Category Archives: tech

Charging the Apple Pencil: Failed Design or Genius?

MKBHD recently mockingly tweeted about the way the Apple Pencil charges. True, it does look ridiculous out of context. True, when Apple first introduced this method of charging I thought it was insane. True, when charging it seems that it would be pretty easy to snap the charging end into the iPad. But, after using the iPad Pro + Apple Pencil since it was released almost 2 years ago I completely disagree that this is a flawed design.

https://twitter.com/MKBHD/status/875086596848144387

Sure, it does look of ridiculous but when you are out in a coffee shop or in a meeting and you need to charge your Apple Pencil the last thing you want to do is pull out a charger plus a dongle to quick charge the device. Plus, when I leave the house to do some writing I just want to grab my iPad, which has an all day charge. I never need to think about bringing a charger with my iPad. I really don’t want to think about bringing a charger or even making sure my Apple Pencil is charged before I go out. The genius of the design is that I can insert the Apple Pencil in my iPad and charge it. A 5-minute charge always gives me plenty of juice for the rest of my session (actually a 15-second charge gives you 30 minutes!). At the very least, if I get up to go to the restroom or take a quick walk I can plug in the pencil and when I return it is good to go.

Additionally, and this is often forgot, the Apple Pencil does ship with a dongle to connect to any lightning cable. So, if you don’t want to be embarrassed by using this ridiculous design then just plug it in like you would any other device.

So, when people make comments about the so called failed design and how it is ridiculous with charging the Apple Pencil, it just seems to be made by people who don’t actually use the device in real life. Because in actual use you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Does the Apple Smart Keyboard fit in the Apple Leather Sleeve for the 10.5” iPad Pro?

I’ve had several people ask me this question and yes, it does fit in the sleeve. When you first slide the keyboard in the sleeve it is a nice snug fit. Not too snug but probably more than you would like. But after a day of use it slides in there no problem (as seen in the video).

If you’ve read some user comments and questions on Apple’s website for the Apple Leather Sleeve both some users and Apple people have said that it does not fit, which is causing even more confusion. It clearly does.

Review of the 10.5” Apple Smart Keyboard

This week has ended up being a series of quick reviews: Logitech Slim Combo, 10.5” iPad Pro, and the Apple Leather Sleeve. In this final installment I wanted to write some thoughts on the Apple Smart Keyboard.

The keyboard has a lot going for it. For one, the slightly bigger size compared to the 9.7” results in a massive different. The 9.7” was slightly cramped when writing. Although I did get used to this I still felt that the keys were too close together and my hands were never resting in a natural position but instead they were really close together. The added size of the iPad really does fix this. My hands rest in a natural position and I don’t feel cramped at all.

Apple is touting this as a “full size keyboard.” While I don’t think this is entirely accurate because, really, it is not a full size keyboard. But it is full sizish, which is enough. In actual use I forget that I am typing on a slightly smaller keyboard compared to the Apple Magic Keyboard or my massive-over-the-top-mechanical-naked-keys Das Keyboard.

As with the previous versions, the keyboard pairs via the Smart Connector, which, when you get used to this instead of Bluetooth you realize how truly great this is. You never have to worry about powering, batter, connection issues, or anything else. Just open the keyboard and begin to type.

The keyboard is really, really thin. When carrying the iPad around with the keyboard attached its basically like carrying a small notebook. One of the reasons that I love this combination is that it is so easy to just pick up and go then sit down and get to work. The whole process is basically frictionless. Additionally, the keyboard is waterproof so when you spill your coffee all over the keyboard in the morning you are good to go.

With all that said, I think this keyboard is adequete and gets the job done. It’s not great but its certainly the best option for a keyboard for the 10.5” iPad Pro that uses the Smart Connector. I am not thrilled about the typing experience. Since the keyboard is so flat there is not a lot of room for the keys to depress. After a while I do feel like that my fingers have been pressing down on a table for a while. This is definitely a personal preference as I know several that have no reservations about this. This is still better than the awful Microsoft Surface keyboard. Now that truly feels like you are typing on a table the whole time. I really prefer the Logitech Keyboard feel, but, well, you have seen my opinions on that.

Additionally, I really wish there was a way to carry the Apple Pencil as well. This is one of the reasons I ended up getting the Apple Leather Sleeve (plus some additional protection). Carrying the Apple Pencil around in my pocket made it prone to losing it, stabbing my leg, or just forgetting it when I go to a meeting or the coffee shop.

