Menu

Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Tom Elenbaas in Iceland shot on Google Pixel 2 XL

Tom Elenbaas at Gjáin in Iceland, September 2018

In September 2018, when we visited Iceland, we ran into photographer Tom Elenbaas ankle deep in the waters of Gjáin in the south. I took the above photo of him with my Google Pixel 2 XL.

I hadn’t revisited his site in a while but I stopped by today to see the photo he shot while in these waters.

We had a nice short chat after I took this photo and I ended up emailing it to him a few days later. Be sure to check out his fantastic work on his web site.

The Best of 2019 as told by me

At the end of the year I like to sit down and make a rather random list of the “best” things I’ve seen that year. I do this almost entirely from memory but I also peruse my browser history and look through my Unmark archive in order to uncover some of the things I appreciated throughout the year.

You can review previous years: 2008, 2009, 2017, 2018.

At the tail end of December I sat down and made this list and since then I’ve taken some time to cull through it and make the list you’re reading now.

Best Blog: Gurney Journey by James Gurney

James Gurney, who I interviewed for The Watercolor Gallery, has kept a blog for a very long time. This past year wasn’t necessarily a stand-out year for his blog – it has always been very good – but I believe his blog and his YouTube channel deserve recognition this year.

Runners up: Waxy’s links, Kottke as always.

Best (new to me) Blog: AOWS

Since I’ve really been going all-in on my photography this year I’ve stumbled across a lot of photographers. In fact, I’m well over 100 photographers on my private Photography Twitter list (I’m @cdevroe there). I’m very glad to have found AOWS. See also the Instagram account.

Runner up: Chris Sale.

Best place: Kentucky

Jim Beam Distillery

Last year I said that we’d likely return to Kentucky and we did – that must say something about it. We enjoy the entire state, the distilleries, horse farms, and rolling hills. See posts.

Runner up: Cape Cod – This was our first trip to Cape Cod and I enjoyed the whole feeling there. Likely because so many people are either retired or on vacation. I’d like to go back and make more photographs in the future.

Best book: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

I didn’t read nearly as many books as I’d like this year. But I’m trying not to beat myself up when I miss self assigned goals like number of books to read. I did a lot of fishing, photography, and even started a podcast this year. So I need not read books.

Dark Matter was a nice change of pace from other things I’d read this year. I always like a book that has time jumping. And this book sort of did.

Best service: OneDrive

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but OneDrive – for the most part – holds up very well for my needs. I have nearly half of a terabyte stored there and it isn’t skipping a beat. I use it mostly as a cloud-based backup of all my photos and videos. I also use it to transfer things to/from my computer and phone which worked well when I was on so many different platforms; Android, Windows 10, iOS, and Airdrop wasn’t possible.

Runner up: Disney+ just for The Mandalorian.

Best song for working: Morning of – Colin Stetson

According to Spotify I listened to this song, and the album it comes from, a lot while I was writing code.

Best album: Benton County Relic – Cedric Burnside

Love the old style jazzy/bluesy feel of this album.

Best company: Disney

I wrote a bit about what they’ve done with Lucasfilm since they acquired the company. But, when you look at the scope of Disney – and watch some of their documentaries about how it all came together – they really deserve a round of applause this year.

Runners up: Microsoft is still killing it and I think 2020 looks interesting for them. Apple for finally fixing their laptops.

Best hardware: Canon 400D

Me w/ 400D, recording my podcast

I shot nearly as many photos on this camera as I did on my phones (Pixel 2 XL until October and then iPhone 11 Pro Max) and the camera is 13 years old. It is rugged, has a lot more features than I ever knew it did, and I’m satisfied with the results I’ve been getting.

I have the feeling that next year a film camera may win this category and I’m very excited about that.

Runners up: iPhone 11 Pro Max – the battery life alone deserves an award, iPad Pro – I still use this every single day, in fact I’m writing this post on it right now and I’d say I do greater than 75% of my photo editing on the iPad.

Best desktop app: Firefox

Rather than keeping Firefox in just the browser category, I’m going to give it the best desktop app award. I really, really like Firefox and it has improved greatly this year in terms of speed, privacy, feature set. I simply cannot live without Containers at this point.

