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My Next Phone

It wasn’t an easy decision, and I’m still not 100 percent convinced. On Friday I pre-ordered the iPhone 8 Plus 25GB in Space Grey. It’s the first time I’ve picked an iPhone that isn’t the flagship model1 when upgrading, which I’ve typically done every other year.

The iPhone X looks amazing, it’s time for my biennial upgrade, but it’s not my choice for my next phone and thats surprising me.

I generally like to buy the best (most powerful and fully featured) model I can personally justify, so it doesn’t feel as outdated in the 24+ months use it will see. My 6S still feels pretty darn good and I’m happy with it, but I do want the dual camera and performance capabilities of the Plus model. I’m generally happy to not be an early, or first adopter, of new things.

Now I like shiny new gadgets as much as the next person, but they can have issues and teething troubles and those I can do without. So far, upgrading at the second iteration of each iPhone model (the S version) has worked out pretty well for me.

Is the Plus Too Big?

Since the 7 Plus was released with dual lens and a portrait mode2, I’ve been considering upgrading to the bigger model when the time came.

I’m not sure from brief experiences in a shop with the Plus model if it’s going to prove uncomfortable for me. I imagine the something more in-between the 6S and the 7 Plus would probably be the sweet spot for a phone size-wise. Say the size of the X for example, with its bigger screen, higher pixel density in a smaller overall size than the Plus.

Sure the larger size of the Plus is going to make one-handed use, challenging, and possibly a little uncomfortable or unwieldy at times. I’ll find out soon enough if it’s a going to work our for me or not.

The other thing that’s bothering me about ‘going large’ is pocket-ability. Not exactly something you can test in a store. I’ve pre-ordered a case which arrived today. That seems to fit trouser and jacket pockets dimension wise, though thats without the weight of the phone in it.

I use a case as, like most people, I’m clumsy on occasion. It’s likely I’ll buy several more cases that I switch between depending on my day. iPhones feel great without a case on they wouldn’t stay in good condition under my care without some protection. Most cases are going to add bulk to an already big phone, but I’m not comfortable carrying around my phone without one. My current plan is to get one ultra thin case, one protective folio case (the Otterbox Strada case that arrived today) and a Moment case for lens attachment.

The Notch

While the notch is packed full of cool hardware for Face ID and TrueDepth, it just doesn’t look right encroaching on the screen, icons all squished up around it.

All the demonstrations so far also show clipping and/or cropping of content to fit the slimmer (than the Plus) form factor of the device and it’s notch. It’s a distinct look, but there’s a reason for that and it’s a compromise that I don’t want to make right now.

On a device where the display is a key feature it’s a real letdown.

Capturing the Moment

The camera is a key component for me. Last time round I chose the 6S and not the Plus model. At the time the only difference between the two was Optical Image Stabilisation. While a nice to have it didn’t sway me to the Plus size.

That changed with the 7 Plus, with Dual-lens and Portrait mode. The iPhone X has enhancements over and above the improvements in the 8 Plus which makes it very tempting.

Dual optical image stabilisation on both lenses with the X compared to wide only on the Plus. A fixed aperture of f/2.4 for telephoto on the X compare to f/2.8 on the 8 Plus. The wider aperture on the telephoto will give better light gathering capabilities and a shallower depth of field. If I get the Plus I miss out on these two great lens qualities.

The front facing camera only sees occasional use for quick selfies when I’m with family or friends. While TrueDepth sounds good I’m also okay skipping it this time round.

Face ID is cool but I’m comfortable with the lower but still great security of Touch ID. Not to mention the nice ability to be able to unlock my phone without focusing my attention in it’s direction. I currently have my wife’s do feeling store on my phone so she can unlock it if she needs to which is handy for lots of little things, including being able to access my 1password vault should an emergency arise3. This handiness goes away with Face ID.

I’m also concerned how we Face ID will cope in very dark rooms too, like say a nursery during a 2am feed. I’m sure if there are issues they will be resolved pretty quickly, but I’m happy to avoid potential frustrations in the short-term.

Big Features Cost Big Money

The X is a lot of money to be walking around with in your hands/pocket, I have some concerns. Over a thousand pounds on a phone4. Worth it for the phone of tomorrow today yes, but a lot to pay, even over 20 months (upgrade programme).