At the end of the day I really do like the iPad Pro + Smart Keyboard + Leather Sleeve. I think in the future there may be better solutions as other companies take advantage of the Smart Connector but for now this definitely gets the job done, and in my opinion, the best option out there.

Review of the Apple Leather Sleeve for 10.5″ iPad Pro

Apple released a leather sleeve for the new 10.5" iPad Pros. After my debacle with the Logitech Slim Combo I decided to purchase the Apple Smart Keyboard with the Apple Leather Sleeve. I was initially worried that the keyboard would not fit in the sleeve too but, rest assured, it does.

The sleeve comes with an integrated Apple Pencil holder, which was one of my hesitations with the Apple Smart Keyboard. After using the Logitech CREATE for my 9.7" I got used to not having to think about carrying my Apple Pencil with me. This allows me to do so.

The build of the sleeve seems solid and comes in four different colors (saddle brown, taupe, midnight blue, and black). I went ahead and picked up the black one and it feels and looks great.

Additionally, the sleeve can be used as kind of a workstation pad when laying the iPad flat to write on. The soft leather case will protect the iPad from being scratched on a table and presents an aesthetically pleasing workstation when taking notes.

Although it is on the pricier side I would still recommend it as a way to both carry and protect your new iPad. I love the form factor, its slim and feels good in your hands, and can be easily carried place to place without a lot of bulk.

Purchase here.

Using the Apple Leather Sleeve as a workstaton when taking notes

Using the Apple Leather Sleeve as a workstaton when taking notes

The leather sleeve + iPad Pro + leather sleeve

The leather sleeve + iPad Pro + leather sleeve

Love the Apple logo imprinted on the back

Love the Apple logo imprinted on the back

Side view of the leather sleeve + iPad Pro + Smart Keyboard

Side view of the leather sleeve + iPad Pro + Smart Keyboard

The Apple Pencil fits snugly in the case so it won't fall out but it is still easy to remove

The Apple Pencil fits snugly in the case so it won’t fall out but it is still easy to remove

Initial Thoughts on the New 10.5″ iPad Pro

Yesterday I purchased the new 10.5" iPad Pro (256GB, cellular) from Apple. Previously, I had a couple different iterations, initially the 12.9", then the 9.7" version. I found that I used the iPad in my hands much more than I realized and the larger iPad Pro was just too big to handle like this. The 9.7" still felt slightly cramped but the trade offs were worth it.

Screen Size

With the release of the 10.5" you get virtually the same form factor as the 9.7" with a 20% larger screen. On paper, the dimensions may seem minuscule but in actual use the larger screen is a welcome and noticeable addition. In split screen mode I find the larger screen more helpful. While the larger iPad Pro can fit two full side-by-side apps together, the smaller one still has an iPhone layout with much more real estate. I find myself having more room when reading a PDF and taking notes on the other side, which is one of my primary uses for split screen.

Screen Performance

Apple also updated the refresh rate of the screen to 120hz . Apple is calling this and other software integrations ProMotion. I'm not going to get into the science of it but lets just say that scrolling, switching between apps, and any other movement on the iPad is buttery smooth. The switch to retina screens several years ago was a vast improvement. ProMotion may not be as big as an improvement but it will completely change the way we view our devices.

In order to see the improvement see this video in a tweet by Matt Gemmell.

Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil software also received some updates. With the first generation iPad Pro I really couldn't tell a difference between writing on paper and writing on the iPad. Now, there is no question, this is the best stylus out there. Absolutely no lag time when writing with the pencil.

Miscellaneous

  • The camera is now the same camera in the iPhone 7. I don't take many pictures on the iPad because I don't want to look silly but for scanning documents this is a helpful upgrade.
  • They also upgraded the fingerprint sensor to the lightning fast iPhone 7 sensor. It is a vastly noticeable improvement.
  • After having an iPad with True Tone its really hard not having a device without it. The screen looks more natural (not in a computer generated color switching way like night shift). Additionally, the screen is even brighter for use outside
  • If you hold your iPad with any frequency the 10.5" is the way to go. The 12.9" version is more of a desktop iPad and not as suitable for mobile use.

iOS 11

This iPad was really made for iOS 11. The hardware inside the iPad is more than I'll ever need but as Apple keeps improving iOS with more multitasking and other productivity features it will continually need more power and speed for users. I can't wait till the public beta is released as I will be testing it out at that point.