Runner up: Lightroom CC.

Best mobile app: Anchor

If it weren’t for how relatively easy it is to create a podcast using Anchor I don’t think I would have done it. Though I am looking forward to my podcast getting a bit better with some desktop-based editing apps. If you have an idea for a podcast I suggest at least giving it a look.

Runners up: VSCO, Twitter, Pocket Casts, Cash.

Best tool: Photoshop CC

Adobe has made very big updates to the entire CC suite of apps. I feel like they deserve a nod as a result of that.

Best podcast: BirdNote

The podcast is just so simple. I love it.

Runners up: ATP. I go back and forth on whether or not I should listen to ATP. Very good information, they were even nice enough to answer one of my questions, but the constant hypercritical (see what I did there?) take on things can sometimes be draining, and so I take long breaks from listening. But that is the entire point of the podcast so I don’t begrudge them of the style. I just always try to look at things positively is all. Also Cal’s Week in Review.

Best YouTube channel: Nick Carver

Nick has easily has the largest impact on my approach to photography this year. His channel is also very entertaining even when he’s discussing very nerdy photography topics.

Special second place: Joe Rogan Experience – I have to cherry pick episodes that I’m interested in, mostly with scientists and outdoorsy people, but the interviews and long form style are refreshing compared to the bit-sized bits we get through TV these days.

I watch a lot of YouTube. Probably too much. Not probably. Actually too much. It is how I learn, am entertained, waste time, etc. In fact, I watch a lot less TV because of YouTube. So this isn’t an easy category to choose.

Runners up: Morten Hilmer, Jack Black, MKBHD, Kevin Nealon, Rainfall Projects, The Lion Whisperer, Zimri Mayfield.

Best Twitter account: Todd Vaziri

Behind-the-scenes and background information on special effects in TV and movies. Fascinating stuff. The amount of work for just a few seconds of video is amazing.

Runner up: Adam Savage.

Best Instagram account: Luke Beard

Luke shares a ton of photos via Stories from his town of Atlanta. It is inspiring the number of photos he’s able to take, process, and publish and has really gained a following in that area. He’s also super gracious in his responses whenever I’ve asked him how he did something.

Special second place: captain.solo – I can always appreciate when someone creates their own style and sticks to it – it isn’t easy to do either of those things. This account has.

You can also follow @cdevroe on Instagram where I frequently share accounts and photos I like via Stories.

Runners up: Dan Rubin, PPP Repairs, Clyde Butcher, Brad Baldwin.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s list. Whenever I sit down to make the list I always under estimate the amount of time it takes to create it. But I’m always glad that I do so that I can look back on it in the future. So this post is more for me than for you.

One-Picture-Promise

Rick Sammon, in a piece for Peta Pixel on Seeing, describes the One-Picture-Promise:

When you are in a situation, imagine you only have one frame remaining on your memory card, and you can take only one picture. If you think like this, I make you this promise: You will have a more creative photograph. What’s more, during a photo outing, you will have a higher percentage of creative photographs and fewer outtakes.

Great advice. I chat about this topic of taking few frames as opposed to shooting many repeatedly in my podcast.

I believe there is a balance. If you approach photography as Sammon does you’ll slow down, compose far more purposefully, be sure of your camera settings, and likely create fewer but more accurate photographs. On the other hand, digital tools and processes have afforded the photographer the luxury of capturing many attempts to get an interesting photo at little to no more cost than capturing a single image. There is balance somewhere in the middle.

The subject of the photograph also should be taken into account. If you’re photographing humming birds, for instance, you’d likely need to fire off far more captures than if you were photographing a tree in a meadow.

This topic will resurface a lot in 2020 in my podcast as I will be shooting a lot of film – yes, film – in the new year. I’m super excited about it and I can’t wait to share that part of my photographic journey.

Looking back on Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm

On the cusp of the release of Star Wars Episode IX, I revisited a post I wrote in 2012 regarding Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm from George Lucas.