There are a number of places I’d feel a bit wary of using my phone in public when it costs that much. The 8 Plus costs only £200 less that the X, but it looks like the previous model, it’s not as easily identifiable as the latest and thereby most expensive model. At least it won’t be when the X is released in November. In my mind that makes me less of a target when out and about, though it doesn’t make it safe.

I recall a time when the commonly held belief was that it was better to not use the, somewhat iconic, Apple EarPods as it made you more of a target for thieves.

Sure a lot of us carry a number of devices with us on a daily basis with a total value far higher than this. Our phones however are frequently on display though, as we stand in queues, sit on the bus or train, or walk from A to B. They are in our hands and are that much more susceptible to being stolen.

While it may not always be the case, it turns out that right now I am highly reluctant to make myself (what I perceive to be) more of a target by carrying around over a £1000 worth of phone. After a year the cost of manufacturing devices with this new technology will have dropped to a more acceptable level so that ‘second (or greater) level adopters like myself will consider it more desirable than fiscally objectionable and attention drawing.

Since my first iPhone I’ve chosen to buy my phones outright but this time I’m going with the iPhone Upgrade Programme.

The phone gets paid off with no additional cost, I keep my cheap tariff with my current provider. I’m also going with AppleCare+ (for the first time on many iPhone I’ve owned) as part of the monthly payments to provide extra protection and the option to upgrade after 11 months should the next iteration of the iPhone X prove irresistible. The second version of a breakthrough model of an iPhone is always more stable and polished.

I’m picking up my iPhone this Friday, all being well. It might not be the best Apple phone available for long but I’m hoping that won’t matter much to me, at least until next September.


  1. Not counting the Plus model variant when I bought my last and current iphone the 6S. 
  2. The camera is always an important part of the phone for me, especially since becoming a parent, I take many pictures and increasingly shoot videos. 
  3. For logins, passwords and other secure info not already in our shared vault. 
  4. £1149 for the 256GB. For a phone like this 64GB is just not enough. Base option should have been 128GB for the X. I can’t see anyone opting for the 64GB unless it’s a company phone, and in that case wouldn’t they be looking at the iPhone 8 instead? 

Learn Ulysses with The Sweet Setup

I’ve been using Ulysses for awhile and I’m familiar with most of the basics but there’s more to learn.

This recently launched course from the people over at The Sweet Setup covered the parts of Ulysses I already knew, as well as a few I didn’t. Throw in some tips and handy keyboard shortcuts along the way and this video course is perfect for beginners while possibly still covering some areas for those who’ve been using the app for awhile (like some of the iOS app features and the search, find and replace).

Videos are streamable and downloadable and have full transcripts accompanying them.

The part of the course that really caught my interest was the setup interviews with a number of writers including Shawn Blanc himself and Matt Gemmell, among others. I very much enjoy reading about and learning from the way other people work, comparing it to my practices, then trialling and adopting (or not) any useful practices.

As part of the launch week the course is $6 cheaper at the moment, coming in a $23 dollars. For me it was useful and good value. If you are unfamiliar with Ulysses and want to get up to speed quickly with the best writing app out there — this course should be on your to-do list.

Weekly Roundup — 29th August

Only the second roundup and I’m heading for 4 days late.

We took advantage of the bank holiday weekend and enjoyed lots of family time. Any downtime I spent working on the first iteration of a personal theme for this site. I pulled together a quick static version and then used the underscores starter theme as a basis.

The site isn’t complete, but it’s good enough to roll with and build on.

Aside from this we’ve been catching up on cycling events including the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup. We even managed to sneak in some baby free time on Friday with a day off work while little one was at nursery.


 Cycle to Work Day is almost here — I somehow manage to forget most years. I’m aware of it up until the actual day and then it escapes me, usually until around lunchtime and I see some tweet or email about it. In fact I stopped paused then resumed writing this in order to add a event (with alert the evening before) to my calendar. It’s the fifth anniversary of the event in the UK, if you’ve been meaning to take a two-wheeled trip to work then why not join in.

Using 1Password for one-time passwords — a helpful article from the people at The Sweet Setup on how you can use 1Password to provide one-time passwords for two-factor authentication on cloud services like Dropbox. I currently use Authy on my iPhone for this but it doesn’t cover all the cloud services I use. 1Password may be the way forward for me.

