iPad Main Menu

This concept for an iPad Main Menu is a very well put together mockup, and it’s clear a lot of thought has gone into making it. This is a fantastic mock up, and this idea of a main menu is something I could see making iPadOS better than it already is.

I haven’t spent any time working on a counter proposal to this, but one thing I’d definitely want to test is a different way to bring up this menu. I worry that putting it in the dock, something that is out of sight when using the app might not be as discoverable for average users as we’d like. I might test having it at the top right of the screen and be accessible in conjunction with Control Center. Look at how much empty space there is in that view today:

I’d like to consider adding a “menu” indicator of some sort to the top right “menu bar” and piggybacking on this gesture people already know from their iPhone and iPad already. It might be a little weird to combine system settings and app settings in one view, but I like the idea of using a gesture people already know to maximize discoverability of a new feature as substantial as this.

Again, I haven’t had time to mock this up, so this is just me thinking out loud. I may find time to do that later this week, but in the meantime, kudos to Alexander Käßner for putting this mock up together!

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.

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.

Pixel Owners Need Not Wait for Some of Those Android 11 Features

Any post about Android updates is going to be meet with some snarky folks say "ummmm, Android updates are like a year late if they come at all 🤓" Yes, we get it, iOS is much better at getting updates to more devices faster, but hey, people own Pixels and for them this isn't a problem. Let's try and talk with out reverting to fanboy stuff?

Aaaaaanyway...

Just over a week ago, the first Android 11 developer beta came out and I remarked on how many features looked like iOS features. Based on iOS and Android getting closer together in terms of feature parity, this isn't a huge surprise, but what is a surprise is that Pixel owners get a lot of those updates today.

Google has been doing these "feature drops" for a few months now, and this one brought along a few features we first saw in the Android 11 beta:

  1. Play/pause through Motion Sense gestures.
  2. "Rules" for making your phone change some settings based on location or Wifi networks.
  3. Cards & Passes for a more Apple Wallet-style experience.
  4. Dark mode scheduling based on sunrise/sunset (so hard coded times yet, though).
  5. New emoji.

None of these are tent-pole features, but they are all quite nice (except you, Motion Sense) and make the phone experience a bit better. This is just nice for Pixel owners since they don't need to wait for the fall to get all the new goodies they first saw in a beta.

Let’s Talk About Enforcing USB-C Everywhere

The EU Wants All Phones to Work With Interoperable Chargers, Here’s What That Means for Apple's Lightning Port - MacRumors

To reduce cost, electronic waste and make consumers' lives easier, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) want "binding measures" that ensure chargers fit all smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices.

This is a Slightly uncommon “explainer” article on MacRumors and I think it's a really good way to get up to speed on the EU’s recent attempt to normalize chargers across all phones.

Here's the thing, I'm pretty liberal and support government doing quite a few things to ensure the quality of life of the general public. That said, I think this is an example of overreach and doesn't make much sense at all.

First off, let’s just get one thing out of the way: this is a law that would basically only make Apple change their current behavior. If you look at the rest of the smartphone market, it’s basically entirely USB-C everywhere. Yes, there is the occasional micro-USB phone, but those are pretty rare and are only used on very low cost phones and are a part of keeping prices low on those budget devices.

Second, this is addressing a problem that I think we all suspect is going away shortly anyway. Every Apple laptop charges with USB-C. The new iPad Pros released in 2018 use USB-C. Every Mac they sell is all in on USB-C (some would say to a fault). It’s just the iPhone that’s not using the standard, and we all pretty much agree that it’s only a matter of time (1-2 year max) before they switch over there too.

Third, what do we do in 5 years when there is a successor to USB-C that is better in every way? Are phone makers expected to wait for the EU to approve that new connector before they can use it?

Like I said, I get the need to laws and support plenty of corporate regulations, but this just doesn’t make sense to me. The market drove all non-Apple phone makers to USB-C and that same market is pushing Apple to follow suit. Lightning used to be a differentiator because it was better than micro-USB, but in 2020 it’s hard to argue anything besides “momentum” that makes it more of a feature than a burden.

I love USB-C, and everything in my technical life with the exception of my iPhone uses it, so yeah it is inconvenient that the iPhone has a different plug. But Apple does not currently, nor will they ever have a monopoly in smartphones. I think there is plenty the EU could be doing that would be more helpful than this.

Recent Podcast Appearances

You know this already if you follow me on Twitter, but in case you don’t I wanted to share a few podcasts I’ve had the pleasure of guesting on in the past week.

A Slab of Glass

Chris, Jeff, and I talked about how we use our iPads and tried to cram this episolde full of as many tips and tricks as possible.

9to5Mac Watch Time

On the whole other end of the spectrum, I talked with Zac Hall about the smallest screen in my life, the Apple Watch. We talk about my history with the watch, my watchOS 7was concept, and tons of other ideas for where the Watch could go in the future.

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Incidentally, I have one more guest spot coming out soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that one!

Subscribing to Email Newsletters in Inoreader

Subscribing to Email Newsletters in Inoreader

Inoreader continues to be one of my favorite subscription web services out there. I love it already for it’s handling of traditional RSS feeds, but it somewhat recently added the ability to subscribe to email newsletters inside the service as well. I love this because there are a select few newsletters that I enjoy, but having them in my email is inconvenient since I do all of my news reading in Reeder, my RSS reader of choice.

Here’s how you can get up and running with newsletters in Inoreader in just a few minutes.

