My top posts of 2016

It’s been a busy year on the blogging front. I reached by 1,000th post and built a better habit of regular posts. Some of which were surprisingly popular with those of you with enough time on your hands to come visit. I had a quick look at my stats and the following posts are (in order) those that far and away got the most views. 

They’re an interesting mix of topics, that’s for sure! Travel, notebooks, productivity and nude beaches. The latter in particular garnered some interest and seems to have been shared on a view blogs that (ahem) specialise on the topic. I’m flattered, honestly. 

I’m Seoul Excited – planning our trip to Japan and including 48hrs of a stopover in Seoul. On a whim!

Unboxing the iPhone 7 Plus – another gadget un-boxing, this time with better photos. 

Testing the iPhone 7 Plus camera – a selection of pics to demonstrate the new phone’s power.

My trip to the Traveler’s Factory – an over-excited recounting of my visit to the fabled shop in Tokyo.

Is everyone leaving Evernote? – a question I’m still asking myself.

My Japanese stationery haul – a summary of my over-indulgence while in Japan in October.

Nudity: the great leveller – considering the relaxing properties of the clothing-optional beach experience.

Hopefully 2017 will offer a similarly broad range of topics to write about. And hopefully, there will be even more in the way of travel writing. I’m planning an inevitable return to Japan (cities to be decided) and some more time on the beaches of Barcelona and Sitges. 

And there’s bound to be more technology to write about, right?

Torn between iOS and Android? Kind of.

The experiment isn’t over!

Some of you may remember I got myself all Androided-up a few months back. I bought a Nexus 6P and fell in love with it and its OS, Android. I kept my iPhone and Apple Watch in a drawer and lived a Google-focused existence.

Since then, I’ve moved between the two devices, as well as a Nexus 7 tablet for a couple of months. The good thing about buying your mobile phones unlocked is that you can simply switch SIM cards between them when you want to. All of my apps are cloud-based, so it doesn’t take long for one to catch up with the other (Calendar, contacts, Spotify etc).

Here’s the thing, though. I’m not living in one ‘world’ or the other. I regularly use my Nexus 7 while I’m at my desk, to flip through Twitter or to look at ToDoist. I’m still using my iPad Pro when traveling for business, paired with a bluetooth keyboard. I still wear my Apple Watch (most of the time), which means I have my iPhone 6s Plus on me too.

Torn between the two?

I’ve realised that you don’t have to pick a side, but you can pick and choose from within the two major ecosystems. I’ve regularly gone out for coffee bringing an iPhone and the Nexus 7. Not an iPad. Because the Nexus 7 is what I found useful at the time.

I don’t think it’s a groundbreaking thing to say that both ecosystems and operating systems have their strengths. For iOS, it’s the millions of apps and with iPhones it’s the easily-available multitude of accessories. My bank balance is testament to the latter. I have a drawer full of various iPhone cases, covers and stands.

For Android, (for me at least) it’s Google Now and just how accurately Google understands me when I speak with it. It’s uncanny. It’s also the flexibility of device set-up.

On the other hand, Apple devices cost a lot more than Android ones (mostly). And Android isn’t supported as widely as iOS (for now, at least). I’m talking very broadly here, before a fan-boy from one tribe or the other decides to have a pop.

My tools of choice, app-wise, are available on both platforms and are pretty comparable: Evernote, ToDoist, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Slack, WhatsApp etc. My mail (iCloud, business and gMail), contacts (Google) and calendars (iCloud and Google) are also ‘out there’ and not tied to a single device.

So in theory, I could swap phone devices on a daily basis, if I had the time and inclination. What stops me doing this is messages. Unless you turn off messages on all your Apple devices, there’s a good chance text messages from others will fail to show up on the Android device. It’s happened before. And it’s very, very annoying.

A second screen

But there’s nothing to stop me using my Nexus 7 alongside my iPhone, for example. The information on both is up to date and the only major difference in content is in Google Now, which is far superior on the Nexus.

