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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

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.

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.

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.

Felt appropriate to publish a special episode of Random 60 before tomorrow’s Apple Event. Do you need the latest tech? Liking or subscribing on YouTube is most appreciated.

Google Pixel 4 wishlist

Yes, I know there have been leaks galore regarding the Google Pixel 4. While I’ve seen the leaks I haven’t paid much attention to them. I’ve tried to ignore them so that I could be at least a little surprised when it is announced.

I currently have the Google Pixel 2 XL. I’ve had it since December 2017. You can read my review here. This has been my favorite phone since the iPhone 7 Plus. So I’m eager to see what the next Pixel will be.

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.

I’ve given thought to switching phone manufacturers also but there are a few things that keep me from doing so. The first obvious choice would be to go to Samsung. But Samsung’s software – both their apps they preinstall and their flavor of Android – seem subpar compared to the flavor of Android that ships on the Pixel. Also, their updates to Android under-the-hood come months (sometimes 9 months) after they are shipped. I like software updates far too much for that.

Another possible phone would be the OnePlus 7 Pro. This looks like a great phone for most people. Super fast, great display, etc. However, the camera system seems to not yet be what it needs to be for me.

There are other options like Huawei, LG, Xiaomi. But each of them has their trade-offs compared to the Pixel as well.

According to my research, the best Android phone for someone that cares about digital photography and having the latest, greatest software is the Pixel.

The only downside is that it is made by Google. And Google could, on a whim, wake up one morning and decide to discontinue making it. But I suppose I’ll have to live with that if it happens.

Now, onto the wishlist. Similar to my iPhone SE wishlist in 2016, my wishlist for the Google Pixel 4 is very short.

  • Faster – It isn’t that the Pixel 2 XL is slow. But is isn’t nearly as snappy as something like the OnePlus 7 Pro seems to be. I’d be totally OK if Google ships a Pixel 4 with 16GB of RAM to accomplish this.
  • Water resistant – “Waterproof” would be too much to ask, I fear. But a decent amount of water resistance would boost my confidence. I recently hiked 5 miles in a downpour and was very worried about my Pixel 2 XL but – surprisingly – it didn’t skip a beat.
  • Increased megapixels – I know, I know, megapixels aren’t everything. The 12MP front-facing camera in my Pixel 2 XL is extraordinarily good (see examples). But I’d be all for more pixels.
  • Better speakers – In quiet contexts the speakers in the Pixel 2 XL are more than adequate. But in nosier situations they simply do not hold up. And they aren’t good for music really.

That’s it. Faster, water resistant, increased megapixels, better speakers. I’m fairly confident that all of these things will come to be and that none of them are too much to ask. Looking forward to remaining on #teampixel for at least a few more years.

iOS creates a competition hostile environment

Below is a screenshot of the sheet you see on YouTube for iOS when tapping on a link in a video’s description.

They invoke this custom sheet because, like Google, Apple has created iOS to be competition hostile to other browser vendors like Mozilla, Opera, Microsoft, etc.

Tapping on a link should open your default browser, not provide you choices to download the developer’s other apps. I’m guessing the Safari option on this sheet is there because Apple wouldn’t approve the app otherwise.

But why should Google write the YouTube app any differently? If Apple can be competition hostile, why can’t they?

Early in iOS’s history I understood why Apple limited the browser, mail, maps, and calendar options to only their own apps. It made sense. The integration with the OS was just too deep and the OS didn’t have enough APIs to make a good user experience. But, today, on a platform that is into its second decade of existence, with features like deep links, extensions, services, SiriKit, etc. there is likely very little excuse any more not to allow users to choose their own default apps.

How can we force Apple to change this?

The Swift Era begins

Brent Simmons:

Though I don’t discount Catalyst’s usefulness — we will get lots of apps new to the Mac — the real news this week was about SwiftUI and the Combine framework. This, finally, is a new way of writing apps, and it’s based on Swift and not on Objective-C. It’s very much not from NeXT.

