I kind of get why #Apple kills their app affiliate program, but it still sucks for publishers trying to survive while offering content on popular and less popular apps and games. As engaging as the App Store editorial content is, and it is in my opinion, it’s become a lot harder to make money writing about apps now.
I guess now, as a site, you have to make deals directly with mobile app publishers to cover their content. Which may jeopardize editorial independence and turn all content into sponsored posts. Not ideal. Alternatively, these publishers now need other revenue streams, including donations.
The idealist in me hopes independent writers and publishers can stay afloat by writing unique enough, in-depth content that is worth paying for. But the realist in me sees only a very small paying audience for websites like TouchArcade.com and others in its current form. Maybe one great, in-depth review per day is worth paying for… But maybe it isn’t…
I’m curious to see how many smaller Apple news sites will be affected by this (including Dutch ones like iCulture and OneMoreThing.nl, I have no clue how much they depend on affiliate links to the App Store, but since iCulture posts daily deal threads that they might kill now, it might be a lot).
Earlier this year I’ve decided to change my password manager. I’ve been using 1Password for my Apple products for many years now, but I have a job with a Windows pc now, and no way to install 1Password myself.
I dabbled with LastPass and looked into Dashlane, but ideally I’d wanted a free solution that didn’t sync via yet another cloud service I had to sign up for. One of these days I’ll get rid of my Dropbox (and I finally get rid of those annoying upgrade notices) too. For now I’m stuck in Apple’s iCloud (the only one for which I pay a monthly fee) and Google, mostly for Google Docs purposes and Gmail.
But as much as these big companies make excellent products for free (in exchange for your data), I figured I’d try to go independent. My 1Password (6) manager automatically synced my password vault via my Dropbox and/or iCloud. It still does, since I haven’t completely said goodbye to it yet. Ideally, my new password manager does the same. “It just works”, like the company that made my phone used to say.
In the end I decided to settle on KeePass, an open source solution to password management. I found a client for the Mac in no-time, and found different solutions for Windows as well (though admittedly I haven’t actually tried those yet). On my iPhone I use MiniKeePass, but unlike 1Password, I have to manually import the database (which is okay), and export it again if I added or changed items (which is more of a hassle). I can’t say “it just works” just yet, but it works.
Ideally I’d find an app that actually syncs to the database file on my NAS, or via a cloud service / local sync over WiFi without manually exporting and importing it every single time I change something.
For now, I’m kind of stuck using two password managers. I can’t deny the slick performance and sync of 1Password just yet, yet I also know I’m able to get this working if I find the right open source tools and eventually my credentials will be much safer for it. So I’m trying to use KeePass, but I find myself going back to 1Password on some occasions if I know it’s a password that’s still in that version of the database. Plus, I can’t get KeePass to work yet in Safari. The extension that’s available now, doesn’t work for me. So still some stuff to work out. But the nerd in me will be celebrating when I have made it all work. 🙂
Or I’ll just throw money at the problem and cave for a paid service…
Having used mobile phones since the late nineties, I was sad to discover that I was no longer part of a fabled group of human beings. This fabled group being the humans that haven’t actually dropped their phones and damaged the screen in the process. I was proud to be a member of this group. There were no badges, but if there were I would have worn one.
The first smartphone I bought, an iPhone 4, is still in use to this very day by a good friend of mine in Sweden. These days, I’m on my third iPhone and lived damage-free until recently. The only repairs the device had to be taken in for where unexpected battery shut-downs and other Apple warranty issues, none of which where my fault.
This all changed earlier in February. I was about to enter a party hosted by in-laws and while stepping out of the car, my phone fell out of my lap and on the ground. I didn’t even properly realize what was happening. In slow-motion it must have looked nerve-wracking. Me getting out of the car, the phone launched from my lap, and – thanks to gravity – landing with a tiny bounce on the asphalt of the road.
Meanwhile, the movement of my body is still on-going, my brain hasn’t yet registered what has happened. So, my feet are placing themselves on the road too. Except, no, this is not the road, this is something that’s on the road. And it cracks. One of my feet has firmly planted itself on the phone on the road. And of course the phone is face-down on the ground. And of course the case can’t soak up the pressure. And of course the result isn’t pretty to look at.
I only bought – and used – a screen protector once: for my Nintendo Switch. It was tempered glass and it spontaneously cracked one afternoon while the Switch was in its dock. Within 8 months of buying it. So, consider me not a big fan of screen protectors.