In it I postulated that Lucasfilm was worth far more than the $4B purchase price but that Lucas structured the deal to make up for that over the long term growth of the combined companies.

It is worth going back and reading that post to see what many were thinking that Disney would do and compare it to what they’ve done so far. I’d say they’ve executed the playbook beautifully.

So how did old George do on this deal?

I haven’t followed along too much to know if he’s done any large sell-offs of his Disney stock or anything. But, remember, he put a cool $2B in cash in his pocket with a single signature on the day the deal finalized. The other $2B was taken in Disney stock – which at the time was trading at around $50/share.

Today the stock is trading at around $150/share.

Assuming he’s sold zero shares, his $2B in Disney stock has nearly tripled in worth already.

But the decision wasn’t all about the money of course. George wasn’t exactly starving at the time this sale went down. How has Disney done in managing the Star Wars franchise and the companies? From my seat, very, very well. It is likely a big reason why Bob Iger is Time’s Businessperson of the Year this year.

The new films in the Star Wars Skylwalker saga has taken their licks – but no worse than in the prequel era. I’d say the sequels have been better reviewed than the prequels by a long shot. The spinoff films of Solo and Rogue One are very good. And The Mandalorian is excellent. Not to mention the Star Wars-related additions to Disneyland and Disney World that are getting rave reviews as well. Oh and the books and toys and comics and everything else. So from a creative stand-point, I think Star Wars has been stewarded better than Lucas could have done on his own.

ILM, Lucas Arts, etc. have all had award winning projects that shipped. There are too many to name but if you look up each company and what they’ve done since 2012, they’ve really done some amazing work and the hits just keep on coming.

Acquisitions rarely go well. In fact, in the tech industry acquisitions almost always go poorly for one reason or another. Disney has proven they can do enormous acquisitions like Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel and create a better result than the sum of their parts. All while George counts his money while eating his popcorn at the movies.

Vincent Laforet reviews the new Mac Pro

Vincent Laforet:

This was the closest I’ve come to feel to seeing my digital work look like Color Slide film – think Fujichrome, Kodachrome and Cibachrome prints. At times, it felt like I was seeing my footage for the first time. It sounds trite I’m sure – but it’s true.

This bit was specifically about Apple’s XDR display – which compares to displays 3 or 4 times its cost.

You’ll be seeing headlines that say this computer costs $50,000+ and tons of reviews that talk about terabytes and gigabytes and cores and nits and wheels… Read Laforet’s whole review to see how the new Mac Pro can make working easier and more fun for the people that really need one of these. And at a fraction of the cost (or comparable in some cases) of other solutions.

I want any size screen, any time, any where

Andy Baio in an interview on Uses This:

I’ve worn glasses for my entire life, so my personal dream setup would be replacing my laptop, monitor, and phone all at once by replacing my prescription lenses with augmented-reality glasses that annotate the world around me without blocking it out entirely.

I do not wear glasses but long-time readers of my blog may remember that I too would like to replace all of the screens in my life for an augmented reality experience. I’d want them to provide me any screen size I need at any time any where.

When I personally look at how I use my full monitor desk set up, my laptop, my iPad, and my iPhone; I am generally just changing the size of the screen between contexts. Mixed reality (MR) could provide me a way to have any screen I need at any time and thus only have a single device. We’re likely a long way off on this – mostly because all of the companies seem to be focused on the lucrative gaming market.

I haven’t written about mixed reality on my blog in a while. I believe my timeline for such things still stands. As does my observations on the industry as a whole. But it may be time to revisit MR and see what the latest is.

Texting while driving

Bloomberg:

The data support the generally-accepted wisdom that despite laws, penalties and reminders of the hazards of cell phone distractions while behind the wheel, drivers continue to put themselves and others on America’s roads in grave danger.

Do the world a favor. Grab a nearby friend or family member and show them how to turn on Do Not Disturb while driving settings for iOS or Android. Both operating systems have very good features around this now. There is no excuse at all not to have this on by default at this point.

Spread the word. It saves lives. It could save a life today.

Adrian (aows) on Photography

Adrian (aows):

An imperfect composition, a rather dark or bright image, and less than ideal conditions could be ingredients for a great image.