We were all biting our lip waiting for Marzipan/Catalyst to not suck and Apple was busy building an all-new way to create interactive UIs for their entire line-up of devices.

I’ve watched some of the SwiftUI sessions already. It looks very impressive. It has definitely taken cues from declarative web frameworks (in the best way possible) and brought those lessons into the more structured native app world*.

If I were rebuilding Summit, my never released iOS app, I’d throw out my entire UI layer and use SwiftUI without even thinking about it. As Brent wrote, SwiftUI is the future of UI development on all Apple platforms – both released and as-yet-unreleased – for the next few decades.

* It may be because I’m currently writing a React app, but I can’t help but notice the similarities between it and SwiftUI. To have a framework that manages state and updates the UI according to that state is such a powerful way to build modern UIs. Where SwiftUI keeps a “source of truth” about a view’s state, React keeps a “virtual DOM”. Great tools and each have their place.

Random WWDC 2019 thoughts

Random WWDC 2019 thoughts:

  • The iPadOS updates look like a good start to a new OS just for iPad. Esp. connecting storage. Looking forward to 3 years from now. Imagine how much more capable than iOS it will be.
  • The Mac Pro isn’t for me but I’m very glad it exists. The performance really is mind-blowing.
  • The new Display is amazing. It will be a number of years before it is affordable though. Truly a pro product. The audience’s reaction to the price of the stand is amazing.
  • The speed updates to iOS (and the reduction in app sizes) seem like huge, huge news for this release.
  • The simple video editing tools are stellar. I cannot even count the number of times I would have used that feature since 2007.
  • Sign In With Apple is overdue but very welcome (though, unsure if I will use it or not, but good for many people)
  • SwiftUI looks promising. I will be interested to hear the community’s response to it.
  • The un-bundling of iTunes is finally happening. This happens to all popular software.
  • I’ll be interested to see how font management works on iOS.
  • I will withhold judgement until I use Dark Mode – but the only time I use it currently is in a code editor.

Overall, this seemed like a solid, solid WWDC. I’m sure there will be a lot more news over the coming week. But to me, it addressed the main things I was looking for: a commitment to the Mac, iPad OS updates, and for Marzipan (now Project Catalyst it seems) not to suck. Looks like I’ve got them all.

Repost: Alex Hoffmann on the importance of WWDC 2019 for him

👉 Alex Hoffmann:

This week’s WWDC is going to be a make-or-break situation for me. It’s going to determine whether I will continue to consider Apple’s tablets worthwhile or if I’m going to move to a Microsoft Surface Pro once they release one with USB-C/Thunderbolt 3.

I’m telling you. This is an important one on many fronts.

/via Micro.blog’s new WWDC Discover page.

The importance of WWDC 2019

waffle:

Whether I’ll like the outcome or not, the cards are stacked for Apple to weigh in heavily on all these things (including possibly by inaction, to focus much more on iOS) come Monday. If optimism left me easily, I would be typing this on a capable PC laptop instead (although possibly swearing equally at a UWP Windows future). But I am holding my breath, because one way or another, when all of WWDC has been summed up, we’ll be able to look back at it and say that it was the moment where everything finally, ultimately, irrevocably changed.

This WWDC, which starts today, seems to be the most important one since the App Store debuted. I wonder if Apple feels it as well or is it just the entire community wondering whether or not they will be using Macs in a decade? Today could tell us that.

/via Marco Arment on Twitter.

Pretty remarkable seeing Apple Park in August 2015 and today.

Gurman’s scoops, like this one, are always so full of cruft in the style of writing. I wish they were just bulleted-lists of what’s to come.

This time of year is always good for developers with Microsoft’s Build, Google I/O and Apple’s WWDC happening within the span of a few months. This week is Microsoft Build and I’m looking forward to seeing some great announcements.