I was sad about the state of my phone the rest of the day. And I felt stupid for forgetting my phone was in my lap in the first place. My girlfriend has been walking around with a cracked screen for almost a year now, but I can’t live that way. I need my phone fixed. Call me connected, call me conflicted, call me addicted… A phone is a window to the world, to my foreign friends, to my music and media. I wouldn’t want to look through a broken window for very long.
Thus I went to the Apple Store to get my screen fixed. My regular insurance paid for most of it, no Apple Care or special smartphone insurance needed. The guy said he could see I “took really good care” of my phone. Though that might just be to comfort me, and to make smalltalk. My girlfriend was quick enough to emphasize the idiotic move that was stepping on my fallen phone, just once more for good measure. So my phone is fully functional again. But my pride: my pride is hurt.
Technically I could still belong to that group of people that never damaged their smartphone screens by dropping in it. Because technically I didn’t. I just happened to step on my phone right after. I guess that makes me belong to a whole different group of people. People who feel like an idiot after cracking their phone screen by stepping on it.
I went to the cinema three times so far in 2018. I saw three excellent films, all in their own way. Here are my (shortened) thoughts on them, in the order I saw them.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
This film is the third Best Picture Oscar contender I’ve seen (the other two being Dunkirk and The Shape of Water, more on the latter below). There are more contenders that I really want to see, with The Phantom Thread being top of the list. Closely followed by Lady Bird. But yeah. Three Billboards was such a great, intense film. I liked the humanity of it, after all the dark humour and violence and exaggeration, it never tried to oversimply the characters in it. After the great and funny Seven Psychopaths, The Guard and ofcourse In Bruges, this one is both funny and thought-provoking. And Sam Rockwell keeps on growing as an actor. Loved it.
The Shape of Water
This is a lovely film in a whole other way. Like Three Billboards, it combines violent and funny elements with humanity, but it adds elements of fairytale, fantasy and cold war thrillers in the mix. The result is a very nostalgic, colorful experience that nevertheless hooks you in all the right ways. Guillermo Del Toro outputs has been meandering a bit for me, Pacific Rim didn’t do too much for me, Crimson Peak was alright, but this was a fascinating film. Call it escapism, call it a labour of love, I call it brilliant. I loved how the relationships never overtook the politics of the story. And I loved the ending too. Sally Hawkins is an absolute delight and I’d give her the Oscar, though she’s up for a whole lot of competition.
I must say I thought I was pretty much done with the Marvel universe for a while. The recent Netflix series were mostly disappointing after a promising start. I remember watching Doctor Strange and Guardian of the Galaxy 2 in theaters being perfectly entertained, but not that blown away when leaving the cinema. Having not seen Thor: Ragnarok yet (I did hope for this to be an improvement), I went along to see Black Panther and I came away pleasantly surprised. Yes, this is still a Marvel superhero film, but it’s also thoughtful, it has a great villain with an actual thought-provoking mission and statement. So, alongside the great visual trickery and cinematography, there’s an actual absorbing story here. And sympathetic characters. So, yea, if this is the standard from now on, consider me back in, Marvel Studios…
Inspired by this blog by Charles Arthur, I want to do my own write-up. After all, I bought my iPad Pro instead of buying a new laptop. So does it work for me?
Working so far
As I work in a public institution of education four days of my working week, those four days I’m confined to a Windows 10 laptop with a mediocre screen and crappy apps at best. Compared to that (and to be honest also to my good old iMac, which still serves me well after baking the graphic card in the oven last Autumn), my iPad Pro is a joy to use. It’s blazing fast, it responds well, the screen is amazing and the speakers sounds pretty good too.
Using the iPad Pro has been contained to experimenting with work setups. I’ve been a bit lazy in finding out clever ways to use it to its fullest. In the above link, the writer talks about using Workflow (which I’ve dabbled in a little), bookmarks and Python scripts (ehm, okay, you lost me there, I need to learn that stuff) to compile blog posts etc. I’ve been a bit bad when it comes to blogging so far in 2018, even on my Turin Brakes fansite. But I’ve blogged a lot on my iPad Pro, using the Logitech Slim Combo, which is great apart from the fact that sometimes it prevents my iPad from charging. This is clearly an annoying bug that needs to be fixed in iOS. Unless it’s the keyboard, which would be very annoying. I haven’t contacted Logitech support yet.
Besides blogging, I’ve been experimenting with Apple Pencil, but any experiment looks ridiculous compared to the stuff my girlfriend has been drawing in Procreate. The battery does need charging quite a lot though with such heavy use. I’ve also did some potential podcast recording with the new USB-C-Lightning-Adapter, my USB-microphone and Ferrite. I want to do this more in the coming months, and see whether I can cook up an actual podcast on this tablet. Recording guests might require additional input support which iOS lacks right now, but who knows, there might be an audio interface out there I can hook up the USB-adapter and then channel into Ferrite? It isn’t the most magical solution, but I’ll look into it.
