watchOS 7/iOS 14 Wish: Better Notification Behavior

Ok, so this is a kinda vague request, but it’s something that’s bothered me more since I’ve adjusted my watch notifications while going through this COVID-19 mess. Let me try to explain…

Default Notification Behavior

All notifications are mirrored to your watch. This means that everything that buzzes your phone will now tap your wrist. Effectively, you will never feel your phone vibrate because your watch is doing it all for you.

I like this because it makes it so that when I’m wearing my watch, I have one place to get notifications, and when I take it off to charge, my phone seamlessly takes over.

Getting Watch and Phone out of Sync

In order to stay a little more disconnected, I’ve turned off watch notifications for a bunch of apps. Twitter notifications, for example, are not important enough to tap my wrist, but I still want to get them, so I show them on my phone.

The problem here is that now my watch taps me for some things and my phone buzzes for other things. This is not what I personally want, as this introduces two devices that are trying to get my attention.

What I Want

What I would love is for any app that I do not have sending notifications to my watch to switch to “deliver quietly” while I’m wearing my watch. Still send them to my phone and let me see them on the lock screen, but don’t buzz for each one. Then when I take off my watch, start buzzing for all notifications again.

I could accomplish this by making all the notifications I don’t put on my watch deliver quietly, but that’s a decent amount of up front effort and ultimately isn’t what I want all the time, so I don’t think it’s quite right.


This is not a fully formed idea, and there are surely complexities around this, not to mention people who like the current behavior just fine, but for me this is something that annoys me and I wish I could improve more easily.

My Apple Watch is Making Social Distancing and Work-from-Home Easier

My Apple Watch is Making Social Distancing and Work-from-Home Easier

I’ve been home more in the past 2 weeks than any point in my adult life, and in that time, I’ve come to appreciate the Apple Watch more than ever.

I love the activity tracking for helping me make sure I maintain a healthy amount of activity throughout the day.

I love the stand notifications, yes the stand notifications, for letting me know how much less I get up from my desk chair while working from home. Office work is not very aerobic, but apparently it’s a workout compared to sitting in one’s office all day.

I appreciate the breath notifications because yeah, despite being pretty darn calm most of the time, there have been a a few times these weeks where a couple minutes to collect my thoughts was a welcome reminder.

I love having weather on my wrist and being able to see a t a glance that “hey, it’s pretty nice out now, I should take a walk to get some air and maybe fill those rings.”

I love being able to partially disconnect from Twitter and the news more easily by leaving my phone in the bedroom while I go about other things around the house. If an important notification comes through, I get it on my wrist and can reply either right away or go get the phone if it’s going to be more than a quick reply.

I love being able to have a productivity-based watch face that I can look at at any time and see my next task in Things available if I just need a reminder of what I can work on next.

I love that if I don’t want to have all that productivity stuff front and center then I’m a simple swipe away from my numerals duo watch face that just tells me the time in the most beautiful digital numbers I’ve ever seen on a watch.

Maybe this isn’t fair, but I love seeing notifications of messages from friends and family on my watch. I know, they’re also on my phone, but there’s something about seeing them on my wrist that makes them feel more personal somehow. I can’t logically explain this one, but it’s a thing.

And as an odd thing, I of course enjoy seeing the time on my Series 5 model without raising my wrist. You can lose track of the day when you’re outside your normal rhythm and while many devices in my life have clocks on them, none as as readily accessible as the one on my wrist.

The currently world is a mess, and we don’t know when things will get back to normal. There are also so many things more important than a watch going on right now, from doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, scientists, couriers, mailmen/women, delivery drivers, grocers, pharmacists, police, firefighters, retail workers, and more all making sure that the world keep functioning. These people are doing more than my watch will ever do for me, but my niche is the Apple Watch, and even with all this going on, my appreciation for it continues to grow.

8 Hours of Animal Cross New Horizons for Your Daily Grind

8 Hours of Animal Cross New Horizons for Your Daily Grind

Ok, so let’s all agree not to make this post reach too far and wide and let the powers that be know about it, but if you ever wanted your work day to feel more like Animal Crossing and less like…well, normal work, this is just the ticket for you.

