‘Take Only Your iPhone and One Other Device if You Need It’ ➝

Ben Brooks, on keeping your electronics kit light:

You need far fewer electronic devices than you think. All I carry is my iPhone and my iPad Pro. Done. My rule here is very simple: take a phone and one other device. Unless you have a major reason why you need three devices, take only two.

I’ve been following this rule for over a year and don’t expect I’ll ever look back. I currently travel with my iPhone and iPad Air 2. And Like Ben, I could probably get by without the iPad. Though, if I find time for writing, I really appreciate the extra screen real estate.

I used to lug my MacBook Air with me, up until I bought the new iPad last year. One huge benefit of going all-in on iOS is how much lighter your bag is. Not only are the computing devices themselves lighter, but everything I travel with charges over USB. I can bring a single, 4-port Anker USB charger, the necessary cables, and I’m able to charge everything I need to.

Apple Planning Siri SDK and Amazon Echo Competitor ➝

Chance Miller, writing for 9 to 5 Mac on The Information’s latest scoop:

The report explains that Apple will open up its Siri personal assistant to outside app developers by releasing an SDK. This will allow for app developers to make their apps and services accessible through Siri, much like Amazon, Google, and Viv are now doing. […]

As for the actual hardware competitor to Amazon Echo and Google Home, the report says that Apple has been working the device since before Amazon introduced the Echo in mid-2015. The device would feature a speaker and be web-connected, while it would also carry deep integration with HomeKit. It will also act as speaker, likely carrying support for AirPlay technology.

An Siri-powered AirPlay speaker sounds like a fantastic product. I currently use a Jambox for listening to music and podcasts in the kitchen, but this would be a strict upgrade. And leveraging Apple’s developer community to extend Siri’s abilities is simply brilliant. The core functionality would be secure from a privacy standpoint and the onus would be on the user to install applications which might weaken that security.

And count me in with John Gruber, I like the name Hi-Fi.

Regarding Twitter’s Character Count Changes

On the heels of Bloomberg’s report from last week, Todd Sherman, writing on Twitter’s weblog:

So, you can already do a lot in a Tweet, but we want you to be able to do even more. In the coming months we’ll make changes to simplify Tweets including what counts toward your 140 characters, so for instance, @names in replies and media attachments (like photos, GIFs, videos, and polls) will no longer “use up” valuable characters.

A few things worth noting:

  • Replies will not appear in your followers’ timelines, only mentions.
  • If you follow a lot of users you can expect a more cluttered timeline, but I think you’ll find the vast majority of tweets that start with a username are initiated with the reply button.
  • Only the usernames of whom you’re replying aren’t counted. If you reply to a thread between myself and @_GKeenan, but mention @mattbirchler, Matt’s username is the only one that will count toward the total characters.
  • Twitter is opening up new APIs to third-party developers so they’ll be able to use these new features at launch.

I’ve seen a lot of outrage in my timeline since this announcement — all of it directed toward the changes to mentions. Users don’t want cluttered timelines and I completely understand that complaint. But I think you’ll be surprised at how few tweets that start with a username are initiated without the reply button — I don’t think Twitter would have made this change if that wasn’t the case.

Newer users might not remember this, but replies and mentions used to all appear in your followers’ timelines. There was outcry when it changed because it was how many users found new people to follow — when you noticed a new username frequently appearing in your timeline, you followed them. I think this will become commonplace again and users will grow to love it.

Update: Since publishing, I’ve seen a lot of confusion regarding this bit from BuzzFeed News’ reporting of Twitter’s changes:

Within the next few months, the company will stop counting photos, polls, quote tweets, and GIFs toward its 140-character limit. It will also stop counting “@names” in replies toward the limit, with a ceiling of 50 @names.

That “ceiling of 50 names” only matters specifically for replies. In order for usernames not to count toward your 140-characters, you’d have to reply to a thread that included 50 other users. It’s not as if spammers could just add 50 arbitrary names to a tweet and send it out without restriction.

This could mean that spammers will seek out threads with many users in order to spam-reply to the whole lot. But is that any more annoying than when they send a reply to a single user? In practice, I don’t expect this to add much to an abusive user’s arsenal.

Ming-Chi Kuo Publishes Note on Apple’s Notebook Plans ➝

He’s predicting MacBook Pro updates — with Touch ID, an OLED display touch bar to replace the function keys, and a new thin and light design — and a new 13-inch MacBook that will further relegate the MacBook Air to the entry-level position.