My questions for WWDC 2019

I am looking forward to this year’s WWDC more than I have in the last 4 or 5 years. There is so much riding on this conference for my personal productivity but also for the Mac and iPad platforms as a whole.

Here are a few reasons why and I’ll follow with a few questions that I have.

Steve Troughton-Smith asked on Twitter if any developers were willing to state publicly that they planned on bringing their iOS apps to the Mac via the upcoming UIKit release at WWDC.

(If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, I suggest looking at STS’s blog post on the subject.)

You can read the thread on Twitter but Michael Tsai has a collection of the responses from developers (of course). It is exciting to see so many developers that are willing to give this a try.

Then, of course, is Guilherme Rambo’s scoops on some of the things coming to macOS and iOS over on 9to5Mac. There isn’t one link I can provide to all of the posts so here are just a few.

Here are the WWDC questions that I’m most interested in getting an answer to:

  • Will Apple finally throw out the most unreliable piece of hardware they’ve “ever” made?
  • Will UIKit apps from iOS work on macOS well enough to satiate us long-time Mac users? Meaning, will they be good Mac citizens unlike the current Mojave offerings that stink?
  • Will the iPad’s version of iOS get enough productivity updates to make a meaningful impact on how I personally use my iPad currently? (I’m not convinced the leak re: the new undo gesture will make any difference whatsoever to that particular interaction. To me a three-finger swipe is just as discoverable as the absurd shaking you have to do now. No offense to Etch A Sketch.)
  • Will mobile Safari support Web Share Target API by the end of the year? Related. (I need this for Unmark big time)
  • Will iOS finally get an app drawer (or something like one)? Having the apps on pages and pages of home screens or nestled into folders has been showing its age for a few years already.
  • Could the biggest announcements at WWDC still be unleaked? Could Rambo’s scoops, whatever their source, be simply laying the groundwork for a much larger announcement? Personally I would mind seeing something re: automation, AR or VR.

We’ll know in about a month.

Apple needs to replace the keyboard on all MacBooks this year

John Gruber:

Even if they ship a truly new, reliable keyboard this summer (which I think they will, because if they don’t, it means they’re in deep denial of a huge problem), how long will it take for that new keyboard to roll out across the entire MacBook line? Even if Apple is on the case, hard at work on a new keyboard, there are likely to be brand-new MacBooks in the lineup with the unreliable butterfly keyboards for at least another year.

As I wrote, I want to switch back to the Mac but only after they produce a laptop with an entirely new, reliable keyboard. I’ve seen the current keyboard in action and I think I would have pitched my laptop into the sea out of frustration if I had owned one.

John is likely right, it will take the better part of a year to replace all keyboards across the MacBook lines… but I think they should take the hit and roll them all out at once. It will likely cost them a few billion in lost inventory but I think it would be worth it to show everyone how seriously they want to fix this issue.

They won’t. John will be right. And I’ll be on Windows 10 well into 2020.

My interpretations of announcements by Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter

Apple pre-announcing something: “We’re excited to get this in customer’s hands late next year”. My interpretation: “We never pre-announce things. Why are we doing this? We’re terrible at it. In fact, we make fun of other companies for doing it! Steve Jobs would never allow this! (mostly) We must be doing this because some group of people is really angry with us. Oh, and this product will likely never ship and we’ll tell you about it after the market closes on a Friday”

Apple reassuring their customer base of an upcoming update (read: late in whatever next year is) to a beloved product by a small set of people: “We love the Mac”. My interpretation: “Crickts.” (E key didn’t work)

Apple announcing something that is available today: “We think our customers will love it. Available today. $PremiumPrice”. My interpretation: “Yes, other companies have tried to build this. Yes, our’s is much better in nearly every way. We’ve perfected it. And it is made of diamond and leather and unobtainium. Hence the price. Enjoy.”