Animal Crossing New Horizons has 24 tracks of music that play throughout the day, one song per hour. My compilation plays all 24 tracks for 20-ish minutes each, clocking in at almost exactly 8 hours. Start this when you log on for the day and hopefully you’ll be wrapping up work as soon as it finishes.

The best flow seemed to be to start at the 6AM track, which feels very warm and welcoming, and concludes all the way around at 5AM with some very chill night time music to wrap up the day.

Download the 8 hour MP3 here (462 MB) and put it on in the background while you work. Just make sure to turn it off before jumping on a conference call.

And if you would prefer them as individual tracks in the music player of your choice, there is also a 24 track version you can download here (80 MB).

PS5's Disappointing Backwards Compatibility

From the official PlayStation blog

A quick update on backward compatibility – With all of the amazing games in PS4’s catalog, we’ve devoted significant efforts to enable our fans to play their favorites on PS5. We believe that the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5.

The fact that PS5 will not have full backwards compatibility with PS4 games is a disappointment, even though I've seen some people express joy in this update. I'm sure most big games will still run, and that's great, but it feels like they should have done better here.

What's really disappointing is that as far as we know, there is zero PS1, PS2, or PS3 compatibility. With all this power at their disposal, emulating PS1 and PS2 games should be a breeze. The PS3 was notoriously complicated, but PCs are able to do this really well today, so it seems like it should be there too.

Sony has a remarkable collection of games on their 4 major consoles, and it's a shame that it currently looks like you will only be able to enjoy PS4 and 5 games on this new machine. Unleashing that libraary of games on the new console would make this The PlayStation and would help them get the gamers who want the new, as well as those who want to relive the classics. Maybe Sony has a summer announcement where they'll reveal expanded compatibility, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

I should mention that PlayStation Now lets you play some PS2 and PS3 games, but only via streaming and it is only an average experience in my time with it.

The iPad Gets Serious (insert eye roll emoji here)

Apple's iPad Pro becomes more like a Surface, and that's a problem for Microsoft | Windows Central

I'd argue – and many of you would too – that Windows 10 is still a more "serious" OS built for doing "real" work.

It bothers me more than it probably should that people use this language to talk about computing platforms. What this statement usually boils down to is “the iPad doesn’t do what I do all the time,” which is a fine position to take, but that’s a very different thing.

For example, I started this blog post by selecting that line of text in Windows Central, and with 2 taps had this fully formatted blog post open in Ulysses. Once it’s done, I’ll post to my Ghost blog with literally 2 taps as well. I don’t know how I would automate that on Windows, Ulysses doesn’t exist on Windows, and I certainly don’t know how I’d post to Ghost, short of manually pasting in the article and adding the metadata in the Ghost web UI. Does that mean Windows isn’t as serious as iPadOS?

The good news is while Apple is just now catching up to Microsoft's 2012 vision of a 2-in-1 tablet PC, Microsoft is already on to the next thing: foldable and dual-screen devices.

This bit from later in the article made me raise an eyebrow as well, because while Daniel (who I should note I find really interesting and has turned into my go-to Windows writer) appears to be saying Microsoft is pulling ahead with this new tech, is almost surely writing what John Gruber would affectionately call “claim chowder.”

Microsoft was first to smartphones, but they were too early, didn’t nail the execution, and lost hard in the smartphone market when it took off post-iPhone. They were much earlier to touch screen tablet as well, but again they goofed the software and the hardware was not nearly ready for consumer products, and they lost hard to the iPad. Now they’re getting to dual-screen laptops and tablets today, but if I zoom out to the long view, this really feels like something that’s going to be a big old nothing thing for a long time before a real use case comes up.

My last point on this is that when Microsoft demoed their Surface Duo and Neo, I thought they looked like cool tech, but didn’t see how they fit into my life, nor how they would make my life better. Microsoft still has time to make that case, but this feels a lot like deja vu to me.

First Impressions of Mouse Support in iPadOS 13.4

Apple made a lot of iPad users very happy yesterday where they unveiled mouse and trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4. A someone who has been asking for more full featured mouse support for a while, this got me really excited and I immediately installed the update and tried it out.