Should You Buy One?

If you don't have an iPad Pro yet and are interested in purchasing one I have absolutely no reservations in recommending this version of the iPad. The integration with the Apple Pencil is going to keep getting better, especially with the release of iOS 11. The iPad Pro has transformed the way I get work done. It's primarily become my main device that I use. Whether it is reading articles on the web, marking up PDFs for research, taking notes in meetings, browsing photos, watching St. Louis Cardinals games, and more it has become my go to device.

If you already have the previous iPad Pro the question becomes a little trickier. If you have the smaller iPad Pro and wanting some more screen real estate I think the upgrade is worth it. I found the 9.7" to be slightly cramped when running two apps side-by-side. Additionally, the keyboard also felt slightly cramped. The larger screen allows for a full on-screen keyboard and a larger keyboard for the Apple Smart Keyboard, which I am currently using. The typing on the keyboard alone feels much more comfortable. So, if you have the means, I think it is a welcome upgrade. If you are trying to save some money both the original 9.7" and 12.9" are still worth checking out, if not for the Apple Pencil alone.

Overall, the new iPad Pros are beasts of a device. There is really no comparison in the market for these tablets. If you want the best you can't go wrong.

More In-Depth Reviews

Here are some of my favorite reviews that have been released so far:

Review of the Logitech “Slim” Combo for 10.5″ iPad Pro

This review will be about as long as it took to test out the Logitech Slim Combo Keyboard for the new 10.5" iPad Pro. Quite frankly, this keyboard/case combo is just awful. Previously, I had the 9.7" iPad Pro with the Logitech CREATE. I much preferred this keyboard to Apple's Smart Keyboard for a number of reasons such as the keyboard itself, the shell protection, and an Apple Pencil holder. So, naturally, I wanted to try out Logitech's new keyboard for the recently released iPad's. Looking at their site it looked like they made some great improvements including allowing the back to couple as a stand for FaceTime calls or other just general viewing.

But then I tested this "slim" keyboard case…

Ugh.

Almost immediately I was put off by the bulky size. It has a roundish bulge on the back case. There is a reason why the iPads are now flat and don't have the protruding bulge in the middle of the back of the iPad. Aesthetically, it hurts the eyes. Functionally, it feels extremely bulky. There is nothing slim about this keyboard case. It feels as if I stepped back to 2008 and grabbing my HP laptop for class in college. Regardless of the dimensions, the feel of the case is just a bulky mess. But this was only the beginning.

I was originally excited that I could pop the back off from the keyboard and hold the device in my hand. Well, this isn't satisfactory either. For one, the case just feels heavy and bulky (remember, this is just the back). Second, the edge of the iPad snaps deep into the case so there are some awkward ways of holding the iPad. Third, did I mention the weight and bulkiness of it? Strike 2, I wasn't feeling good about this purchase.

I then set the iPad up in the keyboard portion as well. The first thing I noticed was that I had to reach around the back to pull out the stand portion to stand it up. Seriously? I have to do this every single time I want to use my iPad with the keyboard, which is 75% of the time. No thank you. Previously, I would just open up the case and I was good to go. Additionally, they added this nasty 2+ inch blank space on the keyboard in front, which extends the iPad away from your hands by quite a bit. I'm not sure on the actual dimensions but the feeling was that the iPad was sitting far away from me and I was going to pull my shoulder out of its socket just reaching to touch the iPad.

Well, that was enough for me. I promptly gave up and never trying this again. I ended up going with the Apple Smart Keyboard + Apple Leather Sleeve.

I guess I could add some positives of the keyboard but with the above complaints I can't in my right mind recommend this keyboard case.

  1. Holds your Apple Pencil. But in reality they screwed this up too. The Apple Pencil is on the outside of the case just waiting to get caught on anything in your bag. With the size and bulk of the slim case you'd think there was plenty of room (like the 9.7"!) for a holder inside.
  2. Shortcut keys for different functionality in iOS. I love having the volume control, brightness, and other shortcuts on the keyboard. Sadly, the Apple Smart Keyboard doesn't have this.
  3. Better keyboard. The keyboard itself, in my opinion, is better feeling than Apple's Smart Keyboard.