Facebook, calling a mea culpa: “We didn’t intend for this to happen. And it happened only to # of users.” My interpretation: “We totally intended for this to happen. We just didn’t intend to get caught. But I don’t know why because we ALWAYS get caught. Oh, and it actually happened to many multiples of # of users. You’ll find that out in a few days.”

Facebook announcing something: “We are connecting people all over the world.” My interpretation: “Our massive drones are really to collect even more information about people than we already collect and sell to that information to people we say we won’t sell information to. Oh, and to misinform people about just about every topic possible.”

Google announcing something: “Here is our brand new cloud-based service that is free to use” My interpretation: “Here is our thing. We consider it beta but it is actually pretty good. Go ahead and use it. Fall in love with it. The moment you come to depend on it we’ll shut it down because we only make money on Google Ads. But you knew that and you fell for it anyway!”

Bonus: Microsoft, announcing a new cloud-based service. “Containers! Buzzword acronym, buzzword seamless integration acronym, buzzword, Kubernetes Docker.” My interpretation: “There are organizations in the world that pay Microsoft incredible amounts of money to license Windows on sub-par hardware, to use Windows Server to manage web applications and services that use far too much RAM, and to use Azure (which is actually quite amazing) to do literally anything they ask it to do.”

Bonus: Twitter announcing a much needed feature. Wait, Twitter hasn’t built any much needed features since 2008.

Thoughts on Apple’s March 2019 Media Event

I’m writing this for posterity’s sake. For my own recollection. So please feel free to skip the reading of this post.

  • Apple News+ : Given that Apple News is serving enormous amounts of traffic I have little doubt that News+ will be a big enough hit to boost Apple’s Services revenue. I doubt it will be for me personally.
  • Apple TV+ : I’m eager to see what the pricing for this will be. TV is still a mess. Eliza and I would love to get rid of cable altogether and just get our shows via streaming online but it still isn’t easy (or affordable) to do that. I still think we’re many iterations away from TV no longer being a mess. I was also sort of hoping that this service from Apple would allow me to cancel Netflix but it appears I would need this in addition to it and I simply can’t afford to pay for more subscription services. I’ll give them a few years to iron out the details.
  • Apple Arcade : This looks great for gamers. I’m not one but I can imagine households with adults and children who are would love this. Unlike John Gruber, I think Google’s Stadia is a far more momentous offering. Yes, you need good Internet. But Google’s entire business model is built around people having good Internet. So I’d say Stadia is in line with their worldview. I also hope this works out financially well for the game developers that want to create amazing game experiences without ads and in-app purchases.
  • Apple Card : By far the thing I’m looking forward to most from their announcements. That is, until I saw the interest rates. I think this new card service is definitely superior to nearly every other card. But if they can’t offer much better interest rates I wonder if it will be a nonstarter for many. I’ll wait for the official launch.
  • Oprah : Who doesn’t like Oprah?

I can’t imagine the amount of money or resources Apple has invested to get to the point where they were able to announce all of those services in a single day.

Spotify takes Apple to court in the EU

Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify:

It’s why, after careful consideration, Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission (EC), the regulatory body responsible for keeping competition fair and nondiscriminatory.

Good. After reading through his post and their website – especially if it all is true – they have quite a good case. I’ve been complaining, for years, about iOS’s anti-competitive policies. I am glad someone is finally going to try to get Apple to loosen its grip.

While Spotify’s main objection is the tax Apple puts on apps and services in the Store my main objection would be not allowing me, the customer, to choose my own browser, mail client, music player, etc. I really hope this is the last straw and many more complaints somehow make their way to Apple’s legal department.

See also: Manton Reece’s thoughts.

/via Eugene Rochko on Mastodon.

So I didn’t win Apple’s #ShotOniPhone challenge. But, man, the photos that did win are incredible.

