Eventail review

I came across Eventail whilst reading MacStories and after a couple of weeks using it don't think I could be without it.

Eventail is a very different type of Calendar app to say Fantastical, its a widget only.  The app itself is simply full of settings along with a preview of what the widget is going to look like.

IMG_0013.PNG

It's now replaced both the Apple and Fantastical widget on my Today screen. What I love about it is the simplicity and clean layout that allows me to see what's going on over the next few days (you can configure how many days you want to see).

Now its setup each morning I just have to quick glance my Today view and I know how busy I am. You can also tap onto the day to show it in more detail if it’s a little small to see.

IMG_0014.PNG

The app is free but I recommend paying £1.99 for the Pro mode. This gives a black theme (great on the iPhone X), access to Reminders and displaying 7 days. It's also a great way to support the developer for this very niche app and encourage it's ongoing development.

Apps of 2018

Following in MacStories footsteps I thought I would post my own Apps of 2018. These are new apps that I want to use in a bid to improve my workflow and quality of life.

Streaks

Habit forming is hard, having an app to help is clearly the way to go. I’ve dabbled with Streaks in the past but it’s never really stuck. But, I’m determined to make it stick this time. I’ve setup two pages of habits I want to both develop and stop and added a reminder to check in with the app daily. The advantage of Streaks is that for certain activities, such as rings and mindful minutes it can use the data available in the health app to automatically track your progress.

Things 3

An app I’ve written about before but again I’m determined to make it stick. It’s non hassle attitude to task management and integration with my Calendar is keeping me on board.  I like that I can create tasks with or without due times and the way you can plan out a project with headings is genius.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo have released a privacy first browser, it’s replaced Safari for 90% of my surfing. The web feels quicker and I can view in the knowledge that I’m not being tracked. It’s actually a pretty nice app too, not as polished as Safari but gets most of the way there for me.  

iA Writer

I’ve used a lot of different text editors on iOS and I’ve found that I just default to the Squarespace blog app. This isn’t viable as I’ve often almost posted something early but more over it just isn’t a good experience for writing long form. I’m going back to iA Writer for everything. It’s simple layout, dark mode and iCloud sync is a big draw for me.

Calm

I’ve dabbled with meditation but no app has really stuck. I have seen the benefits of being more in the moment and focusing on the breath when your mind wanders. It has helped my overall concentration in the past and have zeroed in on Calm to carry on with my mindfulness journey. Having previously used Headspace I wanted to see what else was on offer, Calm is the app I’ve settled on for this year.

Week Calendar 

I stumbled on this app when looking at Federico Viticci’s home screen. I’ve never been happy with the default Calendar app and despite everyone’s love for Fantastical it never stuck for me. I like that Week Cal allows me to see many different views of my data, the agenda view is what I’ve been using daily to get a picture of my week. I can see the whole week laid out in a manner that makes it quick to see what’s going on.

Any new apps that you are trying out?

IMG_0880.JPG

How to delete your My Fitness Pal account

In light of the recent data breach I’m taking the same approach as to anything with my data - lose it and you lose my business.

Here’s how to delete your My Fitness Pal account:

1. Go to https://www.myfitnesspal.com/

2. Log in

3. Click on ‘Settings’ (at the top of the page)

4. Click on ‘Delete Account’

5. Click on ‘Delete My Account’

You will now have a message saying ‘Account Deleted’.

SOLO: Official Trailer, initial thoughts

I’ve seen all the trailers so far and didn’t buy Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo but this new official trailer has me on the path to being able to accept his take on one of my favourite movie characters of all time. I’m not going to break the trailer down but here are some of the things I loved 

  • Loads of time with Chewie, something I’ve missed from the new set of Skywalker films
  • Donald Glover continues to impress as Lando
  • Some more time with the Falcon, one of my favourite characters of the series
  • Interaction with Han and Chewie gives me confidence that Ron Howard has pulled off a fun Star Wars movie

There is a lot riding on Solo after the mixed reactions of The Last Jedi so it’s going to be interesting to see how this does at the box office.  All signs I’m seeing so far are very positive, I love this trailer.  

How I use my Apple Watch

It's 2018 and I've been using an Apple Watch since the day it launched back in April 2015 so thought it was about time to share how I'm using three years later.

First up, my model of choice is the Series 2 (2016) NIKE Edition and I go between the NIKE sports band and Apple sport loop. These are the two bands that I have settled on and change based on where my mood takes me.

1. Sleep Tracking

In the past year I've been tracking my sleep and switched between AUTOSLEEP and SLEEP++ but in the end I've settled on SLEEP++. I used to find that manually setting when I started to go to sleep and when I woke up to be somewhat comforting rather than let AUTOSLEEP decide this. I also found that AUTOSLEEP UI was too cluttered and I liked the simplicity of SLEEP++.

With a recent update SLEEP++ now tracks sleep automatically and as of writing this article I'm testing how good this works.

2. Charging

Given that I sleep track I find that most days I just throw it on the charger (just the one that came in the box) once I'm awake. Depending on if I've worked out or not that day will depend on how long it needs to charge but generally doesn't take more than 45 minutes.