Ben Brooks on Things 3 — I recently switched from OmniFocus to Things 3. I briefly looked at the new app from Cultured Code when version 3 came out, that is to say I read the reviews and admired the screenshots. Initially I dismissed my desire to try it as aesthetic longing and a form of tool/software procrastination.

Eventually I relented and I’m glad I did. I’ve spent a fair amount of task management software over the years. Things 3 is so far the most enjoyable to use. While less feature rich than others it covers most of what I need and in a way that clicks with me and the way I think and work. It makes me smile.

Crashplan sunsetting Home User backups — they are no longer selling new subscriptions and will end current services for home users in October next year. Crashplan were the first online backup service I used. I read plenty of reviews and my choice came down to Crashplan or Backblaze.

I rolled with Crashplan for a few years without complaint until I wanted to backup a second computer. It would be cheaper to use Backblaze than switch to the family plan so I took the plunge, switched, then began the long initial backup. Since then I’ve been a happy Backblaze user. Now I’m glad I switched when I chose to, instead of when I would have to.

What makes your beard go grey? — it’s inevitable. It’s not really bothering me, a bit of grey has a distinguished feel to it these days. What bothers me is when people point it out, like I haven’t noticed it. Thanks! Incidentally it’s World Beard Day this Saturday (2nd September).


Thats it for last week. Still plenty to finish on the site so I’ll chip away at this while trying to balance this with actually writing more words this week (that aren’t code or otherwise work related). Have a good one.

Weekly Roundup — 20th August

Hello all and welcome to the first weekly roundup. A trial run of sharing some brief thoughts, notes & ideas about the past week.

The posts will mostly (or totally) be links to content elsewhere. Things that I want to share but don’t need a whole post to themselves.

So without further ado:


A progress update from Studio Neat on the Panobook — very much looking forward to this Kickstarter project completing. Take a listen to episode #28 of the Thoroughly Considered podcast for news if you didn’t (or did) back the project. Dan & Tom revealed that most backers took the option of the three-pack rather than the one which surprised them. Personally I went for the one but intend to upgrade to the three pack. I was on shared paternity leave when the campaign ran so I was a bit more careful with my spending.

Ben Brooks writing from actual experience of running a subscription service (for content not software) — I’ve been a (paid) member of Ben’s site from time to time. The subscription model can’t work for everyone though, it’s just not financially viable for consumers to subscribe to everything. One day I might choose to unsubscribe from Ben’s site to pay for another service. I don’t know him, but I get the feeling he’d be okay with that.

Haunting images of Chernobyl 30 years on by Chris Feichtner — just some of the moving photos and words I saw and read this weekend. Incidentally it was World Photo Day on Saturday.

Unclutter, a new app from the team that brought you DaisyDisk — A files, clipboard and notes app for the Mac. I just bought this so I’ll be trying it out in the coming weeks.

Cloak, my VPN service of choice, is changing it’s name to Encrypt.me as they expand their service. Cloak for families recently launched and there is now an Android app with the Windows app coming soon. I prefer Cloak to other, usually cheaper VPN services as I don’t have to remember to manually enable or disable it to user my devices securely. It’s just on and protecting my privacy. Easy.


That’s all for this week. It’s 10pm on a Sunday as I write this, my baby daughter is being fed her first feed since her bedtime and I should get ready for tomorrow.

Till next time.

Ulysses App Switches to Subscription Model

The recent emailed news from the Ulysses team came as a shock, as it apparently did to many others.

TL;DR I was disappointed with the move to subscription, I understand and sympathise with their justifications (though I don’t entirely agree with them all, I respect their choice). This has been badly handled. I hope to see Ulysses remain and be able to continue to use it, to that end I have subscribed.

Rather than join the outcry immediately, since I had conflicting feelings about the change I attempted to let the air clear a bit and then work out what I was going to do.

My immediate feelings were of disappointment and loss, I am reluctant to add another subscription, yet I feel forced into it should I wish to continue to use the app without issue.

The Old Versions Should Continue to Work

The team behind Ulysses are quick to point out the old version of the apps will remain usable and they have already updated them for the forthcoming versions of macOS and iOS. There is however no guarantee that those versions of the app (downloadable through the purchases section in the App Store) will work without issue under the new OS. As noted by the Ulysses team, further updates cannot be applied to the old versions as they have been removed from sale. No more bug fixes from the developer for these versions.