The Sony of the PC industry

Jessica Williams (presumably no relation to whom this post is about) writing for Times News regarding Jeff Williams, COO of Apple, speaking to students and faculty at Elon University , regarding Steve Jobs’ new plan for Apple in the late-90s:

Apple would become “the Sony of the PC industry.” It would make computers fashionable, and it would go after individual consumers rather than big business.

See my post from last week: The Mac is turning less Pro. This isn’t anything new. This plan has been going on for 20 years.

The Mac is turning less Pro

skywhopper, on Hacker News, commenting on a thread relating to Mark Gurman’s scoop on Apple’s (supposed) plan to have apps running on iOS and macOS using the same (or, similar) code bases by 2020:

And then the Mac is losing what should be its primary audience through unwanted innovations and otherwise stagnant hardware, and a failure to recognize the importance of catering to the power users who might want an actual escape key, multiple types of ports, and a keyboard that doesn’t feel like it came off a rejected tablet accessory.

I can see an argument for fragmenting the laptop world into Pro/developer hardware and consumer hardware. But Apple seems to have got the needs of those groups mixed up. Do Apple’s own software engineers love the newest Macs I wonder?

I left the Mac (but may come back some day) for two primary reasons:

  1. Apple doesn’t cater to me (a professional computer user, programmer, video and photo editor, that owns a bunch of peripherals) any more. They used to. In fact the Mac was originally for exactly the type of person I am. The hardware choices they’ve made make it clear they care far more about consumers than professionals.
  2. The price gap between a Windows computer and a Mac computer is no longer commensurate with the build quality gap. It used to be that Macs were so much nicer than Windows computers. It was inarguable. These days it is arguable, if not nearly indistinguishable. Microsoft’s Surface line, Lenovo’s ThinkPads, and (dare I even mention) Huawei’s laptops are nearly on par with the latest Mac laptops. And the price difference is significant. My DELL XPS 9370 was about $1,400 less than if I had purchased a somewhat comparable Macbook.

You might ask: But what about the Operating System? macOS is still nicer than Windows in a variety of ways. It used to be far nicer and far more capable. But the niceness gap and the capability gap have also shrunk.

Windows 10’s WSL has been a boon for me personally to allow me to do the types of things I need to do on a computer. Combine that with Docker and I’m able to do every single thing I used to do on a Mac.

The biggest gripe I have with Windows 10 is its inability to strip away the legacy stuff you find in the corners of the OS. They are being eliminated one by one – like the plates in the shooting gallery at the county fair – with each release I download. But even this gripe isn’t much different from what I’m seeing on macOS. The Marizipan apps have been universally panned, the updates to macOS haven’t really been all that compelling (Dark Mode is your biggest selling feature?), and when will Mail.app ever get the update it so desperately needs?

To sum up: Mac hardware and software is still (albeit arguably) better than most Windows 10 hardware and software. But the gap is all but closed – leaving the consumer the ability to choose based on budget for hardware. And with PWAs, web apps, Electron apps, etc. taking over both platforms a huge portion of the software we use every day is nearly identical.

Apple is going less Pro. I don’t blame them. There are more buyers. Apple will continue to string along developers into believing they care deeply about the Mac because they need developers (and the Mac) to build apps for their consumers – especially on iOS. You need a Mac to build an iOS app (at least today). But I think it might be time to stop believing them and start opening up ourselves to the fact that there are other options for some of us that don’t only build Mac or iOS apps.

One less comment from me: I’m not anti-Apple at all. I still really like the company and what they stand for. I miss my Mac nearly every day. Windows 10 still has a ways to go. And the grass always seems greener elsewhere. But, I prefer to continue to have an open mind. To not be dogmatic and to choose the hardware and software I use based on principles I care about as well as on the reasonableness of their cost.

/HN comment thread via Michael Tsai.

Best of 2018

This year I’m taking a slightly more comprehensive approach to my “best of” list. I’ve taken a look at previous year’s lists: 2008, 2009, 2017 and comprised a slightly more complete set.

