easily. 

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

Many days, my iPhone is my primary computer. My iPad is basically used for reading in the evenings and watching videos. It’s pure luxury at this point. 

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The camera on my iPhone, while not the best shooter I own, is the most used. With the iPhone 6, it’s better than ever, and iOS 8 offers a lot of power when it comes to capturing and editing images. 

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

While my request from 2011 is still unanswered, I think Apple really needs to clarify what it’s cloud services can actually do. iCloud is pretty great most of the time, but it’s really hard to explain. 

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I’m using the iOS 8 moon photo because space is awesome. 

Thanks Stephen.

The iPhone Summit and Questions about the 6 Plus

Burgers and iPhones Summit

Today my iPhone 6 Plus arrives. You’d think I’m the most excited person in the Sparks house about this but I’m not. My kids are even more eager. I’ve talked about this on the podcast but one of the privileges of paying for four phones in our household is that we always have an upgrade available. 

Every year I get the new phone and then my 1 year old phone goes down to my 17 year old and her 2 year old phone goes to my 12 year old. (The 12 year-old’s phone goes to Gazelle and my wife abstains from the entire process.) As a result, my kids are more eager for me to get the new phone than I am. A side effect of this process is that my 17 year old is very interested in which new phone that I pick, knowing it will be hers soon enough. (Last year she successfully lobbied me to buy a white one.)

Making this switch isn’t difficult. You could probably pull it off with switching the SIM cards yourself but over the years (when the iPhone was using different sized cards in different devices) we got in the habit of going out for burgers and a visit to the cellular store when it all happens. When doing this, make sure you have the cellular rep only handle one transfer at a time and confirm the right number is working on the right device before you leave. When I told my kids the phone would arrive today, they immediately put in their demand for the annual Burgers and iPhones Summit.

6 vs. 6 Plus

I spent some time a few days ago with the new iPhones and it was fun getting my first hands-on impressions of the new devices. I even took notes.

iPhone 6 Plus

Ginormous. Everyone knows its big. Using an iPad Air every day, I figured it wouldn’t feel that big. I was wrong. This is definitely a two-hander. You will not be flipping through apps while holding a drink in your other hand. I think there are two elements to consider with its size. First, you’ve got to carry it around. Will it fit in your pants? Second you’ve got to use it. It doesn’t fit in your hand like prior iPhones and will require new habits.

If you can handle those two things, you are going to have a pretty amazing screen to work with. Things like mind mapping and other more creative endeavors will be much easier with this phone. Also, I think it will be great when displaying maps in the car. The big question is whether or not the size can work for you.

iPhone 6

After spending 30 minutes with the 6 Plus, I picked up an iPhone 6. It immediately felt better in my hand. It is a marked improvement and much easier to manage one-handed. The screen is just as good, but there isn’t as much of it.

The whole process left me wondering which device is right for me. I’ve got the 6 Plus coming today. I’m going to use it for some time but also be mindful of the 14 day return policy. The jury is out for me.