Having purchased both apps awhile ago I am happy to give the developer further money to including bug fixes on functionality developed since I last purchased, as well as stability and performance improvements.

As of right now, the app currently has (more than?) enough features for my use.

Uncertainty

I can understand why a lot of app developers are reluctant to produce roadmaps.

As outlined in their post on Medium it’s not hard to understand, and sympathise with, the need of Developers to find different and more suitable revenue streams to support and grow their applications. For a great app crafted with love, attention to detail and long hours working to build and maintain an app (like Ulysses), they absolutely deserve that.

Customers deserve software that is fit for purpose, reasonably free of bugs, and is supported (read maintained not necessarily extended functionally), for a reasonable period of time.

I wrestled with wanting to support the developers, against the feeling that the software I previously purchased had been abandoned and the additional price of re-admission may personally not be worth it. Particularly as it is recurring cost, I don’t write for a living, and nor do I use the application every day, though I do intend to use it more. You know what they say about good intentions though.

The subscription model Day One recently incorporated would, in my opinion, be better suited here (note they did not handle the change well either). Paid applications where subscribers are given access to additional functionality and future features. Non-subscribers (and those whose subscriptions elapse) retain all of their content within a functioning, but less enhanced, version of the application. Under the new Ulysses model the functionality to create or edit content is removed when a subscription expires. You can still access you content but are basically left with an application stripped of it’s most basic purpose.

I was also put off by the lifetime discount only remaining valid if the subscription is continuous. The price of subscription is high, though so is the quality of the app and my willingness to support it.

Moving Forward (and likely elsewhere)

I purchased a subscription as I want to keep using Ulysses for now, spending time writing and not trying other apps or being frustrated by potential issues following upcoming OS updates. I don’t want to have to worry about this right now so I’m paying to make the problem go away (for me) until a later date.

The downside to this subscription is that if I decide not to re-subscribe after a year, I will not be left with what I would consider to be a working application. In that scenario Ulysses won’t be made obsolete by an OS update or be stuck with a bug that may or may not affect me. It will be immediately and intentionally rendered next to useless. That feels really shitty to me.

Uncertainty

Supporting the app by subscription does not ensure nor guarantee it’s future, as some have argued. It hopefully helps it become more financially stable and viable, yes.

My main fear is that based on the largely negative reactions of customers via Twitter, the change has burnt a lot of trust in, and goodwill to, the company behind the app. I am concerned that they won’t get the numbers of supporters they need.

Mostly I’m concerned that this app is not the best choice for me anymore (or won’t be in the long run), mainly from a cost perspective and lack of ownership. This also free’s me, from what I would consider to be a loyal customer, I now feel less tied to Ulysses and free, even encouraged, to look at alternative options.

I will be playing attention to potential replacements for Ulysses during the next year. Something that wouldn’t be the case if I’d been offered a paid upgrade.

What’s Best for You Isn’t Always Best for Me

I hope this is what’s best for the future of Ulysses and for the team of people behind the app (and their families).

Ultimately it’s likely we will part ways in the near future, until then thanks for the ride and thanks for making a great app that I enjoy writing in.

A Few of the Best Elastic Wallets (Tools & Toys)

Tools and Toys recently published an article on minimalistic, elastic wallets in which they cover the TROVE wallet.

I backed the TROVE on Kickstarter in August 2014. Since receiving it two months later it’s been my daily wallet and I haven’t wanted anything else.

The Kickstarter special edition version I have will be kept as a collectable rather see use in anger but the wallet I buy to replace this one will also be a Trove. The only problem I have is deciding on what colour scheme to get.

Find your trove.

Cranked Magazine’s Mission Statement

Lately I’ve been thinking more about the things that are important to me. About what my values are. How I want others to think of me.

A lot of Cranked magazine’s mission statement resonates with me, especially:

Ride like you mean it
Because life’s too short to trundle down the trail like a sack of spuds with a wheel at each end, y’know?

I want to be more present in the moment when I’m riding. Experience bigger and better. Push myself and expand my limits. Ride like I mean it.

Aside from that I can certainly get on board with the following other values of Cranked:

• Don’t be a dick
• Be better
• Ride more

Moving to 1Password in the Cloud

I (we) moved from a standalone version of 1Password to 1Password for Families. The key selling point for me was being able to move my wife over to 1Password without having to purchase (and then eventually upgrade) separate licenses, and to be able to share vaults between us.