Siri Integration Will Be Key Feature in OS X 10.12 ➝

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

Rumors have indicated Siri integration will be one of the key features coming in OS X 10.12, and new screenshots of a Siri menu bar and Siri app icon suggest Apple is indeed working on bringing Siri to the Mac in its 2016 operating system update. The screenshots were shared with MacRumors by a source who has provided us with reliable information about Apple’s software plans in the past.

I’m going to assume that the menu bar icon is a placeholder for now — the word “Siri” inside of a rounded rectangle doesn’t seem at home alongside OS X’s other menu bar icons. As for the dock icon, it’s stunning. I like the waveforms, I like the color scheme, it’s all great.

The biggest mystery with this, though, why has it taken so long? Is it just a simple implementation — working just as it does on iOS — or was Apple waiting until they were able to build something bigger that integrated more deeply into OS X somehow?

‘Eat, Sleep, Code, Repeat Is Such Bullshit’ ➝

Dan Kim on Google I/O’s “Eat. Sleep. Code. Repeat.” slogan:

Whether it’s racing cars, loving art, reading, hiking, spending time in nature, playing with their dog, running, gardening, or just hanging out with their family, these top-notch programmers love life outside of code.

That’s because they know that a truly balanced lifestyle — one that gives your brain and your soul some space to breath non-programming air — actually makes you a better programmer.

Avoiding BlackBerry’s Fate ➝

Marco Arment:

Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for.

If they’re right — and that’s a big “if” — I’m worried for Apple.

I have been using Siri a lot more over the past few days — mostly to see how it compares to Google’s offerings. As a general rule, I don’t use Siri for much. Not necessarily because it isn’t good, but because I don’t like to interact with my device in that way. I’d rather type in a quick search query than awkwardly speak out loud to my phone.

Perhaps that will change in time as more people use voice features on their devices — if everyone’s doing it, those who aren’t will seem out of touch. And if that’s the case, then maybe Apple did place the wrong bet on privacy versus big data.

But if Apple’s wrong, couldn’t they eventually partner with Amazon, Google, or some other company to integrate their voice services into iOS? That wouldn’t put them in a perfect situation — not owning a core aspect of their OS. But Apple has something that none of these companies do — incredible hardware. No matter how far behind Apple is in big data-based AI, other smartphone manufacturers are showing very few signs of catching up to Apple’s level in hardware quality. And because of that, I think they’ll always have a place at the table.

‘Google Didn’t Win Over This Apple Fan at I/O 2016’ ➝

Matt Birchler:

It’s been a few years since Google has not impressed me at I/O, but 2016 has broken that streak. I’m interested in Google Assistant, and I’m pretty sure a Google Home will be mine as soon as it’s available, but they didn’t do much else to get me riled up. I hope to see more good stuff coming from the company this year, and maybe the products they showed off this week will actually be great, but I didn’t see it at I/O.

Google Assistant was the only product that made me envious of my Android-using friends. But the feature wouldn’t make a large enough impact to warrant switching from iOS.

Retro Platformer the Incident Debuts on Apple TV With New Multiplayer Mode ➝

Harish Jonnalagadda, writing for iMore:

Retro platformer The Incident is now on Apple TV, with the game picking up a new four-player multiplayer mode called Coincidents. The Incident features an excellent chiptune soundtrack, 8-bit pixel art, and much more.

I had a ton of fun playing The Incident when it was first released for the iPhone. And I look forward to playing it with multiple players on the Apple TV.

Apple Promotes Alternate Conferences and Events Surrounding WWDC ➝

I think it’s delightful that Apple is promoting AltConf, Layers, Beard Bash, and The Talk Show on the WWDC website.

Netflix Launches Fast.com ➝

From Netflix’s weblog:

Today we are launching fast.com, a simple-to-use website to help you see how fast your Internet connection is, whether on mobile or broadband, anywhere in the world. And like the Netflix service, it’s ad free with a streamlined design that is quick and easy to understand.

This has replaced Ookla’s Speedtest as my new default.

Apple’s New Retail Store Strategy ➝

Jim Dalrymple explains the five new Apple Store features unveiled yesterday at their new Union Square location in San Francisco.

Upload Image to WordPress Workflow

My obsession with Workflow has quickly become a quest to overhaul my publishing setup. I’ve already shared workflows for composing links and publishing in WordPress — both of which have undergone significant changes over the past few weeks, I plan on sharing them soon. But now it’s time to work on a less-frequently initiated task — uploading images to Initial Charge’s WordPress media library.

