iPad Productivity Report β€” 01/23/17 πŸ”’

I really want that Westworld tablet/phone thing. Also some follow up on Workflow.

Some F/U

In the last iPad Report, I talked about building a small app within Workflow. One of the issues I cited was the inability to pull from something like a csv for my lists, and instead needing to build the list again inside Workflow. As I feared, I was wrong and this can be done, it’s just that β€” like with most things Workflow β€” it’s rather opaque. (Workflow needs someone working there full time explaining how to build things, they would double their sales.)

Ari Weinstein (co-founder of Workflow) reached out to me on Twitter to tell me just how to do it. He provided this sample Workflow. The Workflow pulls from iCloud Drive and then parses the text file as a list (with new items being on their own line). This should be able to work with a csv too, but I’ve modded my csv too much to test, but I did try with a text file and it was magic.

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Full Time VPN

Protecting your privacy with full time VPN, and a massive amount of annoyances.

I watched the Snowden movie a little while back now, and after watching it I had that paranoid itch. Being iOS only there is very little I can do to make my systems more private and it seemed that the one gaping hole was my web connection itself. Which spurred me to think about getting a VPN service to run full time while I used my devices, even when I am on my home network. Both to encrypt my data streams, but also to better anonymize the web traffic.

So for the past few weeks I have been testing through three different setups:

  1. My self-owned VPN through my Mac mini server
  2. Private Internet Access (PIA)
  3. Cloak

PIA was the only one new to me, but it gets very high marks for quality, speed, and privacy β€” so I figured I better test it. My server encrypts the traffic, but does nothing about anonymizing it β€” in other words instead of coming from my device, it’s coming from a server I clearly own. Cloak is one of the easiest systems to use, works well, and while not being privacy minded, does what I label a “solid job” with it.

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My Morning News Routine

Staying informed is now becoming a job.

A large part of my morning routine, as it likely is for most of you, is to catch up on the news I might have missed the night before. A few years ago this felt like a much simpler task: some RSS, some Twitter, done. I felt well informed using just a few tools and getting news which was highly tailored to me, or what I thought mattered to me.

Fast forward to 2017, and my routine has changed greatly. I can’t use Twitter for news β€” hell I can hardly stand to read it. Twitter is a cesspool of bullshit, attention grabbing links, and it’s not where you get quality news β€” rather Twitter is where you get the same bullshit you would see on cable news.

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iPad Productivity Report — 01/16/17 πŸ”’

Let’s talk about scripting on iOS.

Building an iOS Workflow App

One thing I used to do a lot on my Mac was to build small apps inside Keyboard Maestro which would help me accomplish really tedious shit. That’s something which is considerably harder to do on iOS β€” requiring you either use Pythonista, and thus learn Python, or use Workflow and deal with a clunky UI and a limited tool set.

I’m not bitter, I’m just disappointed.

Still, I wanted to build one of these little apps this past week β€” both to see if I could actually build it, and secondly to help me out with a fun little idea I had. The idea was very simple: I have three different lists of things and I want to be given a random items off of the specified list. Nothing earth shattering, and something I could easily do on my Mac.

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The MiniVan Keyboard

I’d probably love this keyboard more, if I knew where all the damned keys were.

When writing about the Pok3r, I left out a rather embarrassing thought I had running around my head which goes something like this: I should really find another keyboard, even smaller, that I can take with me on trips. Insane, I know, but they do make them. They are called 40% keyboards (or 45% or a variety of other names, which makes them hard to find) and they are kind of insane themselves.

They do not have a number row for starters, and they cram all sorts of other things away in modifier keys, but since they are all custom, you never know what is where until you memorize it all. Or you can reprogram the entire board, which means you learn your layout and not someone else’s.

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iPad Productivity Report – 1/9/17 πŸ”’

Ok, let’s go down the rabbit hole that is Apple Pencil note taking apps.

Drawing Apps

For a couple of months there has been one post I have been putting off writing, this post, about drawing/writing/note apps for the iPad Pro. One of my key uses of the smaller 9.7″ iPad Pro is as a writing tablet during meetings/calls/research β€” using it as stand in for my trusty Baron Fig.

I’ve tried many, but certainly not all, of the apps which could fit the bill as a sheet of paper for my Apple Pencil. To answer the immediate question as to which is best, all I can say is that it very much depends on what you want and need to do with these apps. Instead let me share thoughts on the apps I currently have on my iPad Pro:

  • Inkflow: this app has some of the more compelling screenshots in the App Store, but it falls short of them in practice. The UI is clean and simple, and the icon is solid. The choices of writing tools is minimal, but still useful. I love how quickly the app launches and is ready to go, how I can easily add pages to any of the “books” the app uses to organize things. There is also not a lot of pressure sensitivity in the app, which is good if you don’t want to pay much attention, but bad if you want things to look nice. I look at Inkflow the same as I do a Field Notes: it’s not the greatest, but it’s really handy and holds a lot of random shit. Inkflow stays on my home screen as a tool to capture the random things you might find in my Field Notes.

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iPad Productivity Report – 1/2/17

That’s all fine and well for a writer, but not for a far more normal person.

I Can’t Use an iPad, But Thanks

Last week, I published this article on the overall state of desktop iPad usage. The best part about publishing articles like this is fielding the myriad of questions which inevitably hit my inbox β€” while I can’t get to them all, I do try to read them all. Here’s the most common email/DM/tweet response I got:

I do XYZ thing every day, and because of that it’s rather obvious I can’t use an iPad. I think iPads are amazing and I love to screw around on my iPad, but my Mac is essential. I wish I could use an iPad, but it’s just not an option for me/most people who aren’t writers.