His Instagram account is one of my favorites. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea at first glance, but if you read his FAQ you’ll see what his goal is for his photography. He writes:

I’m not trying to reproduce reality. Every image I make is an attempt at expressing myself and showing what that place, object, whatever, means to me.

I believe his images do exactly that.

How to enjoy a long winter

Jason Kottke:

I decided that because I live in Vermont, there is nothing I can do about it being winter, so it was unhelpful for me to be upset about it. I stopped complaining about it getting cold and dark, I stopped dreading the arrival of snow. I told myself that I just wasn’t going to feel like I felt in the summer and that’s ok — winter is a time for different feelings.

I’ve decided the same long before I read Jason’s post but it was a good reminder for me. I’m also going to make the best of winter. I’m going to embrace the differences this season brings and I’m now looking forward to that. Also, the worse the winter the more I’ll enjoy spring!

Ryan Barrett switched to Twitter Lists

Ryan Barrett:

A few days ago, I unfollowed everyone on Twitter, added them all to a list, and I now read that list instead. It’s shockingly better. Only their own tweets and retweets, in order. No ads, no “liked by,” no “people you may know,” no engagement hacking crap. It’s glorious.

I do not believe I’d be able to use Twitter without Lists.

See also.

Richard Bernabe on Twitter

Richard Bernabe, in an otherwise good interview on his photography, says this about Twitter:

I like Twitter, even if it does represent both the best and worst the Internet has to offer. If you’re there to argue politics with other humans, it most certainly is a dystopian hellscape that will make your life a dark, dark place. Don’t do that, ok? But even if you’re not a content creator, it’s the best and easiest way to consume news and information that touches on your life’s interests. Just remember to stay narrowly focused on the things that make you happy. If you want to wade into the planet’s biggest virtual town square and discuss world events, do so gently and don’t take anything too personal.

Ooof. He isn’t wrong though. And at over 1M followers, he knows.

I still get value out of Twitter but I have to work very hard to get it. I have a private and public account. I create Lists and hand curate them based on my interests. And I’m able to interact with companies very easily. But, again, it is work to avoid the dark shadows.

Brent Simmons’ blog turns 20

Brent Simmons’ blog has turned 20 years old. A fantastic milestone! But, it was this bit that I wanted to comment on:

It‘s tempting to think that The Thing of my career has been NetNewsWire. And that’s kinda true. But the thing I’ve done the longest, love the most, and am most proud of is this blog.

I’ve long held that the most important and impactful thing I’ve made has been my blog. Not helping with 9rules, Viddler, Barley, etc.

The coolest thing about me is my blog.

Manton Reece also commented on this same bit from Brent, adding:

The great thing about a personal blog is that if you stick with it, your blog will very likely span multiple jobs and even major life changes. You don’t need to know where you’re going to be in 20 years to start a blog today and post to it regularly. Writing about the journey — and looking back on the posts later to reflect on where you’ve been — is part of why blogging is still so special.

Being able to look back through my blog’s archives is something I hope I’ll be able to do long into he future.

See also.

An update on how to listen to my podcast Photowalking with Colin

The first few episodes of my new photography podcast have been a learning experience for me. How should I record, edit, distribute these episodes? With each episode I’ve been able to improve that process and make some decisions along the way.

Me, on location

While I’m hoping to continue to improve the audio quality, the speed at which I can create these episodes, and how the audience consumes both the audio and the photos I make during each episode – I think I’ve settled in on how to publish these episodes. So today, I’ve made those adjustments to my site.

I’ve drawn inspiration from many sources including James Bell, @Miraz on Micro.blog, Joe Greer and others.

I went back through each episode and added the audio files to each post and moved them into their own category. This way people can listen to the audio right on the page with the photos. I have no doubt that this will render my Anchor* analytics useless but I don’t care. I’d much prefer people have a better listening experience.

So, in addition to subscribing to the podcast on just about any service or app of your choice, you can also just subscribe to this blog and be delivered each episode with the photos into your RSS reader. Or, come directly to each page as I link to them from Twitter or something and listen to the episode and view the photos at the same time.