If you’ve been reading the site for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that I use images sparingly. The bulk of my publishing activity consists of Linked List items, which never include images, but even the weekly feature articles only contain images a handful of times each year.

Upload images to WordPress with Workflow

However, this recent series I’ve been writing about Workflow has really benefited from visual aids. It’s often difficult to grasp what a workflow is doing unless you can see it with you’re own eyes. As such, there’s been a sharp increase in the number of images I’ve been uploading to my server.

Before my recent efforts to go iOS-first in everything I do, the images I published on Initial Charge would get run through ImageOptim and uploaded from the WordPress dashboard. This wasn’t exactly the most elegant solution — I’m sure I could have hacked together something that was a bit more streamlined — but it worked. Unfortunately though, there doesn’t seem to be an app for iOS that’s designed to take an image and output a compressed version for online publishing.

My first attempt at building a new system for publishing images was to use Kraken.io in place of ImageOptim and continue uploading from the WordPress dashboard. The biggest problem with this solution is that it was incredibly tedious, especially if I was working with several images. I would end up with multiple copies of each image in my camera roll — often resulting in the wrong copy being uploaded to my server. And the process required loading multiple webpages across two different sites. I needed something better.

Of course, the solution had been staring me in the face the whole time. I was writing about Workflow and uploading screenshots of Workflow, why hadn’t I tried to solve the problem with Workflow?

The Workflow

My first draft of Upload Image used the Resize Image action to shrink the size of my images. But to my dismay, the resulting image quality was far too low to use on the site. That’s when I began to investigate the Kraken.io API to see if I could use it from within Workflow. This endeavor was short lived. Without the addition of other applications — like Pythonista — there just wasn’t any way to do it.

The solution came to me when I was browsing Workflow’s available actions on my iPad — Convert Image. I could convert my screenshots to JPEG and adjust the quality slider until Workflow output images at small file sizes without sacrificing image quality. As it turns out, Workflow’s default setting for image quality was actually quite good and didn’t require any tweaking. Perhaps I’ll change it in the future, but for now it does just fine as is.

Initiating Upload Image workflow.

I typically initiate Upload Image from the action sheet within Photos or LongScreen, but it should work in any application that supports action extensions. When run, the workflow performs the following:

  • Workflow asks you to rename the image.
  • The Replace Text action is used to replace any spaces in the name with dashes and all capitalized letters are changed to lowercase.
  • The image is converted to JPEG at about 80% quality.
  • The resulting file’s name is changed and it is uploaded using the Post to WordPress action.
  • Workflow assembles the file’s URL using the current date and the file’s name.
  • An alert appears noting that the image’s URL has been copied to the clipboard.

From there, the URL can be pasted into your text editor of choice for publishing. I’m a big fan of Ulysses, but I can understand if you’ve fallen for another app, there’s plenty of good ones available.

The workflow doesn’t do anything too fancy. It doesn’t combine multiple iPhone screenshots into a single image and it doesn’t clean up the menu bar. Many of the workflows I’ve seen that perform a similar function do, but I didn’t want any of that. If I want to combine multiple images, I can do so in LongScreen. And personally, I hate when writers clean their device’s menu bar. It feels too sterile, as if the device never gets used. I get a kick out of seeing the carrier flag and how low their battery charge is.

There are a few things to remember before you start using this workflow:

  • Make sure to change the URL towards the bottom to your WordPress installation’s location.
  • Upload Image doesn’t support multiple images at once and I have no idea what would happen if you tried to run it that way. It’s possible I could add support for this in the future, but for now I’ll keep it simple.
  • The workflow assumes that you have “Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders” turned on in WordPress’ media settings.

This is by no means a complicated workflow. But it is one of my favorite to date. I love how quick and streamlined it is — just activate, give the image a name, and the URL is copied to your clipboard. It’s that simple. No need to worry about using dashes instead of spaces or properly capitalizing the image’s file name, the workflow takes care of that for you.

Naming the image and URL copied to clipboard.

An earlier build of Upload Image launched the WordPress dashboard in Safari when it completed. This way I could fill in the title and alt text inside of WordPress’ media library, but it was eventually scrapped. Historically, I’ve always filled in this information, but I don’t really know why. It doesn’t seem to get used unless you’re inserting images from the WordPress dashboard — which I don’t use anymore. It could be added with two simple actions, though, a Text action with your media library’s URL and an Open URLs action.

I’ve written a lot about Workflow and Ulysses lately. They’ve helped me completely overhaul my publishing system and have become two of my favorite iOS apps of all time. Of the two, though, Workflow has made the largest impact on the way I use iOS.