Well, that's it. I'm not sure why Logitech would release this keyboard case combo. Sometimes I am disappointed when trying out a new device or accessory and it doesn't work out but rarely do I get extremely frustrated. I am still baffled that this was released and touted as a slim keyboard. They say don't fix what ain't broke. Well, the previous keyboard was better than average. It wasn't broke so it shouldn't have been fixed. This one is broke; I wouldn't be surprised for it to be pulled for a new design later this year.

Brian Davidson was finally right.

New iOS 11 Features That I’m Looking Forward To

MacStories, one of my favorite sites for iOS and app news, information, tips, and analysis wrote a great article on new iOS 11 features. I’ve pulled some of my favorites out with my thoughts below.

Handwriting

One of my favorite apps for the iPad Pro is Goodnotes, which has the best handwriting recognition that I’ve used. I am able to write sloppy cursive and somehow it is able to pick it up. I am excited that Apple is making handwriting recognition part of the operating system but I am interested to see how good it is. Even if the recognition doesn’t meet Goodnotes level of accuracy it will still be nice to search the Notes app and others through Apple’s integrated recognition. If a note more naturally fits in Apple Notes and I want to handwrite then this will be more efficient.

Maps

One of the more frustrating aspect of using Apple notes, for me, is the fact that I don’t know what lane to be in when I am taking an exit. While most exits are on the right side of the road the occasional left exit always gets me. Hopefully this will make it more clear.

iMessage

Finally! iMessage is notorious for being out of sync with multiple devices. Additionally, when I receive verification codes via text I will often delete these messages but then when I get to my iMac or iPad they are still there. This should improve syncing and begin to work like other messaging platforms such as Slack. What you do on one device will be synced across multiple devices. Additionally, you will not have messages out of order when you come back to any device.

iMessage Apps

I don’t use a lot of iMessage apps except for stickers and GIFs. Frustration ensues when it takes multiple taps just to get to the GIPHY app or certain stickers that I commonly use. This interface looks to be much better.

Person to Person Payments via Apple Pay

I generally use PayPal or Venmo to payback friends for a variety of things. Having Apple Pay payments within iMessage to directly pay those who have iPhones, which is most of my friends, will be great. It seems that this will work similar to other services. When you get paid it gets stored in the system then from there you can use those payments for other purchases or transfer to your bank.
If you haven’t been using Apple Pay you really should be. It is actually more secure than using a credit card because it uses a unique number for each transaction + you have to authenticate it through your fingerprint. I’ve had some people tell me they don’t use it because it seems less secure but the reality is that its the most secure (except cash I guess) for protecting your personal information and your bank account. Apple really strives to keep personal privacy at the forefront of what they are doing. Apple itself doesn’t even have access to this information.

Audio on the Lock Screen

This will be nice instead of having to pull up the control panel every time to pause something.

Do Not Disturb When Driving

Yes, this will be great. Don’t text and drive people. Stay safe out there.

Expanded Dock on the iPad

I’m really looking forward to testing this out on the iPad. While it may take some getting used to I think this will be a great new feature for productivity on the iPad. Additionally, this is how you will now invoke side-by-side apps. Better access to the apps you use the most plus smart suggestions for commonly paired apps that you use together. This is a major step in the right direction.

Conclusion

Well these are just some new features that I am excited about on iOS. There were many more that were shown and I’m assuming that we’ll find out more as people begin to test in the beta of iOS 11. I’ll be installing the beta when it is released to the public. 9to5 Mac has a nice video showing about a 100 new features that you should check out.

iOS 11 Wishlist Follow-up

Yesterday I posted a wishlist for Apple’s WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference) keynote yesterday. The wishlist was fairly small and a safe bet. Today, I just wanted to follow up on what I was hoping for. In the future I will be writing my thoughts on more features introduced. To say the least, they nailed it on new iPad features along with other general iOS improvements. I’m really excited for the public beta to be released later so I can begin trying them out.