Also, I love, love, love the camera and taking pictures of things in my house with the iPad Pro. I, in fact, love the camera with the huge screen that shows a preview sooo much that I would almost not mind the social shaming of taking pictures with a tablet. Since the camera in my iPad is, in fact, better than the one in my iPhone, it would almost make sense to do it. Almost, I’m just not ready to be a tourist with a 12.9 inch tablet in his bag. Yet.
Writing: I quite like Bear Notes for, uhm, notes and lists. For longer form I’ve tried Ulysses, which was nice, but haven’t purchased it yet. Word feels a bit useless, at least when someone sends you an Office 365 document link, it will not open in Word, even when you try to edit it. And in the browser I got an error that it was too big to be edited.
Mail: Apple Mail app is clean, but also a bit useless for advanced users. Alternating between Airmail and Gmail app. Not sure yet which I prefer. I really enjoy using Airmail on macOS though.
Recording: Ferrite is nice so far, Garageband too but feels too focused on music.
Twitter: Tweetbot’s iPad interface feel so much more “pro” than Twitter’s native app. I’ve grown quite used to Twitter’s non-chronological view, which Tweetbot’s app doesn’t use. But Tweetbot on iPad makes much better use of the screen.
Other: Procreate for creative stuff. 1Password is ideal to use alongside Safari, as well as any note taking apps.
I don’t like the WordPress app editor, and using the WordPress.org writing screen in Safari will get you frustrated in no-time with the cursor jumping all over when editing text. This definitely needs work. For now I prefer to write in other apps, then publish in WordPress. Putting the screenshots above next to each other proves to be impossible for me.
Twitter iPad app could use some extra tricks.
Some gestures still feel a bit weird for me. This might just mean I need more time with them. Love swiping up for the app switcher and control panel though.
As mentioned above, using the smart connector with a Logitech Slim Combo stops my iPad Pro from charging. This is, quite clearly, annoying and needs a fix.
If I ever want to get a really complex podcast show on the road, the iPad Pro in its current state might not suffice. But right now, for experimenting it definitely works.
Website work – apart from the odd WordPress edit… Mostly I’ve done this on the good old iMac, it’s so far more convenient. But this is mainly habit and getting used to different ways of working. I’m open to researching this more in the future.
Using the iPad Pro makes me happy. It has a lot of potential that I have not explored yet, and hope to explore in the near future. I’ll report back here in a while again.
I really really like Lovesick and I’m so happy we got a season 3. I binged the first season in a day or two, and series 2 in not much longer. I will take, for various reasons, more time to watch season 3, but after episode 1 I’m already confident that it’s gonna be a good season. No other show combines humour, heartbreak and tales of love and dating in such an accessible mix. Edgy when necessary, honest when needed, hilarious most of the time. I hope this is not the last season of Lovesick.
I’ve never been a real tablet user. I’ve had iPads around the house for years, mostly borrowed ones or ones from work, but I’ve never really used them properly. I tried magazine reading – but ended up with a backlog of Wired magazines, I tried watching things, but found I preferred a tv and my old iMac instead. But with no laptop and a desire to be able to write, consume and create on the go, I’ve decided to invest in an iPad anyway. An iPad Pro that is, with a proper keyboard case and a pencil. Because yes: it’s a tablet and not a real laptop with real software instead of simplified apps, but I don’t think I need those that often…
The only thing where my iPad Pro might be lacking is in the podcasting department. I’m still experimenting with how to make those properly on the device. And I’m still sort of figuring out the tricks when it comes to editing website code. But besides that, I can do most of the things I want to on the iPad. Any new Windows PC or Mac comes with a lot crap slowing you down. I mean, I like OS X but it has so many tools and bells and whistles I never use. I like the idea of a modern computer being light, and being focused on what you need. So I decide the apps I want to buy and use and there’s hardly any bloatware or crap on it.
So with my old iMac still running relatively smoothly I’ve decided to set it all up like this: intensive website work and editing I’ll do on my iMac, everything else I’ll try to do on the iPad. So far, so good, although I’ve gotten so used to a touch screen now, that I find myself pushing non-touchscreens as well before realising that it won’t work. But besides that minor inconvenience, I find this setup to work pretty well for me, a joy to use at times even. And that’s what expensive things should be: a joy to use. I could have shelled out twice as much for a sleek MacBook Pro, but instead the iPad Pro will be my companion at home and on the road.