Similarly, there’s nothing to stop going out to work with my Macbook and the Nexus 6P. For exactly the same reasons. And as both work off USB-C chargers, this seems to be an ideal pairing.

But what about the “third screen”? My Apple Watch. This is where it gets a little complex. I also got myself a Pebble Time smartwatch at the same time I bought the Nexus 6P. And while are both smart-watches, they’re hugely different. The Pebble’s battery will last for days at a time, even with heavy use. Whereas the Apple Watch needs a nightly charge. The Apple Watch display is a thing of beauty, while I have to regularly squint to see the Pebble’s screen.

It looks like the next update to WatchOS is going to make there Apple Watch even better (in terms of speed, at least), so I’m not tempted to make the switch permanent.

And seeing as an Apple Watch will only work with an iPhone, I’m ever so slightly stuck with the iPhone 6S Plus as a my ‘daily driver’. This is no hardship, by any means, but it does take some of the flexibility out which device I use each day.

Some very full pockets!

Now, there’s no way in hell I’m going to become one of those guys who carries more than one mobile phone out of choice! (As opposed to those poor souls who have to carry a work handset and a personal handset). Neither am I going to wear more than one smartwatch. I mean, I’m a geek, but there are limits – even for me. Yes. Even for me.

In reality, either the iPhone or the Nexus 6P offer enough speed and power to be the only thing I need with me for my mobile needs. Frequently, a tablet is a luxury, especially hen I’m trying to lighten the load of tech I find it my bag.

That said, I’m still leaning towards the world of Apple – if I have to make a choice – due to the Apple Watch pairing and my need to leave one handset at home.

So what does the future hold?

We’re about to see updates to both operating systems in the next couple of months. Google will roll out Android N (Nougat) in the next few days, if the rumour mill is correct. And Apple is going to release iOS 10 and WatchOS “in the fall”. Hopefully, that means September.

I’m going to update all my devices when the time arrives and do another comparison. Meanwhile, it looks like I’ll be using the iPhone 6s Plus combined with an Apple Watch and a (3 year old) Nexus 7 tablet when I’m out and about.

How’s that for eclectic?!

(In fact, I think a blog post all about the Nexus 7 is in order – it’s one of my favourite devices right now).

It works for me. It combines everything I like about iOS, allows me to use my Apple Watch, and gives me access to pure Android and Google Now. And before you ask: yes, you can install the Google app to access Google Now on your iPhone, but its functionality is severely curtailed compared to the Android version. Believe me, I’ve tried it.

Any questions?

I’m also aware that very few people get to buy handsets like this and compare them. I’m lucky like that. So any questions about working in two operating systems are very welcome. Maybe I can help you make up your mind!

Postach.io’s back!

You may recall I got very excited by a start-up called Postach.io come time ago. Simply put, their USP was taking your simple Evernote notes and turning them into a simple blog. Just tag a note as ‘published’ and it appeared as a new blog post.

Simples!

I quickly fell in love with it, due to its simplicity, its tight integration with Evernote (one of my favourite apps of all time) and how I could quickly write in Markdown.

Continue reading “Postach.io’s back!”

Organising the Nexus 6P

The adjustment from iOS to Android isn’t as significant as it used to be. As I said previously, Android is now a lot more polished as an OS and there are so many more cross-platform apps available.

One of the big differences that still exists between the two platforms is the flexibility of the Android interface. You can choose your own launcher, layout, colours, default apps and a ton of other settings that iOS keeps firmly under lock and key.

You could spend far too much time on setting all this up, but I’ve just had a look at the apps I use the most and organised them into some on-screen folders under what I think is a logical categorisation.

(If you have no interest in reading about other people’s mobile phone settings, you may as well stop reading at this point. And frankly, what sane person would blame you.)  Continue reading “Organising the Nexus 6P”

The Android Experiment: one week in

Okay, so strictly speaking I’m not a full week in to my “new life” with Android rather than iOS, but I started using a Nexus 7 this day last week and my new Nexus 6P arrived last Tuesday.