First off you need to tap the add button next to the Subscriptions header on the left of Inoreader’s web app. Select the envelope icon.

Next up you can name the newsletter and Inoreader will give you an email address you can use to go sign up for that newsletter.

Then just copy the email address they give you and go to the newsletter you want and sign up for it with the @inoreader.com address.

Now, when that newsletter goes out, it will show up just like any other subscription in your reader.

For me, this is really useful, and make me more likely to subscribe to a few more newsletters in the future since they no longer will be clogging up my email inbox.

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Also worth noting here that in theory you could use the same Inoreader-generated email address for all your newsletters so that you effectively have a single feed with all of your newsletters in one. If you wanted to do this, you could just save the Inoreader email address to your phone book and use it to subscribe to all newsletters going forward, which would eliminate the need to log into Inoreader and manually create a new feed each time.

Most 2-in-1 Laptops Haven’t Gotten That Much Better

Most 2-in-1 Laptops Haven’t Gotten That Much Better

Finding Inspiration in the Microsoft Store — MacSparky

A few years ago I played with some of the initial 2-in-1 computers and they felt a lot more like the worst of both worlds than the best at the time. The 2-in-1s I saw on my recent visit were much improved. The devices were lighter, the screens were brighter, and some of them had plenty of power to get most computing done.

This is a sneak peek at an article I'll be writing soon, but my wife upgraded her laptop this month. She went from a 2015 MacBook to a 13” Dell XPS, a 2-in-1 laptop. The screen flips around and you can technically use it as a tablet as well, but I wouldn't recommend it.

As David mentions, these devices used to be the worst of both worlds, and that is no longer the case. The XPS is a fantastic laptop, and when used in that form factor it's really excellent. But when you spin the screen around to throw it in tablet mode, it all falls apart for me. Not only is Windows a major pain to use in tablet mode, but imagine having a tablet that weighed 3 pounds and was 0.5 inches thick (aka 2x as heavy and 2x as thick as the iPad Pro). And while the keyboard on the back on the device is annoying on the iPad Pro as well, you can take the keyboard off the iPad, but it's locked in on the XPS.

In my opinion, the stuff Microsoft is doing with the Surface line is the most compelling 2-in-1 work on the market today. I look at products like the Surface Book 2 and think "yes, that's it!" Take any other issues you have with it aside and from a purely form factor perspective, it's built to be great in laptop mode and tablet mode, and it does so by making the keyboard detachable. Us Apple-centric folks may not like Microsoft's OS as much, but if a MacBook Pro came in this configuration we would be all over it.

What Even is a Video Game Speed Run (Ocarina of Time)?

I’ve never been that into video game speed runs, but I have had an obsession with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time speed runs for years now. In 2013, a speed runner called Cosmo did a run through Ocarina of Time in 22 minutes and explained both what he was doing and what the history was around the glitches he was using to achieve that 22 minute time. If you havbn’t watched it before, it’s absolutely worth a watch.

Since then, the best time has dropped time and again to just under 10 minutes. Considering the game proper takes 20+ hours to beat normally, this was really insane.

The below video explores the changes in the Ocarina of Time speed run methods and whether or not speed running this game has shifted into something that’s sucked all the fun out of Ocarina of Time runs.

It’s a complicated question, and I’m personally conflicted. On the one hand, the method shown off in 2013 and the one that was used to get down to 17 minutes in 2019 used glitches too, so I don’t think that using glitches in the game to skip to the end of the game is fundamentally wrong.

But on the other hand, the 17 minute runs were way more fun to watch. They took you outside of the opening area of the game, they involved a couple boss fights, they partially relied on getting lucky with some randomly falling debris at one point, and maybe most of all, it was easy to understand what they were trying to do to get the glitch moments to happen. This new 10 minute method lacks all of this, and basically amounts to watching someone seemingly walk randomly around a small area until they’re warped into the end credits.

All I can say for sure is that for me, this new method for beating Ocarina of Time in next to no time is of zero interest to me as a casual viewer. The drama of the old style of speed run is what kept me coming back whenever a new record time was posted. Would they pull off the jumping combo on the first try? Would they beat the boss in an optimum time? Would they just get hit with a random bolder when running up the castle? With all of this gone and the run being reduced to a bunch of random side-stepping and looking around at nothing, the thrill just isn’t there for me.

Is RSS Just Giving Your Site Away for Free?

Is Having an RSS Feed Just Giving Content Away for Free? | CSS-Tricks

I mean, kinda.

But…

It's hard enough to get people to care about your work anyway. Being extra protective over it isn't going to help that.

This article is good, and I just wanted to add one idea that may rub some people the wrong way, but here we go anyway…

It all comes down to what you want more, people to read your articles or people to click on your articles. If you write to pay the bills and you need ad revenue to put food on the table, go for it, I get it. If you run a business that needs revenue to pay your writers, I get that too! But if you're a solo writer doing it for fun (and either zero or little money) then I'd really think twice about restricting your RSS feed in any way.

It's possible to subscribe to BirchTree and never give me a single page view. You'll never see the (tasteful) ad on my site, you certainly won't click on it, Google Analytics won't know you were here, and I can redesign the site all I want and you'll never notice. But that's okay, I don't make a living wage from this site, and even weeks like this where I wrote something that got tens of thousands of views, the most exciting thing has been the conversation I've gotten to have with people and listen to other folks have online. The ad revenue will be nice, sure, but that's not what it's all about.

Thank you for reading, no matter if this is in Feedly, or Reeder, or a good old fashioned web browser.