So I didn’t blog here that much. But I did listen to a lot of music. I decided to write a bit about that music here. Here’s some songs that made an impact on me this year.
The War On Drugs – Pain
I don’t really know what it is that makes this song work so well. The War On Drugs, to me, don’t sound innovative or even worthy of the hype they seem to get in the press. And yet, the songs speak to me, they get me, they work for me. It’s the attention to detail I guess, the trance, the combination of mood, vocals and lyrics. Pain is one side of the coin, a melancholic song that makes you a little sad and reflective at the same time. It works perfect in the Autumn and Winter. The other side of the coin has songs like Holding On, more uptempo and good for driving around in a car. It makes A Deeper Understanding one of my favourite records of 2017. And this one of the best songs.
Turin Brakes – Wait
You know what news you can wake me up for? When my favourite band announces a new album. And releases a catchy single to boot. I danced a whole Monday afternoon to this one in a pub in St. Albans. And it was caught on above video, alongside other fans. I’m so happy to have been part of a little bit of Turin Brakes history and look forward to the new Turin Brakes album Invisible Storm in January 2018. Get it folks. This band is so good, so nice, so great. So awesome. Let’s keep them going ‘till they physically can’t anymore.
Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still
The comeback single by Portugal. The Man might not be their most epic song ever, or even their best, it IS their most fun, commercially most successful and cleverest one to boot. Feel It Still makes me dance, groove and jump a little. It popped up everywhere, from Dutch Radio 1 to Apple commercials and back. Well-deserved for a band who’ve been working hard for years. And no, I did not mind they played it twice at their gig in Amsterdam last May.
The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
I enjoyed the previous album of The New Pornographers a lot, but Whiteout Conditions has by now a special place in my heart. Especially the title track above, which hit close to home despite not dealing with the exact Whiteout Conditions the lyrics describe. When I changed jobs this year and improved both my happiness levels and feeling of accomplishments, Whiteout Conditions was the soundtrack that helped me through the harder bits of that process. And made me rock out too.
Spinvis – Trein Vuur Dageraad
My favourite Dutch songwriter Spinvis returned with an awesome album. On it is a song called Stefan & Lisette, which means I finally have a song with my name in it that I like – no actually love. But the title track of the new album is the highlight for me, combining melancholy, looping lyrics and a night train through Europe to create one of the stronger picturesque songs of the year.
Tom McRae – None Of This Really Matters
As a storyteller, how much of the story you tell is about the characters in it, and how much of it is about the storyteller himself? Tom McRae made his mostintimate, quiet album in years, literally distancing himself from the society and characters he sings about by moving to a Norwegian cabin on an island in the sea to make sense of the things that don’t really make sense: From Brexit and hate to futile things and hopelessness. It’s heartbreaking yet also clearly a labour of love, including a book full of notes, dark humour and hopefulness that add a layer to this record. Tom McRae went deep this time and therefore this album may make less sense than the previous ones to the casual listener. But I am not a casual listener. I don’t mind going deep to make the most of it. Even though society becomes more shallow everyday. So if you can get a song on the radio where everyone sings almost joyfully “None of this really matter anymore”, you can’t help but conclude that Tom McRae has lost none of his talent or drive. Keep them coming, Tom. Keep them coming.
The National – Dark Side Of The Gym
Sure, I go way more crazy over The System Dreams In Total Darkness with its electronic beeps and boops and the guitar riffs that are crazy and the horns and all that stuff. It might even be more innovative than Dark Side Of The Gym… Because yes if I made you choose with song was LESS The National By The Numbers of course you’d pick System. But haha I’m not asking you that, your opinion doesn’t even matter that much here. It’s my blog after all. MUHAHAHAHAHA. And I just really love the mood and sounds of _Dark Side Of The Gym _. So yea, deal with that my man. Or woman. Or whatever way you choose to define yourself. DEAL WITH IT. OK moving on.
Jens Lekman – Wedding In Finistere
Sometimes an album can deceive you. Tom McRae’s 2017 effort may be too quiet for you at first listen. Jens Lehman’s seemed overproduced and too heavily layered at first. But in fact it wasn’t and by the end of 2017 it remains one of my favourite records and this is one of my favourite songs with Paul Simonesque vibe but a clear Jens Lekman signature at the bottom. Jens Lekman’s storytelling will not appeal to all, but the emotions of a wedding almost breaking down but coming good in the end have rarely been put to music better than has been done in this song. And while doing that, Lekman throws some playful universal truths about growing up and getting serious. Or maybe I’m just getting old. Whatever.