  • Better app switching – from what I can tell Apple introduced a redesigned and vastly improved app switcher for the iPad. Instead of just redesigning the side bar they introduced a whole new way of thinking about working with multiple apps.
    • /New dock/ – the dock is very similar to the desktop version. You can put as many apps as you would like there and additionally, on the right it includes contextual apps that appear based on what you are working on. Apple already introduced something like this last year in the Spotlight search where it would predict what app you are searching for based on time of day, location, and what you were previously doing. Personally, I find this pretty accurate when I am trying to find an app. You can also pull the dock up from the bottom of the screen wherever you are at.
    • /App switcher/ – the app switcher takes up the entire screen and sort of looks like Mission Control on the desktop. Additionally, as I stated above, you can pul the dock up from the bottom of the screen and then drag an app to either open a temporary window or dock it on the left or right. 9to5 Mac has a good video showing this feature.
  • Make a modern Mail app – I may have missed something, but sadly, I did not see any vast improvements. I’m holding out hope though that it just didn’t make the keynote but there are still some good improvements.
  • File Management – they did introduce a new app called Files. This is very similar to the Finder on the Mac but redesigned and thought through for the iPad. While Apple did have an app called iCloud Drive, it was really only for Apple’s cloud storage system, which quite frankly, is terrible compared to Dropbox and Google Drive. The new Files app integrates with other cloud storage solutions such as Google Drive and Dropbox. I am interested in seeing the integrated functionality with these third-party services. Will it include features such as sharing with others, copying a share link, enabling syncing to the iPad for specific files, or zipping/unzipping multiple files together? You can also drag and drop, select multiple files, and send to other apps. Some people think that a Finder like solution on the iPad is ridiculous but personally, I deal with multiple files on a daily basis. Whether it be for academic research or dealing with many files for work I am constantly searching, moving, sharing, and manipulating many files. Typically I would use a combination of apps to do this but I am hopeful that this will be a one-app solution.
  • Photos for family and close friends – no improvements 😦
  • Continued improvement of portrait mode – since Portrait mode is a combination of software and hardware they can make improvements without introducing a new iPhone. I’m excited to see that they are improving low-light photos in Portrait mode as this seems to be one of the biggest weaknesses in my own experience.

Overall, I’m pretty excited about all the new features. Like I said, there are many more features to look forward too as well.

**SOLD** iPad Pro 12.9″ (128GB) + Smart Keyboard – $600

I’m selling my 12.9″ iPad Pro (128GB) + Smart Keyboard for $600. The new one that Apple just announced starts at $799 for 64GB + $150 for the Smart Keyboard so this is a pretty good deal. It has general wear on the back with a small indentation on the bottom left corner (see pics), which doesn’t effect any functionality but is purely an aesthetic blemish. Let me know if you’re interested.

Twitter: @renshaw330

Email: brenshaw833@gmail.com

iOS 11 Wishlist for Apple’s WWDC Keynote

Today is Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. This conference is geared towards the developers who make apps for the iOS and MacOS platforms but Apple does provide a live stream for the public, which over the years, has grown greatly in popularity. This conference will reveal the new operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and the Mac. Today, I just wanted to outline some features that I hope they reveal for iOS. Most of the items below will be geared towards the iPad. I’ve been using the iPad as a computer replacement about 50-60% of the time with the remaining time on my iMac

  • Better app switching – When Apple introduced split view on the iPad it helped getting things done on the iPad greatly. You were now able to place two apps side-by-side. Generally, I use this as reference, one app is my writing environment and the other is a document, website, or another app that I am referring to. The problem is switching the app on the right side. When you try to switch to another app there is just an endless list of app icons with a confusing order. The app that I want to use seems to never be right there. I end up scrolling and scrolling then missing it. What I actually end up usually doing it using CMD-SPACE to search for the app > open > close > open split view app picker > open app again. This might be the most clunky workflow ever but its better than cycling through the endless mess that is the app picker. I don’t know what they should do but really anything is better than what they have now.
  • Make a modern Mail app – every year I hope that the Mail app will improve and every year, despite their “excitement” it is still light years behind every other mail app that comes out. I try to use many of the default apps on iOS because it provides simplicity, the workflows are more deeply embedded in the operating system, and they just always tend to work better than a combination of many third-party apps. But seriously, the mail app is just terrible. At the very least add a share sheet option to email messages. This will allow sending to your task manager, Evernote, create a PDF, add a reminder, send to Notes, and more. It is maddening that this is not an option. Some other features that I would like to see added are some type of smart email folders, send later, and better integration with Gmail (that’s a long shot but I can still wish!) One feature I do like about the Mail app is the granularity of custom email notifications. I have email notifications turned off but for one person in my life who primarily communicates through email I have their notifications turned on plus there is an easy way to turn on a custom notification for a certain email thread. But the Mail app needs some massive improvement and I hope they deliver later today.
  • File Management – one of the biggest hangups on the iPad is dealing with multiple files either in one app or between multiple. Across the board there is not a good way to deal with multiple files, whether it be getting them in an email, sending to another app, or sharing with others. Additionally, when dealing with multiple apps getting one file to another app (without cloud syncing) is just a pain. Implementing drag and drop between apps would be a huge win. You could also drag text, images, files, URLS, and more from one app to another. This would be a huge win for the iPad. I know that Apple wants to make file management simple but I think they have sided with too much simplicity, especially when they are touting the iPad as the future of computing. There really needs to be better file management on the iPad. I don’t necessarily want a one-to-one copy of how the Mac works but rethink it for the iPad.
  • Photos for family and close friends – I would really like to see better photo management and sharing with those closest to you. My wife and I have a shared iCloud album, which works well but that doesn’t provide a good solution for all situations. Additionally, we are constantly sharing via AirDrop, which means that both are phones have to be open at the same time plus a good connection between them. For example, recently we were at a wedding and I took several pictures that I wanted her to have but I had to wait until we were both done with everything to get those to her. It’d be great if I could get the originals to her in a more simple way.
  • Continued improvement of portrait mode – I absolutely love portrait mode. It creates stunning photos on the iPhone that is hard to believe that they were taken on the iPhone. Outdoors, it works great, except with certain things in the background such as water from a lake or stream. I would love to see them improve it for lower light situations. Even in a well lit room the photo comes out a little grainy. Additionally, I would like to see improvements for depth effect with inanimate objects.