Again, this is only the things I came across this year and can remember. I don’t keep a list throughout the year but rather rely on my memory. If you think I missed something great please reach out.

Best Blog: Becky Hansmeyer

I’ve linked to Becky’s blog 6 times this year. Mostly related to her iOS app SnapThread (which I can’t even use because I’m no longer on iOS). She openly published her thoughts, trials, tribulations, and triumphs (and new children) throughout the year. The epitome of a personal blog.

Runners up: Waxy – Andy Baio is back at it and the internet is better for it. Jeremy Keith’s Adactio is also always good. It might as well be perpetually in this category.

Best Blog Redesign: Lynn Fisher

Each year Lynn Fisher shows off her talent to build responsive web designs in a fun way by redesigning her site/blog. Go ahead and resize your browser on her homepage. Very fun.

Best (new to me) Blog: Windows Central

Hear me out. This blog publishes tons of times per day. The web site is obnoxious with ads (very thankful for RSS!). Despite that, since switching to Windows 10 this year I have been thankful to have a resource like this to keep me up-to-date with all things Windows. It has proven very useful to learn a number of tips and tricks and to know what the latest features are in Windows.

Best place: Iceland

This past September we visited Iceland – and it was definitely the standout trip of our year. The landscape, the water, the horses, the northern lights – everything was amazing.

Runner up: our trip to Kentucky this year to travel along the Bourbon trail. See this post and this post.

Best book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I certainly laughed out loud more than once while reading this book. It was a fun read and is much better than any of the movies or series I’ve seen trying to adapt it to screen. Though I did enjoy Martin Freeman in one of the more recent movie adaptations.

Runners up: The Road by Cormac McCarthy – sad, but good read. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – what a story.

Best service: Spotify

Spotify continues to be one of the greatest services I’ve ever used. Eliza and I are on a family plan and we use the service every single day at home, on the go, at work. See also.

Best album: Hollywood Africans – Jon Batiste

This is a fun album. It wanders around a little but overall it is a solid album to put on while enjoying a Manhattan (one of my requisites for good music). I also enjoyed his interview with Terry Gross about the album.

Runners up: Free Yourself Up – Lake Street Dive, SYRE – Jaden Smith (don’t @ me).

Best movie: A Quiet Place

I am hoping to watch this one again soon. It isn’t particularly revolutionary or mind blowing – but the pacing, the acting, and the overall balance of the movie is really good. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

Runner up: I just saw the new Spiderman and it is very refreshing. So glad they did something so different.

Best company: Microsoft

In my opinion, Microsoft has been firing on all cylinders for nearly the entirety of Satya Nadella’s lead. Their Surface hardware, Windows 10, Azure cloud services, acquisition of Github, Open Source initiatives, and push into mobile through Android has really been something to watch. Don’t call it a comeback but really, this company is back. See also.

Best hardware: iPad Pro 12.9″

I haven’t had time to write a proper review of this device yet but I do plan to. This is easily my favorite iPad ever – and I really, really liked my iPad Air 2. One quick anecdote; Face ID is extremely fast and works in so many more circumstances than I thought possible.

Very close runner up: Google Home Mini. We now have 3 of these in our apartment (kitchen, living room, bathroom) and we use them every single day for playing music, starting Netflix or YouTube videos on our TV, viewing photos from past vacations, and setting reminders or alarms. I hope to utilize these even more this coming year but I’m delighted at the capabilities of a device you can get for $29 (when on sale and we even got 1 for free with our Spotify subscription).

Best desktop app: Firefox

The Mozilla Firefox team is killing it this year. This browser is my favorite ever on any device. I also use it on Android and iOS. And I’m glad too given recent news re: Edge and Chrome. A few features I cannot live without at this point: Containers, Sync, Pocket (which could work in any browser but is built right into Firefox).