Pairing Process

Pairing your mouse is super simple. Just hold down the pairing button on the mouse, open the Bluetooth settings page on the iPad, and tap your mouse that appears in the list of available devices.

That’s it, the next time you move the mouse at all, the new cursor will show up on screen.

Movement and Scrolling

Basic mouse support was added in an accessibility feature last year, and that was okay, but it was clearly a hack on top of iPadOS. It was aimed at simulating the same touch events you did with your fingers. This mouse support is much different, and it’s absolutely not a tacked on feature.

First, the cursor itself looks much nicer, and it adjusts its form depending on what you’re hovering over. The way it animates from circle to cursor to buttons is really slick, and immediately made the Mac/Windows style of moue feel a little old to me.

And moving the mouse feels perfectly normal, which is that say it feels like using this mouse on my Mac. Additionally, scrolling with Logitech’s awesome scroll wheel is a delight. This all feels more fluid and more natural than doing these same things with the accessibility version of mouse support.

And if you prefer different settings, there are options to change the tracking speed, the scroll direction, and what the right click button does. Interestingly, there are no options to configure the other buttons on the mouse to do anything. So my back, forward, and scroll wheel buttons all are now left-click buttons, which is weird. Right-click does indeed work as you’d expect.

Where Did the Cursor Go?!

This first implementation is not perfect though. The first thing that throws me is that when you hover over certain elements, the cursor goes away and the thing you’re hovering over gets highlighted. It’s not always obvious what you’re hovered over, especially on things like home screen icons because the difference between the hovered icon and all the rest is super slight. Can you tell where the mouse is in this screenshot?

You might have been able to tell it was Deliveries, but you had to think about it.

Also, because the cursor turns into the thing you’re hovered over, you lose some context on excactly where inside that item the cursor is. This made moving the mouse elsewhere a little odd because I didn’t know exactly where I was starting from. One of the things that’s great about the mouse is how accurate you can be with it and this makes it so you feel less accurate than you’re used to being. Conveniently, you can turn this behavior off by going to Settings > Accessibility > Pointer Control and turning off pointer animations.

I’m leaving it on for now because this is how Apple thinks it should be and I may get used to it and come to love it, but I’m keeping this escape hatch in the back of my mind just in case I never come around.

Unexpected Behavior

iPadOS has always been a touch-first operating system, and over the past decade of using iPads, I’m very used to how things work with my fingers and Apple Pencil. I know how to drag files around, pull up multitasking, and do all the little things with the iPad.

The mouse doesn’t simulate touch interactions, so you kind of have to figure out how to do everything with the mouse. For example, I wanted to select multiple items from the Files app this morning and drag them into Safari. With touch this is incredibly simple. but I could not figure it out with the mouse. I tried CMD+clicking around and could not do it, and eventually gave up and used my meaty fingers in 2 seconds.

Also, things like bringing up multitasking is a little tricky, as are pulling down notifications or accessing Control Center. You can do them, but the actions you perform with the mouse are a bit different and are taking a little time to get used to.

Overall

I think using a mouse with the iPad on its own is nice, but is not something I’m going to do all the time. I did find using Working Copy to edit code and Affinity Designer to edit images to be a little nicer with the mouse, but most things are either the same or more difficult. The iPad’s touch-first UI is really fantastic and I often felt like direct manipulation of the stuff on screen was easier than using an old fashioned mouse to do the same thing. After all, this is one of the things that makes me love the iPad in the first place!

I do think this makes the use case for a larger, desktop iPad (or even an iPad hooked up to an external monitor) to be a much more compelling use case going forward. I also wish I had a track pad to try this out with. I think a track pad + keyboard + touch would be really nice, and I look forward to trying that out in May when the very expensive, but very cool looking iPad Magic Keyboard comes out.

Xbox Series X was Not Convincingly Revealed

The Xbox Series X specs look impressive, but that’s not enough - The Verge

This all sounds great, but it also sounds not all that differentiated from what Sony has promised for the PlayStation 5 — notably when it comes to load times. So as with a lot of consumer tech these days, the real answer to what you’ll get when you buy an Xbox isn’t going to be about the hardware, it’ll be about this: Microsoft’s ecosystem of services.