Not only am I using it to streamline my writing and publishing, I’m also using it to upload images to Instagram, initiate searches of Initial Charge, and to notify my wife of when I’ll be home. There’s never been an app that’s so quickly made its way into this many areas of my life. It’s fun to tinker with and makes me feel like a genius when I find that one action that brings a workflow together. I’ve heard it from many prominent writers that work this beat, but it’s even more true than I could have imagined, Workflow is absolutely incredible. If you’re not using it, you should be.

What We Lose in a Streaming Music World ➝

Richard Anderson:

There are digital files in my collection that are over a decade old. They’ve traveled with me across multiple computers, and multiple lives. This is meaningful in a way that streaming can never be. How do you connect with music that you simply rent, and could disappear from your library the moment you turn your back? […]

How will you explore the music of a surprisingly good opening band when they don’t exist in the library of Apple Music, Spotify, or TIDAL? So much music that has touched my soul, you can’t stream it for love or money. I had to seek it out on my own, pawing through used music bins, or going to shows. When there’s an all-you-can eat buffet for $9.99, what’s the incentive to order something that isn’t on the menu?

The move to streaming services is going to be extremely painful for smaller bands that are still struggling to get noticed. Not only do they get a smaller piece of the pie, but they’re more likely to get lost in the shuffle alongside, what seems like, an infinite supply of options.

How a Camera Makes You Feel ➝

Spencer Bentley, writing for PetaPixel:

So this is the most important piece of advice I can give anyone looking for a new camera or anyone wanting to get into photography more seriously. Find a camera you like to look at as much as you like to look through. Find a camera you think looks down right awesome. A camera that you can wear whether you’re out in t-shirt or a tuxedo. A camera that inspires you. Because it doesn’t matter if you have the top of the line Canon or Fuji or Leica if it’s sitting on a shelf at home.

I recently purchased a Canon PowerShot G9 X. It’s the first stand-alone camera I’ve owned in several years and I absolutely love it. The thing’s compact, intuitive, and takes stunning photographs. But I agree with Spencer Bentley, what really matters is how it makes me feel when I use it. And how a camera looks makes a big difference in that regard.

Don’t get me wrong, the G9 X is no pro-level DSLR, but the sturdy metal frame and slick aesthetics make me feel more like a photographer than my iPhone does. When I take it with me on a walk, I spend time admiring the environment and go to great lengths to document it. This camera makes me want to take photos in a way that my iPhone never has.

(Via Ben Brooks.)

Google Chrome to Phase Out Adobe Flash Later This Year ➝

Interestingly, I started using Google Chrome as a way to phase out Flash in 2010, upon the recommendation of John Gruber.

Twitter to Stop Counting Photos and Links in 140-Character Limit ➝

Sarah Frier, reporting for Bloomberg:

The social media company will soon stop counting photos and links as part of its 140-character limit for messages, according to a person familiar with the matter. The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public.

I’ve been very hesitant about Twitter making alterations to the 140-character limit. My biggest fear is that they’ll ruin what makes Twitter great — brevity. But this is a change I can get behind. Links take up about a sixth of the total character count and often feel too restricting when you’re trying to comment on the link or image you’re tweeting about.

I have two questions about the change, though. Will third-party client developers be able to get in on the action at launch? And, will there be measures in place to prevent spammers from filling their tweets with dozens of images or links?

Windows 10 Is Doubling Its Ads in the Start Menu ➝

I can’t imagine using an operating system that included advertising in the primary system menu. I clearly made the right decision by switching to OS X nearly ten years ago.

(Via NSShadowcat.)

Apple’s New Classroom Experiment ➝

Apple is providing 114 schools nationwide with an iPad for each student, a MacBook for each teacher, and an Apple TV for each classroom. The effort should help bolster their position in the education market and, potentially, build a generation of students who grew up using iOS as their primary computing platform.

One of the biggest problems with adding technology to the classroom, though, is that districts tend to purchase devices without any plan for integrating into the curriculum. Teachers are told that they must include technology in their lesson plans in order to justify the cost of equipment, but aren’t given any guidance or training on how to do so. Apple is attempting to fix this issue by sending an employee to each of their chosen schools for 17 days each year for teacher trainings and lesson plan mentoring.

Eric Schwarz Reviews the iPhone SE ➝

While I’m waiting for my wife’s iPhone SE to arrive this afternoon, I’ll be reading Eric Schwarz’s review of the device. And if you’re curious, she ordered a 64GB model in rose gold.