Well, there is more that I’d like to see at the keynote today but this is just a sample of some major features that I would like to see reworked. Using my iPad everyday for work, school, and personal activities has really given me an appreciate for the device but there are just some key sticking points that get me every time. I think they will really focus on the iPad for work and I am excited to see what they will come up with this afternoon.

If you haven’t seen it yet then you should check out Federico Vitticci’s iOS 11 concept video with some more ideas.

Here is how to stream Apple’s keynote today.

Mac Tip: Pasting as Plain Text and Using a Free Clipboard Manager

If you do any sort of copying and pasting on your Mac then you know what a pain it can be when you paste text that is formatted from its original location. This is especially frustrating when copying from the web, PDFs, or software such as Logos or Accordance. There are a several different options for fixing this problems. Here are two of them:

The first option is native to the Mac. It is simply using the keyboard shortcut Option+Shift+Command+V. This will paste as plain text stripping all the formatting.

Another option that I use all the time is through a clipboard manager called Flycut (its free!). This app stores everything you have copied and allows you to cycle through and then paste as plain text. This relieves the stress of going back and forth between apps to copy and paste. Instead, just copy everything you need then cycle through your latest copied texts and then paste. You can do all this by holding Shift+Command+V then continue pressing V to cycle through everything.

Sharing Items on the Amazon App

I’m not sure when Amazon began doing this but they’ve made it easier to share items from the iOS app. I just happened on this “trick” the other day when I wanted to share a book and its price with a friend. Once you take a screenshot a share button appears that you can now share it through the share sheet. It also will include a link to the book as well. I’ve found this helpful not only sharing books with friends but also adding a list in Evernote or my task manager to look at later.

Happy Amazoning

 

Eliminating Distractions and Boosting Focus with Noizio

Whenever I am trying to concentrate, music in the background is generally distracting, especially if it is not techno, classical or other non-verbal music. But even this instrumental music is often distracting for some reason. For several years now I’ve ended up listening to thunderstorms in the background. This serves as a way to help minimize distracting noises around me but not be fully immersed in musical instruments or lyrics. Over the years I’ve tried different apps and methods for this but for awhile now I’ve stuck with an app called Noizio .

Coffee Shop Mix: This is just the first screen of sounds. If you scroll down there are several more. 

Coffee Shop Mix: This is just the first screen of sounds. If you scroll down there are several more. 

Noizio plays several different sounds such as rain, thunderstorm, coffee house, wind, waves, river stream, farm animals and several more. You can mix and match the sounds together and also choose how loud you want each individual sound to be. After figuring out your preferences then you can save it and create another one.

Personally, I use two different mixes. One in a quiet atmosphere and another for a louder atmosphere such as a coffee shop. One of the major differences between my two mixes is the presence of the ambient coffee house noise. In a silent location the coffee house noise is actually quite helpful for me but in an actual coffee shop the real background noise coupled with the artificial noise just becomes way too much. Either way, I like to be able to save different mixes for different atmospheres.

