Jazz Friday: Christmas Time is Here

With this last Jazz Friday post before Christmas, I'm going to feature one more holiday song. You can't think of the Peanuts without hearing Vince Guaraldi's amazing music. Vince (Wikipedia) was an accomplished jazz musician with a career entirely outside of the Peanuts. By far, my favorite Guaraldi album is the Charlie Brown Christmas album and on that album, my favorite track is Christmas Time is Here (Instrumental)I love the melody, the pacing, and the chord changes. This song represents the whole package. A lot of people have covered this song in past years. My current favorite is this one by Diana Krall. However, in my mind nothing beats Vince Guaraldi's original.

Ulysses for iPad

Ulysses now has a public teaser site for the upcoming iPad version. Ulysses for Mac, that has really matured into something special over the past few years, has always been able to sync to the iPad with Daedalous Touch but I've never found that experience very satisfying. Giving Ulysses a home on the iPad for us mobile writers makes a lot more sense and it looks like that is exactly what we'll get. Between this and Scrivener for iPad, 2015 should be a great year for iPad writers. I look at both of these apps as something beyond a simple text editor and I can't wait to get this kind of power on my iPad.

Less Wibbly-Wobbly

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the App review process has made Apple look bi-polar as of late. I'm pleased to see they have reversed course (in the right direction) on two of the more notable apps. Last week, Apple permitted Transmit to get its extremely useful iCloud upload back. Today, word is getting out that Drafts gets back its widget. I'm encouraged by these developments. On behalf of all of us boundary-pushing nerds, I hope this is an indication that Apple understands we're okay with our apps being awesome.

The Perils of Electronic Communications

I've been reading the reports of the massive data loss at Sony over the last few weeks. In some ways, the most jarring reports are not leaked finances but instead all the email. As much of a geek as I am (or perhaps because I'm a geek), I just don't share private thoughts via email or text message. This came up on a recent episode of Mac Power Users and I truly believe people don't understand how easy it is for governments, or subpoena-wielding attorneys, or … now … motivated hackers to get access to digital communications and records.

I think it runs even deeper than the typical big brother paranoia. Digital communications is permanent and hurtful things said to friends and loved ones via email is equally permanent. If you are pissed at a friend, go confront him. Yell. Scream. Exercise your demons. Bloody noses heal and a shared beer a few hours later heals even better. A rage-filled email however drives a deep, and often permanent, wedge.

So saying hurtful things is, generally, a bad idea and doing so electronically is an even worse idea. Hackers are only going to get smarter and your private communications are more likely … not less … as we move into the future to be compromised.

So here are a few tips the next time you start writing something in an email or text message you don't feel comfortable projecting on the side of your house:

1. Don't

2. Do

3. It.

There it is. Three easy tips. 

No Suits For Me

Jason Snell's editorial voice is one of the best in the Mac community and I'm really enjoying his Six Colors website. Today he published a piece on why removing the "suits" from the recording industry is a good thing. I'd add that to the publishing industry as well. I've written books for big publishers and I've written books for myself. For future reference, I'll be continuing to write for myself. 

Bluetooth Battery Revisited

A few weeks ago I wrote about my quest for a menubar app to give me the status of my Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad. Turns out I already had the app I needed. I use iStat Menus for several items but never bothered with it for the replacement battery menubar item. I do now. If you haven't tried iStat Menus yet, you should. If you already have it, take a look at the menubar replacements you ignored before. You may find you like them better than you thought.

The Song

I love Apple's holiday ads. When is the rest of the industry going to figure it out? Talking about gigabytes and clock-cycles doesn't mean anything to 99% of the world. Showing how you can take a few pieces of technology and rock your grandmother, however, is an entirely different story.

Home Screens: Mark Pouley

One of the first friends I ever made at Macworld Expo many years ago was Mark Pouley (Twitter). Mark is a photographer that lives and works in the Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite parts of the United States. Mark is a wonderful guy and has a great eye for photography. Mark’s complete portfolio is available to view at twinlakesimages.com. You really should click on that link and check out some of Mark’s shots. I’m thinking about hanging this one in my office. Alright Mark, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

On the phone I use Downcast daily to listen to podcasts on my commute.

Tweetbot is always running and is the app used most on the phone.

I love The Photographer’s Ephemeris (to determine where and when the moon and sun will line up in my location) and I use it very often when I’m out shooting landscapes with my DSLR to line up shots and know when to be in a location.

I shoot with the phone, but edit on my iPad with my favorite photo processing app is Snapseed.

I’m slowly integrating Lightroom Mobile on the iPad into my work flow, but that has been a slow process. I’d like to see a few more upgrades to the app before I think it will be really useful.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Intellectually I know the app shouldn’t be on my phone. I know I shouldn’t even have an account. I agree with all the reasons people hate it, but Facebook is my guilty pleasure. It’s how I keep in touch with family and friends and I’ve reconnected with high school friends I haven’t seen or talked to in years. 