Okay it means no longer being able to use Dropbox to sync, but I’ve not had any problems with Day One’s sync service. Yes, I trust them to keep my data safe.

Understandably placing that level of trust in a third party, especially when it comes to our most sensitive data, is not for everyone. There are some valid concerns.

Some people are pissed about 1Password pushing users towards their cloud solutions. On their blog Agilebits have a somewhat meandering post, covering why they believe most of their users would benefit from moving to their cloud solution. They are also open about how it benefits them as a business, and how that in turn benefits their customers.

Most notably (for standalone users) Agilebits assures standalone vaults will remain in 1Password 6 and will still be there in version 7 too:

TL;DR: We love 1Password. We love you. We believe 1Password memberships are the best and will shout it from the mountaintops, but standalone vaults aren’t being removed.

For me the enhanced security I get by using unique, strong passwords conveniently, outweighs the risks (so far as I understand them) that cloud data presents to me. I don’t consider myself a prominent target either so I’m prepared to accept other potential compromises in security like 2FA over mobile text for example.

There are those who are unhappy despite these assurances, and thats perfectly right for them. What level of security you required and what compromises you are prepared to accept in exchange for convenience is an incredibly personal thing. The direction 1Password is heading in won’t suit everyone unfortunately. I still highly recommend it to everyone though, but as with everything what suits me may not be best for you.

Take a look, weight the pro’s and con’s and decide whats best for you. For me it’s 1Password.

MarsEdit 4 in Public Beta

I’ve used MarsEdit 3 over recent years to post to various blogs and it’s a great, if perhaps a little dated UI wise by todays styles and standards.

That said it works well and is reliable. It’s way better than using the WordPress admin interface in the browser.

It’s been over 7 years since MarsEdit 3 was released. Typically I would like to maintain a schedule of releasing major upgrades every two to three years. This time, a variety of unexpected challenges led to a longer and longer delay.

The good news? MarsEdit 4 is finally shaping up. I plan to release the update later this year.

Great news. You can read more over on the Red Sweater blog. Any new purchases of MarsEdit 3 licenses (not through the Mac App Store) will get upgraded to version 4 for free.

Despite not being updated in awhile it has stood the test of time and in February this year The Sweet Setup named it The best blogging app on Mac for WordPress.

I have the beta installed I’m using MarsEdit and Ulysses to post here since switching this blog back to WordPress.

Coming (Back) Home to WordPress

Friction can be bad. The more friction you feel between you and accomplishing (or even just starting) a task, the less likely it is that it’s going to get done. Even when it’s something you want to do.

I’ve been feeling some friction with using Hugo to generate a static version of this site. Mostly regarding needing to be at my MacBook or home office Mac, or to remotely access them, in order to be able to build and deploy the site.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny amend like a typo, misspelling, or a grammatical error. The whole site needs to be rebuilt and deployed.

Now its pretty darn quick to build, and with rsync only deploying files that have changed it’s also quick to deploy changes to the server. I still have to be at a Mac with the latest version of the site pulled down from the repo.

If I am on one of my iOS devices I can use Screens to remote to my home office Mac. I can then make sure I’ve got the latest source from the repo, and if I haven’t already added the new post (which is likely on these devices) then I can add the file, copy the post contents and format the posts metadata so it gets handled correctly by Hugo.

Once thats done I just need to build and check it looks fine in Hugo and deploy it. Oh and commit my changes to the repo.

It’s all straight-forward enough, but there’s enough steps and slight complexity in it to cause me to hesitate about even starting a post.

With WordPress I can copy and paste the markdown for my post, usually from Ulysses into my app of choice. If I’m on my Mac I can publish direct from Ulysses or perhaps MarsEdit. On iOS I can also publish from Ulysses or use the WordPress app.

Additionally on all platforms (where I also have 1Password installed or accessible by browser) I can login via the WordPress admin UI and create/update posts.

Since I moved to a VPS my sites are running faster. Not static site fast, but fast enough to make me happy and it’s not like this site has a big readership (or even a small readership).

At the weekend I deleted the site, one-click installed a WordPress instance, chose a free and clean WordPress theme and migrated my content. The biggest part of the process was finding a free theme that would suit for now and only required minor amends to not be too objectionable.

Hopefully now it’s easier and more accessible for me to post to this site, I will post more. There’s one less excuse not to.