After using this app consistently for many months I’ve found that it helps me get into a state of deep focus quicker because my brain now knows that when these noises are going on then it is time to focus and write or research. So not only does it block out the noise but it also helps me get into the writing flow even quicker than without out it.

So if you are looking for an app to help you stay focus and block out distractions around you then I highly recommend the app Noizio.
It is available on both iOS and MacOS

RSS, Twitter, and Newsletters OH MY

RSS used to be the predominant method that most people gathered and curated their reading content on the web. Google Reader was the free and dominant choice of the internet. Then, unexpectedly, they shut down back in 2013 . The internet went into a state of frenzy as people were then forced to rethink how they gathered their content from different websites. RSS made it easy to follow blogs and news site because you chose the content, went to one place to see that content, and mark items as read or for reading later.

Many people turned to Twitter and Facebook in order to gather links. But with the fleeting nature of both, especially Twitter, it can be easy to miss what is being shared unless you are constantly engaged on the platform, which, sadly, many are because of FOMO . Additionally, if you are trying to cut back on your social media consumption, which many are, it has become difficult to both be engaged in writing that you want to follow and avoid the blackhole of social media.

RSS

Personally, I still predominantly use RSS through a service called Feed Wrangler. RSS usually has two aspects:

  1. The service that curates the feeds from websites
  2. A reading platform to view the feeds

Feed Wrangler is 19 $/yr and I've been using it since the Google Reader shut down. They have an app that you can read your subscriptions from but I find it fairly basic and instead use an app on my iPhone and iPad called Fiery Feeds to read everything. Additionally, you can do local syncing without an RSS service but it won't be available on multiple devices. One of the great aspects of Fiery Feeds is the ability to add feeds with the iOS share sheet on websites. Thus, if I am on a blog I want to start following I don't need to hunt around for the RSS link but instead I just invoke the iOS share sheet and click on Add to Fiery Feeds and it links to it my Feed Wrangler account for syncing. Another popular and free RSS syncing service is Feedly, which can also work with Fiery Feeds.

Nuzzel

Another app, Nuzzel ( MacStories review ), has a little different purpose for curating reading content. Instead of following Twitter and getting sucked into the endless list of tweets being sent out every second I use Nuzzel to curate the most popular content from people I'm following on Twitter and my lists. Nuzzel uses as algorithm to find articles that have been shared multiple times by either just people you follow or another level down of people they also follow. This allows me to just open the Nuzzel app and view popular content on Twitter that is, in my experience, good content to read without getting lost in my timeline. In addition, you can setup a weekly or daily newsletter that Nuzzel curates to send to you at an interval at your choice.

I use a combination of both RSS and Nuzzel for most of my content. I've found that not having to open Twitter for content purposes helpful for both my sanity and productivity. Inevitably, getting on Twitter generally puts me on rabbit trails that I never intended and I lose 30, 40, 60 minutes of my day!

So check out some of the new RSS syncing services out there such as Feedly and Feed Wrangler and also use a social media curating app such as Nuzzel to allow you to still find new and interesting content without being so connected with social media.

Taking Better Photos on Your iPhone

Apple recently released several short videos (30 seconds each) showing you how to take better photos with your iPhone. They are pretty basic but definitely worth checking out. For example, the how to take an action shot tutorial simply suggests to use the burst mode when capturing an action shot then shows you how to choose the best one. Additionally, they give suggestions for different types of photos such as how to take a photo with street light or how to photograph a backlit subject . Just a little knowledge for different situations can greatly improve your photography on your iPhone.

Here is the complete list:

  1. How to shoot a great portrait ( link )
  2. How to shoot a close-up ( link )
  3. How to shoot a vertical pano ( link )
  4. How to shoot without a flash ( link )
  5. How to shoot action ( link )
  6. How to shoot a selfie with the timer ( link )
  7. How to covert to black & white ( link )
  8. How to capture a unique angle ( link )
  9. How to shoot with zoom ( link )
  10. How to shoot a horizon ( link )
  11. How to shoot stills while filming ( link )
  12. How to shoot with street light ( link )
  13. How to shoot a bold and simple image ( link )
  14. How to shoot during golden hour ( link )
  15. How to shoot a one-handed selfie ( link )
  16. How to edit-selfie a selfie ( link )
  17. How to shoot a sunset silhouette ( link )
  18. How to capture an intimate moment ( link )
  19. How to shoot a group portrait ( link )
  20. How to shoot a backlit subject ( link )