It’s okay Mark. No. Really. -David

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

Even though I have a post graduate degree I don’t believe I can count that high. It is a very, very big number.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The best feature of the iPhone is the portable power. It is remarkable to me that I can do so much computing and real photography with a small device that fits in my pocket. I take it for granted, but I can’t imagine what life would be like now without it. The iPad has to be its convenience. Whether I’m viewing photos, reading, checking mail, playing games, it is so easy to carry around and flip open to get to work quickly and easily. The phone and pad have changed the way I work and spend my leisure time.

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

I think it is coming, but not soon enough. I would integrate the Beats music streaming service with iTunes match and offer the service at a killer subscription price. I can’t wait to have my entire music collection combined with on-demand streaming on my phone. I was slow to join the subscription streaming band wagon, but I now use Spotify daily, and love it, but I also own a huge library of music. I want seamless integration of all of my music at a great price. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

My switch to using Macs in 2007 is what kicked off my journey into photography. The computer was so easy to use it really kick-started my creativity. I feel like the iPhone and iPad are instrumental now in the work I do, but I also think it is still the early days of what we are going to be able to do with portable computing and I’m excited to see what is coming around next corner.

Thanks Mark.

Workflow: iOS Automation

I’ve been teasing the Workflow app on Mac Power Users for too long. Now you can buy it (iTunes). Given the way Apple’s been so wibbly-wobbly about iOS lately, I’d recommend buying it right now.

Imagine OS X’s Automator on your iPhone and iPad and you are pretty close to Workflow. It has a series of actions it can perform that can be stacked (yes, like LEGO) that allows you to create some pretty powerful workflows. There are a lot of available actions. In fact, there are too many to list here. As an example. Here are the text based actions.

In addition to building these workflows, you can activate them through the Workflow extension or Launch Center Pro. For awhile I’ve been wondering, what is the next Drafts? What is the next app that will completely change the way I use my iOS devices. Workflow is a contender for this title. If you've got any interest in automating iOS, this app will solve a lot of problems for you. 

If you’re not an automation geek, the app ships with a nice collection of prebuilt workflows that can do things like share your availability, make a GIF image, upload your last photo to Dropbox or AirDrop a screenshot. It can also give you your ETA to home or walking directions to the nearest coffee shop, read a QR code or calculate a tip. There is also a mechanism to share workflows so I suspect we’re going to have even more interesting user workflows in the not so distant future. The app is 40% off for a limited time so go get it.

Wibbly-Wobbly Apple

There has been a lot of news lately about Apple reversing course with various apps using  extensions and widgets in iOS 8. At WWDC a few months ago Apple (or more precisely the engineering branch of Apple) announced a lot of new toys they'd thrown in iOS 8 to make it easier for developers to extend the experience of their apps to notification center, other applications, and cloud based storage. To me, and a lot of other people, it felt like exactly what iOS needed. 

Then a group of smart developers started building things with these new tools We got Today View widgets that could open apps, calculate a tip, and otherwise increase the functionality of our iThingies. More developers dug in on the cloud accessibility with, perhaps one of the best new apps being Panic's Transmit which gave us the ability to move files between different cloud services at will.

Apple approved these apps, put them up for sale, and, in some cases, even featured them. We paid money for the apps and now a bunch of them are being required to remove the innovative features we bought them for at risk of being pulled from the App Store.

So how did Apple get so bi-polar on extensibility in iOS? I'd argue they've always had warring factions over this issue but the battles have always been behind closed doors in Cupertino. Now it's public. Now we actually see some really great functionality only to have the carpet yanked from under us. If Microsoft or Google were changing its mind publicly like this, all of us Apple geeks would be giggling about it.

There is no doubt in my mind who should win. I think the extensions mentioned above only make iOS better. They are all in applications that users must download and extensions that users must enable. I can't see how the "this will confuse users" argument holds any weight since these all require action by the user to enable. If I found myself sitting at Tim Cook's desk, I'd say let them through. I'm sure developers are taking the iOS 8 tools to places the iOS development team didn't anticipate. However, I think this is something to celebrate, not restrict.

There is a separate, equally troubling question arising from all of this. How is this all happening in public? Regardless of whether or not Apple agrees with me about what developers can and can't do, somebody needs to decide, predictable standards should be identified, and we should move on. Let's hope the days of wibbly-wobbly changes like this are nearly over.

Podcast Milestones

There are a couple of podcast milestones of note. Allison Sheridan's Nosillacast recorded its 500th episode tonight. 500. Wow. Also, Victor Cajiao, after taking a few year hiatus is back in the game. Victor's new podcast with George Starcher is called Artechulate. At this point they are just at episode 0 but I expect big things from those two.

Jazz Friday: Night in Tunisia and "The Break"

There is a jazz classic, called Night in Tunisia written by Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli in 1942. It’s a great song that starts with this sort-of desert vamp that’s infectious. The bass line really sells it. According to Wikipedia, Night in Tunisia is available on 500 different currently available CD’s. If you play the below YouTube clip you’ll probably recognize it. 