Runners up: 1Password – Eliza and I moved everything into 1Password this year and we couldn’t be happier that we did. Should have done so a long time ago. Visual Studio Code – Still the best code editor on any platform and certainly the best free editor.

Best mobile app: Pocket Casts

I use this app twice a day on my commute to and from work. I never have any issues with it, and every decision made by the design team seems to be right in line with what I want from a podcast app. My feature wish list for this app is relatively short and I believe they are coming with a not-too-distant-future update.

Runner up: Waze this app has saved me hours of sitting in traffic just this year.

Best tool: Trello

I’ve been using Trello more this year than any year previous and I find it to be incredibly well made. I don’t think we’ve had a single moment of downtime the entire year and, although I’d like it to be slightly less expensive for our team of ~30 I feel it is a very useful tool.

I’ve also tried to fit it into my workflow for other things like replacing a previous year’s winner; Bullet Journal. I couldn’t get it to fit. So I now have a hybrid system of using my daily Bullet Journal with Calendar and Trello.

Runner up: OneDrive – I’ve been using OneDrive this year for so many things across all platforms. The utility rarely messes up (whereas Google’s is terrible) and the space is affordable.

Best utility: DropIt

I use this small Windows utility to move files from OneDrive to two backup hard drives and Google Photos from my phone, camera, drone, and Eliza’s phone. It is far, far from perfect but I have wrestled it into doing exactly what I need.

Runner up: Snip & Sketch on Windows 10. I have this app mapped to my Logitech MX Master 2S’s middle click to quickly take screenshots and mark them up. It is an indispensable part of my workflow now working with my team. I just middle click, drag a rectangle, and CNTRL + V into any app I’m using to show my team a screenshot. I probably use this 5 times a day on average.

Best podcast: Meat Eater

I hike a lot. And I like to photograph nature. Listening to Meat Eater, and watching their show on Netflix, has given me a lot of knowledge about how to approach animals, how to know where on the landscape I’m allowed to go, and tons of other tips.

I’m also going to pick up fishing again in 2019 as a result of listening to this podcast.

Best YouTube channel: Zimri Mayfield

This guy is killing it. Each week he produces a new episode in a number of series on design. He’s incredibly quirky and likely not to everyone’s taste but I’ve found his videos both entertaining and educational.

Runners up: Tom Scott – Every video is interesting and the topics are random yet somehow of the same ilk. Nerdwriter – fast, well edited, insightful.

I had a few other categories that I’ve now dropped off because the list got a bit long. So instead, I’m just going to finish off this post with a bunch of random links to things.

Random: @jvdoming, Gutenberg, Floods Part 1 & Part 2, Docker, Cobra Kai, Dark Sky, Micro.blog, Dialog, Cash app, Blue Planet II.

Andrew Kim goes to Apple

Andrew Kim, who I mentioned back when he rebranded Microsoft and eventually was hired by them, has moved again — this time to Apple.

Somehow I missed that he was at Tesla.

Jon Porter for The Verge:

After three and a half years at the company, Kim moved to Tesla, where he contributed to the designs of several vehicles, including the Model 3, S, X, and Y as well as the Roadster V2 and the Semi, according to his LinkedIn profile.

There are several key talents that I personally try to keep track of as they bounce around. A few come to mind like Bret Victor, Mike Matas, and Chris Lattner. There are tons more. Andrew Kim has been one of them. His designs are both striking and practical.

The question is; what is he working on at Apple?

Becky Hansmeyer on iPad Pro

Becky Hansmeyer:

There’s a lot more to like about the iPad Pro, especially if you’re upgrading from an iPad Air 2 like I did. The display is top-notch, ProMotion is one of those things you don’t understand how you lived without, and the Apple Pencil is downright magical. It’s much heavier than the Air, of course, but still light enough to comfortably pick up with one hand. If you love iPads, don’t own last year’s generation, and have the dough: what are you waiting for? You should buy one.