3. Apps I use

I use very little third party apps, as of writing the only one I am using is THINGS 3. Things 3 works great on the watch and I find that I am using it to check on lists when I'm at the supermarket and tick the odd item off. It isn’t my go to for task management but handy to have.

I've tried to use other third party apps (like Week Cal) but I find they don't update their data quick enough (especially on the complication) so they just leave me frustrated.

For the rest of the time I use Apple apps

  • Weather
  • Workouts
  • Timer
  • Calendar
  • Activity

4. Complications

I use the watch face that gives me the most data - MODULAR with

  • Date
  • Calendar
  • Temp
  • Activity
  • Things

These give me the data I need when I need it, I love that fact that I can keep my day on track as I have a lot of calendar appointments throughout the day.

I wish that Apple would allow third party developers the option of creating faces that allow me to show more data but I don't think we will ever see that personally.

5. Working out

Working at home makes for a sedentary lifestyle so I'm trying to use my Apple Watch to get me motivated to go outside, a bit easier now the weather is nicer!.

I use the in-built app to manage this, on my Series 2 I am getting a little frustrated at times as I often experience a lot of lag when starting the app up and creating a new outdoor walk. It's not enough for me to cough up the cash for a series 3 but I may be picking up whatever Apple releases in September.

6. Could I be without it?

As a notification engine, most probably but as a fitness/health tracker no way. I'm too wedded into the notion of seeing how active I have been and with all it's sensors I can keep a track of how I'm doing throughout the day. The only downsides are as I have already mentioned, some drop in performance when setting up workouts but it's not enough for me to drop using it or buy something else. I am happy all my data is stored with Apple, who I trust to keep it safe and not monetise. If it broke I would definitely buy another one, hoping it lasts out ok until the end of this year when I plan to pick up Series 4.

Has fitbit released it's best smartwatch to date?

As usual Lauren Goode does a great job of reviewing a smart watch, I always look forward to getting her take on what is new in the world of wearable tech.

Personally I've never bought into Fitbit, even though they have a stronghold here in the UK their lack of integration with Apple Health has always put me off getting one.

"The way the Fitbit Versa handles notifications is bad, same as it was on the Ionic. Text message notifications from iOS, in particular, are frustrating. They’re not remotely actionable on the watch, meaning there’s no way to respond to them. (The Versa doesn’t have a speaker or microphone.) "

This also frustrates me and one of the main reasons I wear an Apple Watch everyday, I can easily deal with notifications - be it a text or phone call.

 

Deleting Instagram and alternatives

After the most recent lack of transparency and mishandling of our data by Facebook I decided to leave all of of their properties. I’d never used Whatsapp but was a heavy user of Instagram. But I decided I had to let it go. 

I’d found some great little communities on there focussed on my interests but could no longer support putting content in there.  

So yesterday I deleted my account and gained some time back in my day to do other stuff.  

There aren’t many alternatives out there but here’s how I’m replacing it.  

Using hashtags on Twitter should help me find communities of like minded photographers.

Im also giving EyeEm a try, it seems to be targeted at pros as a way to sell images but it’s a nice looking app with an engaged community. More on this once I’ve used it for a bit.  

Have you deleted Instagram? 

Giving up on F1

I don’t tweet much about it but I’m a big F1 fan. I’ve been lucky enough to go to a race and that got me hooked in again after my interest fell about 10 years ago. The bad news for me was when BBC gave up their coverage and SKY took it over. 

As a U.K. viewer it’s not possible to watch every race without having a SKY subscription. Yes, F1 are starting their own streaming service but it won’t be available here. We do have the option of watching highlights on C4 but it’s badly presented and who wants to watch highlights of F1? Also this is the last season they will be covering it anyway  

This along with Ferrari throwing their toys out of their pram everytime it doesn’t look like they are getting their own way made me take a step back and see the sport for what it is - elitist and also male dominated the more I thought about it.

I won’t go too much into the later in this post but some of the owners and teams attitudes to having female drivers is verging on offensive.  

So with no view of any sort of TV deal giving the U.K. all of the races without paying for a SKY subscription and a lack of diversity I’ll be dropping out of the sport for a bit until it wins me back.  

iPhone X silicone case

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know I’m not a big case guy. When I picked up the X although it felt similar to my jet black iPhone 7 the glass back makes it slip off everything. 

IMG_0149.JPG

It was using the phone sat on my lap and sofa that I decided to pick up the official Apple silicone case. Although expensive I’ve always found their own cases to be some of the best available. You also have an option to both return if you don’t like it and if you run into problems.  

What I like 

  • Fits like a glove
  • Protects the front glass when laid face first
  • Stops the phone from slipping around when laid down on surfaces
  • Big range of colours
  • Soft lining

What I don’t like 

  • Apple prices
  • Silicone makes buttons harder to press

So as you can see I like more than I don’t.  