* Anchor is the app I use to create and distribute the podcast. They collate all of the analytics together for me. Which is nice, but I don’t really care about analytics.

.new

Google:

With .new, you can help people take action faster. We hope to see .new shortcuts for all the things people frequently do online.

For instance, Playlist.new will create a new Spotify playlist for you. Docs.new will create a new Google Doc for you, etc.

I don’t think my younger self could have predicted that .new would be a thing.

CaptionBot

Microsoft:

CaptionBot.ai is powered by machine learning technology that identifies and captions your photos. When you upload a photo, it is sent to Microsoft for image analysis to return a caption. We won’t store, publish, or let other people use your images.

I uploaded a few images. It works pretty well.

I’m unsure of this particular bot’s purpose but you can likely see its cousin running in Windows 10’s Photos app – that will automatically discover things like mountains, rivers, dogs, etc. in photos.

Google, Apple, Facebook all have similar technology for discovering things or people within images. I believe the only ones that do this on device, though, are Apple and Microsoft. The others rely on the image making it to cloud servers to be “scanned”.

/via James Gurney.

Nick Carver on his photographs

Nick Carver, in an interview by Cody Schultz in early 2018:

Certain artworks I’ve seen throughout my life have had a powerful impact on me. When I look at a painting by Kenton Nelson or a sculpture by Michael Heizer, I feel something deep in my psyche that I can’t put words to. I can’t describe the feeling, but I know I love the effect it has on me. I hope that my photography can have that effect on other people.

If you listen to my podcast, you’ll know that Nick Carver’s work – and notably his YouTube channel – has had a profound effect on my photography.

Because Nick’s hobby is large format film landscape photography, his approach to exposing film is far different than my approach with digital photography. Or, at least how my approach used to be.

For years I’ve followed digital and even mobile photographers that recommend shooting hundreds of photographs in the hopes of capturing a few you like. With large format film you really can’t do that. Not only isn’t there enough time in a day to expose hundreds of slides of film, but also it would cost you a fortune.

This forces the photographer to slow down, strongly consider their composition, be certain of their light metering to determine the camera’s exposure settings, and be more mindful of each and every photo. I’ve been trying lately to find the balance between those two worlds. How can I be more purposeful in my digital exposures – yet still leverage the ease and inexpensive use of the tools I have on hand? I’m still trying to find that balance. But it is because of Nick Carver that I am trying to find it.

Colin Walker on personal blogging

Colin Walker:

Call it an inferiority complex, a belief that my life isn’t interesting as I don’t do that much. But, as Adam says, it’s the ordinary lives, the “random glimpses into humanity” that pique your interest, not just the grand gestures.

My favorite blogs tend to be those that are informal, unedited, and reflect the author’s voice and experiences. Rarely are they those that have grandiose lives or try to make them seem so. I truly adore a personal blog.

Photos from the Off to the pub episode of Photowalking with Colin

I’m unsure of the best way to share the photos for each episode of my podcast. But for now, I’ll create a post for each episode that I share photos from. Open to suggestions.

Cow line

Just one from this episode to share.

Thoughts on the Microsoft Surface event

I’m pretty excited for Microsoft. I’ve been excited for what they’ve been doing as a company, on several fronts, for a few years now.

I won’t rehash all of the nice things I’ve been writing about them, but I can link to how I feel about Satya, the work they’ve been doing in open source and for developers, Surface, and Windows 10.

Yesterday’s Surface event was very good. I really like how Panos makes everything so dramatic. It is just more fun than how so many other tech companies present things. I totally understand if others don’t feel the same way. But I don’t think anyone has ever accused him of being disingenuous.

The updates to the Surface hardware were excellent. I think the 15″ laptop looks very, very good. And while I wish the Surface Pro was more of a direct competitor to iPad*, I don’t have any other wishes for their hardware. It is all very good.

The Neo and Duo products, both coming late 2020, are fascinating products. I have no idea if they will be successful or be hits – but I’m very glad Microsoft decided to make them.

Though I have to agree with John Gruber, they overshadowed the rest of the products that are available today a little. They likely knew they would though. So perhaps they are ok with it.