I fully intend to do a full comparison between Android and iOS – a very subjective and incomplete comparison, if I’m honest – but for now, my main take-aways are the following:

Continue reading “The Android Experiment: one week in”

A mini return

apps

Since I got my iPad Pro 9.7″, my iPad Mini3 has been relatively unused. As in, completely unused. The Pro has replaced it in all things, to the point where when I picked it up yesterday, the little red notification illustrating app updates from the App Store was in triple figures.

A sure sign that I haven’t been using it.

Sure, it’s regularly been placed on the charger to keep it full of juice, but that’s it. I almost felt guilty for abandoning this little, previously-loved, iPad. So I decided to do something about it.

Continue reading “A mini return”

Considering notes on iOS

The guys over at the Mac Power Users podcast spent a while reviewing the various options we iOS users have when it comes to Notes apps. The podcast covers the pros and cons of the popular apps, including: Apple Notes, Evernote, OneNote and just using plain text files (!!).

You can listen to the notes episode here.

As might be obvious from this blog, I’m an Evernote user and, while I don’t think it’s perfect, it’s the best option I’ve found in years. It needs tightening up and speeding up, but for me, it’s light years ahead of OneNote. And I don’t have the discipline to simply use plain text notes.

The podcast got me thinking about how to take notes and how to make them more useful. I think it’s helpful not just to consider how you’re going to record the information, but to make it easy to find again in future (otherwise, why record it in the first place?). Evernote allows me to put notes in ‘notebooks’, add tags to each note and has a very powerful search that also leverages OCR – optical character recognition.

This is a magic-like technology that can take scanned information and recognise the words on the page. It’s pretty good at understanding my handwriting, via scanned notes, and superb at parsing PDFs I’ve put into Evernote. As a result, I never have to take more than a few seconds to find anything I’ve put in Evernote.

Yes, it’s a bit bloated now and can take a while to sync – but I’m hopeful the new leadership at Evernote are now more focused on their core product and want to make the kinds of improvements that will stem the flow of people abandoning the platform for Apple Notes.

The podcast is definitely worth a listen – I’m a subscriber – especially if you’re thinking about organising your key information in an app.

What counts as a podcast?

You can look at all the hi-tech recording equipment you like, but if you can’t bear the sound of your own voice, it’s not an idea to try to make a podcast.

Right?

Well, I put my sandwich down over lunch and spoke a few words into my iPhone to test a theory. The blather is over on SoundCloud and pasted in below:

I actually just created an audio note in Evernote on the phone, then synced it with the desktop app, dragged the resulting MPEG4 file into the SoundCloud browser and…there you have it. A podcast!

No. Not really. It’s about a minute of nonsense. But I frequently wonder if it would be easier to share the “very important thoughts” that exist in my brain with a wider audience by simply speaking them into a microphone.

But there’s the rub. I hate the sound of my own voice. A flurry of unexpected media appearances on the BBC and elsewhere in January did nothing to take away the deep, deep bowel-disturbing shudders I feel when I hear my own voice once it’s been recorded.

Maybe I’ll get used to it.

Or maybe this is the last time I put a sound file featuring my voice on the internet.

A question for anyone else who uses SoundCloud this way – is there a better app to use on your iPhone? Looks like you can’t upload from SoundCloud on iOS, just via the browser. Not very helpful when you’re away from a desktop computer.

Is everyone leaving Evernote?

evernote-logo

Is everyone leaving Evernote? Seriously. I have to ask.

I’ve noticed a slightly disturbing trend in the tech news: the growing number of destinations available for exported Evernote content.

First, there was Apple – you can import Evernote content into the Apple Notes app. Next came Microsoft, with a (PC-only) importer for their OneNote app. And this morning, I read on Twitter that DayOne are considering an importer too!

Continue reading “Is everyone leaving Evernote?”