I read all the coverage of the Xbox Series X yesterday, and everything Dieter wrote here resonates with my feelings on it as well. I think the Series X looks cool today because we have not seen the PS5 yet.

Improved load times will be great, and the instant resume feature that lets you bounce between multiple games in seconds is amazing, but they didn’t give me much to get excited about after that. The hardware clearly looks impressive, but Microsoft has not convinced me yet that they have solved the actual reason they lost so badly this generation: games.

Microsoft has only demoed existing Xbox One games running on the new hardware, which is all well and good, but really, that’s it? The problem with the Xbox One was that it didn’t have enough exclusive games to make it a compelling purchase over the PS4 for most people. By showing off new hardware that runs those same games, I don’t know how they’re persuading people that this will be different going forward.

I own a PS4 and got it specifically because of the exclusives. God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, Spider-Man, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Ratchet and Clank, Death Stranding, Shadow of the Colossus, Persona 5, Bloodborne, and Ghost of Tsushima are all games that I adore and I simply can’t get on Xbox.

That’s not to say Xbox doesn’t have some good exclusives, with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Forza Horizon, and Halo jumping to mind, but I’d take the Sony list in a heartbeat, personally.

I know many of you are not gamers, so I’ll say this is like a Mac vs Windows comparison. Would you buy a Windows laptop because it had a higher specced CPU and higher resolution display? No, probably not because the software you want isn’t there. Would you go to a theater that had higher resolution screens, but didn’t have the movies you actually wanted to see? No, because the movies are the thing, not the tech surrounding them.

The tech in these new consoles is going to be fun to explore, but as we have seen time and time again, that’s not what wins the day, it’s always the games, and Microsoft hasn’t convinced me yet that they’re going to have those.

My Short 2020 iPad Pro Wishlist

I am currently using a 12.9” 2018 iPad Pro and I truly love it. We are a few weeks (maybe) away from a new model coming out, and I thought this was a good time to get a few ideas out there about what I would want in an upgrade.

As far as I can tell, neither of these have been mentioned in the rumors, so if they come to pass, remember you heard them here first. 😉

New Webcam Placement

The current webcam is at the top of the screen if you’re holding the device in portrait, but this is the iPad Pro, and I would guess most people use it in landscape most of the time. With this configuration, the webcam in on the left, middle of the screen, and that’s just an awkward angle for conference calls.

I’d love to see Apple move the camera to the top of the iPad when it’s in landscape mode. Sure, leave the normal iPad, the Air, and the Mini where it is, but this pro machine needs a better webcam position.

New Premium Keyboard

Ok, hear me out, but I want Apple to sell a more expensive keyboard than the Smart Keyboard Folio. With rumors that trackpad support is coming, and my wish from January that Apple release a laptop-style iPad, I think I’d love to see something like the Surface Book, where the iPad can click into a keyboard/trackpad/battery combo.

This would give us the stability of a laptop form factor in our laps, the freedom to tear off the iPad whenever we want the freedom the iPad allows, and potentially a lot more battery life with a second battery housed in the keyboard.

On the battery front, not only would this be a welcome improvement to the already great battery life, but that heavy battery will help add some heft to the base, making it easier to get the weight ratio right so the screen doesn’t want to tip the whole thing over.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps 4K Wallpapers

The artwork in the new Ori and the Will of the Wisps is absolutely beautiful, and I've seen more than a few reviews comment on how any freeze frame from this game could be a desktop wallpaper. Well, let's give that a shot! Below are a bunch of wallpapers straight from moments in the first hour of the game.

All wallpapers are 4K and include a download link in case saving from here compresses them at all.

Download Ori 1.

Download Ori 2.

Download Ori 3.

Download Ori 4.

Download Ori 5.

2020 Apple Watch-Themed Desktop Calendar Wallpaper

2020 Apple Watch-Themed Desktop Calendar Wallpaper

Ok, the title is a bit of a mouthful, but I think there are a good number of people who will enjoy this calendar based on the Numerals Duo face on the Apple Watch.

Download the full res versions here!

These take a bit of time to create, so if you want me to finish the year and/or make different color versions to match your preferred color scheme, let me know on Twitter.