I have two quick I told ya sos, if I may.

In July Windows Central said they hoped someone at Microsoft was working on a phone, but if they were, they should keep expectations low. I vehemently disagreed with that sentiment. I wrote:

Microsoft was recently valued as the most valuable company to ever exist on planet earth. (Alongside Amazon and Apple.) Keep expectations low? Don’t make a huge bet?

[…]

I say Microsoft should swing for the fences. They should come out with Windows Phone again, base it on Android, call it a Surface Phone and set expectations at Panos Panay levels.

Guess which way they decided to go with Surface Duo?

I was wrong, though, they didn’t call it a Surface Phone. They are avoiding the word phone, which I think we all should as well. My Pixel is no more a phone than it is a book, but I can read and make phone calls on it.

And did they ever swing for the fences! A completely new form-factor, category of product, operating system based on Android. SWING!!!

The only thing Windows Phone was missing, you’ll remember, was apps. And now it will have that. Well, not Windows Phone. Android. Which I think is the right call.

I’d love to get one of these Duo devices, only to support bold vision and the stones to put them out into the world.

A few other random observations

  • Windows 10 X looks interesting. Could that be the new tablet mode?
  • The EarBuds look like a miss.
  • The way the Neo keyboard interacts with the device reminds me of the dial you can purchase with the Surface Studio. Microsoft should double down on this sort of thing. It really makes these devices truly like surfaces that you do stuff on. So, by next year we’ll have a Pen, Dial, and Keyboard. I say make a ton more of them.
  • I sort of think they could allow Android apps to run on Windows, this way Duo could still be a Windows computer. But there must be reasons that I don’t know about why they wouldn’t do this. Or perhaps it is still coming.
  • I think both the Neo and Duo will be very different by launch time. They don’t even have outward facing cameras on them yet.
  • Panos’ analogy of flow using his daughter at the piano is apt. When I’m in flow, it could be while I’m writing this blog post, writing code, editing a photo or video, etc I do feel like everything just disappears.

* Windows 10 tablet mode is simply no competitor to iPadOS in a tablet form factor. I’d go so far as to say it sucks in comparison. But, I’ve seen rumors that they’re working hard on this. So, we’ll see.

Alastair Humphreys on blogging for 18 years

Alastair Humphreys, adventurer, blogger:

I wrote my stories as I cycled around the world and updated my website intermittently whenever I found an internet connection stable enough to send a bunch of text. The screech of dial-up internet and being plunged into darkness by power cuts were regular accompaniments to my early days of blogging. I enjoyed two directly contrasting aspects of writing for the internet: the anonymity of writing for a website with no idea of whether anyone would actually read it, and the slowly burgeoning community of people from all over the world who stumbled upon my words. I remember the excitement of receiving an email from a lady who was reading my stuff from Antarctica. This internet thing is here to stay, I thought to myself, presciently.

Be sure to read his entire post. Subscribe to his blog while you’re at it. I have a feeling he’ll be doing it for a few more decades yet.

Twitter Lists are having a moment

Twitter recently released an updated UI that allows you to “pin” Lists you’ve created to your Home timeline view. This makes it possible to swipe between each List quickly. It is a nice feature – especially for those with only a few lists or for those just starting out with them*.

Since this update was released I’m noticing more and more people mention Lists. So I believe this update is working how Twitter wanted it to.

Here is something I wrote about Lists 7 years ago:

I suppose my favorite part about using lists is that I can check Twitter whenever I want without the feeling that I’ll be overwhelmed and distracted by tweets. I can choose when I want to be distracted. When I want to sit down and catch up on Twitter I can go through a few of my lists depending on my mood.

This remains true today. If I’m in the mood to catch up on some outdoor activity lists – fishing, hiking, kayaking – I can dip into that List and catch up. But if I’m in the mood to catch up on technology – I can scroll through that List. It sort of reminds me of reading a particular section of the newspaper, rather than skipping around the newspaper randomly. It allows me to focus a bit more.

Also, Lists do not suffer from the Home timelines terrible algorithm. For that reason alone it is worth building a List or two.