Her review is a lot like what my review will be (coming in a week or two). But, the above snippet is very true – if you haven’t updated iPads in a while I recommend picking up this latest batch. I think by next year the software will catch up with the hardware.

Google Pixel Night Sight on a Google Pixel 2 XL compared to iPhone Xs

My wife has a brand-new iPhone Xs and I have a one-year-old Google Pixel 2 XL. We always compare photos in a variety of situations. When she had the iPhone X my Pixel 2 XL would win handily in a variety of situations. Her new iPhone Xs wins here and there (e.g. in Portrait mode there are a few areas that appear sharper than the 2 XL but overall I still prefer the 2 XL).

Last night came the much anticipated Night Sight Camera update in Google’s default camera app on the Google Pixel. This is a feature that I would think they’d reserve for the Google Pixel 3 (which I am not eligible to update to yet). However, Google has been nice enough to give this feature to all of us Pixel users.

First, let’s see how the iPhone Xs performs in our apartment’s hallway when we close all the doors and rely on ambient light.

iPhone Xs Default Camera Mode

Now, let’s see how the Google Pixel 2 XL does both in normal mode and in Night Sight mode.

Google Pixel 2 XL Default Camera Mode
Google Pixel 2 XL Night Sight Camera Mode

The Google Pixel 2 XL beats the iPhone Xs in Default Mode. But adding Night Sight makes an enormous difference.

I see some commentary that this is a gimmick and that even Google’s explanation for how it works is “just like using a photo editor”. Sure, you can take that stance. I suppose a photographer could use the default output of the iPhone Xs and get similar results by bumping certain values after-the-fact. However, for people that do not know how to use those apps, that would prefer to just take a quick photo while in a bar, in the evening on a hike, or of their sleeping children or pets in low-light – this feature is going to be a boon for Pixel owners.

I love it.

The iPad is Apple’s best product

Faruk, of iPhonedo, on iPad:

iPads are Apple’s best products. They almost never get old. They work for years.

I agree. The iPad is a good investment as a product. Whatever you end up spending on them you get that back and much more. I’m still using my 4+ year old iPad Air 2 and love it. It works perfectly and I have no issues with it. In fact, it feels as snappy as ever.

I’d like to upgrade to the one of these new iPads Pro simply because of the new screen, the pencil, USB-C, and the seemingly amazing internals. But I don’t feel I need to. Usually 4+ years in with a laptop I feel I need to upgrade.

Snapthread is now free to try

Becky Hansmeyer:

You can use all of the app’s features for free with only two limitations: a watermark in the lower left corner and a 30-second limit for video exports.

I’ve mentioned Snapthread in the past. I’m not on iOS anymore, but if I were, I’d use and buy Snapthread in an instant. Looks great. And the new icon is very fun.

How to transfer photos from iPhone to Windows 10

Occasionally I will have need to transfer photos from Eliza’s iPhone X to my Windows 10 laptop. I’ve found the process of transferring the photos to be excruciatingly slow, unreliable, and frustrating. That is, until I figured out a better way.

Most tutorials, including Microsoft’s own, will recommend you plug the phone into your computer, open the Photos for Windows 10 app, and import the files through that app. But this never worked for me. I was attempting to transfer just under 5,000 photos and the process rarely worked for more than a few hundred before the phone disconnected, the process halted, or an error message popped up.

It turns out there is a better way. Here are the steps I recommend.

Transferring files from iPhone X to Windows 10 screenshot

  1. Open iPhone’s Settings app and navigate to Photos and under “Transfer to Mac or PC” choose “Keep Originals”
  2. Connect your iPhone to Windows 10 via USB
  3. Open File Explorer and navigate to “This PC”
  4. Under Devices right click on the now connected iPhone and choose “Import Photos & Videos”

Using this process proved to work reliably and much quicker than going through the Photos app. Also, toggling that one option in Settings made a world of difference in reliability.

Of course, this was my experience, your mileage may vary.