Realistically my iPhone will be in this case probably 50% of the time. I’ll put it on when I’m out and about. At home I’ll most probably not use it. Remember I’m not a case guy so it’s high praise from me that I’ll use it al least half the time. 

How to watch the Marvel films in order

In preparation for Avengers Infinity War I thought I would share how I watch the whole MCU in the lead up to it’s release. Iron Man kicked it all off in 2008 but watching the films in timeline rather than release order is the way to go. 

  • Captain America 1 (First Avenger)
  • Iron Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • Avengers
  • Iron Man 3
  • Thor 2 (Dark World)
  • Captain America 2 (Winter Soldier)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  • Avengers 2 (Age of Ultron)
  • Ant-man
  • Captain America 3 (Civil War)
  • Black Panther
  • Spiderman Homecoming
  • Dr Strange
  • Thor 3 (Ragnarok)

 

Buy HomePod for it’s sound not it’s smarts

I’ve been using my HomePod everyday since I got it at launch and am finally ready to share some of my thoughts on it. Spending a good amount of time with it is the only way I could get my head around who it’s for and why you should or shouldn’t get one.

For some context previously to using the HomePod I’ve been using a SONOS Play:1 in my home office. This was unplugged and put away and in its place the new space grey HomePod.

My ordering process was easy, just ordered in the Apple Store iOS app for in store pickup.  I also added Apple Care + to my order.

First off setup was a lot more straightforward than the SONOS. I simply put my iPhone near it and hey presto. It saw my iPhone needed an iOS update first then once this had applied allowed me to setup HomePod. I always felt like I was fighting with SONOS in its own app and getting it onto my WiFi took a few attempts. With HomePod I was done in about 15 mins, remember I had to apply a software update.

There’s two ways I operate HomePod

1.  Apple Music direct, so I ask SIRI to play something for me

2.  AirPlay from an iOS device (no Bluetooth support for other devices)

I’ve found that I’m tending to do the latter option the most. I’ll be working in my office with an iPad running Music. This is using AirPlay to stream to HomePod and I select manually. I guess it’s what I’m used to with SONOS so not gotten into the habit of using my voice to do it yet.

The sound quality immediately impressed me. I fired up The Last Jedi soundtrack (I’m a big John Williams fan) and started hearing elements (especially bass) that I hadn’t heard before. I actually thought my neighbour was banging on the floor at one point until I realised it was coming from HomePod. In my daily use I listen to everything from metal to classical and HomePod does it all, very well.

I tried the SONOS again to get some perspective and it just sounded muddy. Bass heavy with no clarity, especially voices just blended into the background.

You really do need to get yourself to an Apple Store and give one a go.

Onto SIRI.

I’m using it but in a limited fashion. First off, the microphones are amazing. You can talk at normal volume across the room and HomePod picks you up. I’ve tested using it for calendar (doesn’t work), Reminders and timers. The only uses I’ve found are setting timers and changing music.

That’s where SIRI stops for me.

So, should you get one? Only if you want a great speaker. As a smart assistant it’s very limited but if like me you don’t want Alexa or Google listening in then this is the only option.

I’d recommend only buying one if you want a great speaker in the house. For my money I’m pleased with it, my SONOS is for sale and as soon as AirPlay 2 comes along I’ll most probably be picking up another one for the kitchen.

Regarding Apple Care +, if you live with others and it’s in a family environment then I would recommend getting it.  

Let me know what you think of HomePod in the comments.  

Switching back to Squarespace

As you know I’ve been switching platforms for my blog. I moved from Squarespace to Wordpress after the Squarespace blog app seemed abandoned. I’d switched to an iPhone X and even now 4 months after the launch the app still doesn’t support it.


But, moving platforms meant I lost some of my audience. I moved URL and wanted to reboot.


After a couple of months on Wordpress I’ve decided to switch back to my original URL here on Squarespace.


I still feel that Squarespace isn’t the ideal platform for bloggers but I need to stay where I prefer the url and my core audience is still checking.


Let’s build something here. 

Disney can finally give us a good X-Men Film

Source: BBC 

Wow, now Disney own all of the Marvel characters they need (including the X-Men and Deadpool) to make a proper Civil War film, The Simpsons and the original cut of Star Wars. 

Maybe we will finally get a re-released version of the original movie cut of Star Wars. 

Really hoping we see a proper Fantastic 4 or X-Men that will actually be good.

You can now order yourself an iMac Pro

Apple have today started to take orders for the iMac Pro, I configured one (not to buy) and it’s coming up as February pickup at my local Apple Store. 

I’m perfectly happy with my 27” 5K iMac and don’t need the horsepower for one of these but they do look great in space grey. 

 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Switching to Bear

Since Apple Notes got an update with iOS 10 it’s been my go to notes app. The problem I’ve had though is that with the invent of the iPhone X I’ve wanted my apps to have themes. Apple won’t ever give me this.


So I’ve started a quest to fine more and more apps that give me an option to move to a darker theme.


Looking at Notes first, Bear gets rave reviews and is used by writers and podcasters whom I respect.


So, I’m going all in with Bear for now. I’ll let you know how I get on.