One List of mine that has stuck around is the idea of a “Scratch” list. Today I call it “Heap”. Call it whatever you want, but this allows you to add random accounts to this List and see if they stick. If they do, it is worth taking the time to categorize them.

Not all accounts fit into a category. People, for instance, tweet about all sorts of things. So I find that my relationship with them ends up becoming the name of the List. And for everything else, I have a List called “Lump of People”. I have no idea where I get these names.

I cannot imagine using Twitter without Lists. So I’m glad they are investing in the feature rather than removing or ignoring it.

If you haven’t tried Lists on Twitter I recommend you give them a spin.

Now, if only Instagram would give me some way do to this same thing I’d use it a lot more.

Colin Walker on choosing the best devices

Colin Walker nails how I’m making decisions on what hardware I’m purchasing:

I’m largely platform agnostic and have always been able to achieve what I wanted regardless of what device I was using. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t want to use the best tools for the task at hand.

I too am platform agnostic. See this post.

Colin mentions the reason I can be platform agnostic. It is because I can still do everything I want with nearly any software platform. Messaging? Work? Photo and video editing? Web? Publishing? I can do all of these regardless of platform.

It is why I currently have a Windows 10 laptop, the iPad Pro, and a Google Pixel. When I purchased these devices they were – in my opinion, and for my needs – the best hardware I could afford.

I plan to continue purchasing “the best tools for the task at hand”. This year it may be the iPhone 11 Pro or the Google Pixel 4. My laptop is still great and my iPad Pro is absolutely amazing.

In that 2018 post I wrote:

Going forward I’m going to continue to make a concerted effort to purchase products based on what they do, how they’re made, and what I need rather than the logo on the box.

I’m no longer tied to a specific company’s products and I’m very happy about that.

Things about the iPhone 11 Pro that weren’t mentioned in the Keynote

…or, if they were mentioned, they were mentioned only briefly, but I found them to be intriguing.

  • 2x more height on panoramas (63MP image)
  • water resistance is up to 12ft for 30 minutes (compared to 6ft with iPhone 11)
  • AirDrop understands where people are in a room in relation to you
  • Wide lens has 100% Focus Pixels
  • audio zoom when recording video
  • USB-C power adapter (yay!) but cable is still lightning (boo)
  • fun colors not available for Pro

I’ll be pouring over these specs and comparing them to the Google Pixel 4 when it is released before making my final decision. But overall, I’d say this is a very solid update to iPhone.

Wishes for today’s Apple Event

In my Pixel 4 wish list I may have overstated my current position on my choosing Android or iOS in my next phone. I wrote:

As my time to upgrade my phone comes around of course I’m left with a choice to go back to iOS or stick with Android. I’m sticking with Android. I really like my current phone OS. iOS 13 looks like a great update but it doesn’t have anything in it that would entice me to leave Android behind yet.

That isn’t quite right. I’m watching today’s Apple Event closely to see if the new iPhone will entice me away from my Pixel. And, I’ll be watching Google’s event in October for my wishes of the Pixel 4 before making a hard decision.

With that said, what would I look for in an iPhone 11? And what are other things I’m watching for today? This is that list.

  • A more capable image processing system – The iPhone XS takes amazing photos, but somehow the image processing system in the Pixel 2 is still “better”. Meaning, it produces more pleasing results by just firing the shutter button. It is arguable, I think, which device captures better data – likely the iPhone XS would win because of the dual-camera system – but the images that are processed seem to be better in every way with the Pixel. So I’d like to see a dramatic update to how iPhone processes images in portrait, low-light, and other modes to produce a better result. No matter what I see today, I won’t know until capable reviewers get their hands on them.
  • USB-C – I’ve been spoiled having a laptop, tablet, and phone that all use the same cables. I can’t imagine wanting lightning cables ever again.
  • Water resistance – I believe the iPhone XS is very water resistant already. But I would be open to this being even more resistant to water damage.

If the iPhone 11 has the above, it would level the playing field between the Pixel and iPhone for me and then it would be a matter of a software and ecosystem decision.