I love this song but for me the story goes deeeper. Back when I was a teenager and obsessed on jazz while surrounded by a group of friends that also obsessed on jazz, we often talked about “the break”. The break is a portion of Night in Tunisia after they finish the first run-through of the melody. Before the first soloist starts, the band comes to an abrupt stop and the soloist gets a few bars of silence to perform the be-bop equivalent of shredding. In the above recording, the break is played by Charlie Parker at the 1:18 mark. It’s glorious. My jazz-nerd pals and I would always challenge each other to see who could “break” better. To this day, every time I listen to this song I always stop what I’m doing when the song gets to the break and smile.

There are several notable breaks worth mentioning. In addition to the one by Charlie Parker (iTunes), I’d also recommend checking out Ella Fitzgerald’s break (iTunes). Finally, for fun, you should watch Dizzy play Night in Tunisia below. He brought so much joy to jazz. Also, Arturo Sandoval crushes the break at 1:50. If you watch the whole video, there are several breaks. At the end, Dizzy explains how he wrote the song. I’m pretty sure you’ll smile at least once while watching.

Home Screens: Katie Floyd's iPad

In our most recent Mac Power Users episode, Katie and I talked about our home screens. At the end I convinced Katie to share her iPad home screen at MacSparky and here it is. One of the highlights of my life is taking time every week to make the Mac Power Users with Katie Floyd (website) (Twitter). So Katie, show us your home screen.

What are some of favorite apps?

I have a common morning routine with the iPad. I’ll check email using Apple’s Mail.app, review my RSS feeds with Mr. Reeder and check Twitter using Tweetbot all before I get out of bed. As time allows I’ll also check in with the Mac Power Users Community on Google Plus and maybe catch up on a few items I’ve saved to my Instapaper queue.

For work and school related projects I live by apps like OmniFocusOmniOutlinerPDFpen and Evernote. As we discussed on the Mac Power Users Tech in Education episode, I keep all my notes in OmniOutliner and supporting material is either in Dropbox or Evernote. Most of these documents are PDFs which I read and annotate using PDFpen. The beauty of this workflow is thanks to various sync services everything is available on any of my Macs or on the iPad.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I’ve never been a gamer so I don’t have a single game on my iPhone or iPad. So I guess if I had to pick a “guilty pleasure” it would have to be a social media related App like Tweetbot or Facebook. I seldom post to Facebook but do like it for keeping up with old friends. I love interacting with friends and followers through Twitter. 

What is the app you are still missing?

I’m still missing a really great App for taking notes. Notability is probably the best but the dream is to be able to take notes on the iPad as easily and clearly as I do on a pad of paper. Unfortunately my handwriting has never been the best and even with fancy stylus like the Evernote Jot Script writing on the iPad is still a struggle. The text is barley legible, input is dropped, and despite wrist protection features I still end up with stray marks all over the page. For now, typing using the iPad’s built in keyboard is still a far better, but a less than optimal, option for me.

How many times a day do you use your iPad?

My iPad the first thing I reach for in the morning and the last thing I put down at night. While I don’t take it with me every day, since converting to the iPad mini last year I’ll take my iPad out and about with me many days for use when taking notes at meetings, reading (especially reading and highlighting cases for class) and doing more productive work on the go.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

The trick to Today View widgets is to have enough to be useful, but not too many that it becomes overly cluttered. On the iPad I use fewer than on the iPhone. I use Dark Sky because it’s one of the smallest forecast widgets I’ve seen and it’s very accurate. Although the Fantastical widget takes up quite a bit of space, it’s a great at-a-glance view of my calendar and I can easily create new events from the widget. I use the Evernote widget because it gives easy access to creating a new document . The Drafts widget allows me to easily send information from the clipboard to Drafts, though as of this writing the fate of that widget is in flux

On my iPhone I use additional widgets including OmniFocus and Delivery Status and DataMan.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

Even after all these years with the iPad every time I pick it up I still feel a little bit in awe. I have an object in my hand that’s smaller than a pad of paper and it’s a computer. How freaking cool is that? Steve Jobs was right, the iPad was and remains a magical and revolutionary device.

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

I would continue to open up iOS. Apple has made great progress with a limited set of extensions in iOS 8 and developers have used those tools to do great things. 1Password is now available in Safari and can be unlocked with my thumb, I can share items directly into Evernote, Instapaper and OmniFocus and my TextExpander snippets are now available everywhere thanks to a custom keyboard. While these are among my favorite new features, but there’s still so much more we could do. Why are there no share extensions in Mail.app? What about giving developers access to Siri? Why are there so many seemingly arbitrary restrictions on what can occur in the Today View Widgets? Why can’t I customize Control Center? I understand Apple has to balance stability and security with usability and features but I feel there’s still more work to be done here.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

It’s a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge taken from a boat in the bay. I took the photo during my first trip to Macworld in January of 2008. I think it’s a nice photo but it’s also sentimental because it represents so many things; my first Macworld, the trip where I first met David and so many people who would become great friends, it’s also the trip that was the genesis for Mac Power Users

Anything else you’d like to share?

Life for me has been pretty crazy the past few months but I feel like I am starting to find a balance. I’m making a conscious effort to keep my blog regularly updated, even if it’s smaller posts, and I’m trying to engage more on social media. I’d love a few more subscribers over at katiefloyd.me and followers on Twitter @katiefloyd.

Thanks Katie.