Outliers for today’s event:

  • A MacBook with a keyboard that works.
  • The Apple Watch not taking 4 days to do a software update.

Apple Event days are always fun regardless of what they announce, I expect this one to be no different.

Android 10 apps that support Dark Theme

Ben Schoon:

The majority of Google apps support this system-wide toggle, but few third-party developers have followed the company’s lead. Here are some non-Google apps that support Android 10’s dark mode toggle.

He lists a number of apps that support the OS-level option. Outlook claims to support it, but I have it installed and updated and cannot see the option yet. So perhaps it is something they are able to roll out?

There are also some of Google’s own apps that have yet to be updated; Play Store and Gmail being two big ones.

I’m looking forward to updates to Instagram, Facebook, Microsoft To-Do, WhatsApp, Twitter, WordPress, Untappd, Teams.

Some apps have a dark theme, but they don’t support the OS-level option.

We’re in an odd territory right now of support of this feature. I think it is going to be a bit of a mess for at least 6 months to a year.

PowerToys for Windows 10

Windows PowerToys is back! And, it is open source.

Brandon LeBlanc:

PowerToys is a set of utilities for power users to tune and streamline their Windows experience for greater productivity. Inspired by the Windows 95 era PowerToys project, this reboot provides power users with utilities to squeeze more efficiency out of the Windows 10 shell and customize it for individual workflows.

Supporting OS-level Dark Mode preference using only CSS

My blog’s theme is based on Davis by Anders Norén. I’ve been using it for a while, making small tweaks here and there for my images index and other things.

It has a dark theme built-in that I can toggle on and off. But it is an either/or type of thing. I can either have the dark theme on all the time or not.

Since updating to Android 10 I’ve been trying Dark Mode to see if I prefer it. So far it is a bit of a mess, because so many apps simply do not support it yet. Even Google’s own built-in Android apps have yet to fully embrace the OS-level preference. But I’m sure this will change with time.

For my personal blog I’ve long thought about adding a toggle or switch somewhere to allow someone to turn its dark theme on or off themselves. But, for whatever reason I just put it off so long that I never did it. But now, just after Android 10’s release on Pixel phones and on the cusp of iOS 13 being released, both major mobile OSes will soon have an OS-level preference for Dark Mode. I thought this would be a good time to support that preference.

It turns out that many of the latest browser versions have a media query, or CSS’s version of an IF statement, that will allow you to add support for it rather easily.

@media(prefers-color-scheme: dark) {
    /* Do Dark Mode things here */
}

Since Davis already had a .dark-mode body class I was able to take all of those selectors and move them into this media query. This way, if someone toggles that preference at the OS-level, they will automatically get my site’s dark theme. If they toggle it back the other way, my site will adjust. Simple.

I do not think I’m going to go through the trouble of adding a manual switch for viewers. That will end up being a legacy way of handling this in due time. I think people will either turn Dark Mode on or not and if they do they’ll get their preferred version. Even Windows 10 and macOS have these preferences now.

If you’re a Dark Mode person, I hope you like it.

Side note: Anders is spearheading the next official WordPress theme in its next release. If you look at his other themes you’ll see why.

Andy Sylvester on making blogging a priority

Andy Sylvester:

The other important part of the habit was making it a priority (I tried writing at lunch before, but ran out of time after web surfing, so I changed the order and – voila – I was able to write!).

Writing first works for Andy. It also works for others like Fred Wilson and Seth Godin. Perhaps it will work for you?

See also: bad reasons not to blog and my blogging tips.

Another bad reason not to blog “I’m not a web developer”

Jamie Tanna, in a post about why everyone should have a web site, and it isn’t that you have to be a web developer:

Having a website and/or blog is not about being a web developer, nor about being a celebrity of sorts, but is about being a citizen of the Web.

Read the entire post for more. Adding this reason to my list of bad reasons not to blog.

/via Jeremy Keith.

Repost: Adam Tinworth on blogging

👉 Adam Tinworth:

In an age where the shortness and speed of content, of hot takes and clickbait, there’s still a role for slower, more considered writing. And that’s why I carry on blogging.