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Evolving iPad Desktop Usage

After a year of iPad Pro usage, here’s some thoughts about using it as a desktop machine.

As I write this, it is a frigid Saturday morning, the type of morning where you just don’t want to think about going outside but you also kind of do want to go outside just to feel the piercing cold on your lungs. It has been over a year of full time iPad usage for me, and in that year I have had my iPad in a plethora of configurations. From the simple Smart Keyboard Cover to nearly duct taping it to the wall. What I have come to realize over this past year, is how portable and manageable the iPad as a desktop machine is.

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iPad Productivity Report – 12/26/2016

Morning routines and iPads, focusing on syncing for 2017, and Bears.

App News Reading

A couple of months ago we moved into a new house, different location, different style, but more importantly for the purposes of this post: bigger, and two stories. Our old house was all one story and thus we couldn’t ever spread out very far from each other. In the new house, we can, and we do.

Practically speaking I knew this would be different, but I didn’t realize the impact it would have on my morning routine. That took over a month to settle in to something new, and now that I have β€” more than ever β€” it has become apparent to me how little I use my iPads in the morning.

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Yohann Stand

One of the best iPad stands money can buy.

(Note: I received these items in exchange for a review. And all photography is courteous of Erin Brooks.)

I’ve been on quite a kick looking for the perfect iPad stand. I’ve had my woes with a great many stands so far, so when Yohann reached out to me asking to send over stands for my iPad Pro. I gladly accepted and they quickly sent me a 12.9″ stand and 9.7″ stand.

This is a rather unique stand in that it is one piece of wood which offers three positions for the iPad. A near vertical position, and desk angle, and a looking down at the iPad angle. It also weighs only what the wood itself weighs. From looking at the stand it is hard to believe the claims listed on the site, but I can tell you it lives up to all of its promises.

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iPad Productivity Report – 12/19/16

Portrait typing, and someone saves the day with the emoji keyboard trick.

Using the iPad Pro in Portrait

If you take a moment to think back to the first iPad, you might remember Apple shipping a keyboard stand accessory for it. Macworld has an entire article about it, but the important part was that the stand only held the iPad in portrait orientation. I think that broke a lot of people’s minds at the time, mine included.

Many people speculated of iPads with dock connectors on both portrait and landscape β€” seems like such stupid speculation now, but at the time a lot of people would have put money on that happening. With the iPad Pro and the Smart Keyboard Cover, Apple changed things: making an iPad keyboard which only works in landscape.

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The Curious Case of iPad Headphone Jacks

What is Apple going to do with the headphone jack on iPads?

The iPhone 7 dropped the headphone jack completely, moving on to being a Lightning port based device for headphones and all other things (except Bluetooth, which is still a thing). The new MacBook Pros with Touchbars came out, and even as they dropped every other port for USB-C, Apple kept around the headphone jack, as it is something they felt which could not be handled by the other new ports.

All of this makes me wonder what will happen in the next iteration of iPad models. Will the headphone jack stay, or will it go?

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Oliver’s Porter Hoodie

A perfectly light weight, and handsomely designed, merino wool hoodie.

(Note: this item was provided to me at no cost for the purpose of this review.)

A few weeks ago Oliver’s contacted me to ask if I would be interested in testing their Merino Porter Hoodie β€” I was actually quite delighted by this as the weather is now getting much cooler here in Washington State. Since getting this hoodie, it’s quickly become one of my most worn pieces of clothing β€” it looks quite nice, and is supremely comfortable.

Even so, it still is a hoodie, so don’t come to reading this expecting me to say it’s anything more than that. But, like all hoodies, it’s a different beast.

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Clothing Arts Cubed Travel Jacket

A really good rain jacket to go from the city to the woods.

(Note: This item was provided to me at no cost for the purpose of this review.)

A lot of companies produce jackets which are geared towards travel, but most seasoned travelers will trend towards light weight hiking jackets instead, as they pack down much more than most travel jackets. Partly because of this, I’ve always been skeptical of any travel jackets, so it is with that bias that Clothing Arts sent me their new Cubed Travel Jacket.

This jacket uses eVent material (like GoreTex) to keep you dry, and well vented. It features a zip off hood, and a ton of secure interior pockets. But more than that, this is supposed to be the only jacket you need to take when you travel, so is it?

I tested it in the famous Seattle rain to see how it performed.

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iPad Productivity Report – 12/12/16

Updates on keyboards and stands, and a dive into the Smart Keyboard Covers.

Some Updates

This past week was a massively busy one for me, so today a little bit different of a format is needed. I want to update you on two of my latest adventures.

iPad Keyboard

I published my review of the Pok3r here, and in short it’s fantastic. If I am at home, and writing, you can be certain I am writing using the Pok3r. I could not be happier with this keyboard and even though I take a hit on battery life β€” it is all worth it.

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The Pok3r

A grown up version of the Poker II, and so much more.

When I was using a Mac full time, I almost always used a CODE keyboard for all my typing. That lead me to find something better to use with my iPad, and I snagged a Poker II with MX Clear switches. It was a good keyboard for occasional iPad use, but it had a few fatal flaws: it was ugly, and the CMD key was unchangeably in the wrong location.

I had given up on a mechanical keyboard for the iPad when I switched to it full time β€” I just hated the way all of them looked. However, over the last few weeks I have come back to wanting a better typing experience. I hooked up the CODE and remembered why I loved it so much, but the same problem with the CODE + iPad Pro remains: scale. The keyboard is just too large compared to the iPad Pro.

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My ‘he will keep telling other people about this stuff’ Gift List

I mean, this is a gift list, there’s not much more to say.

For whatever reason, this year I have been looking through a lot of gift lists, and overall I have been really disappointed with them. Because of this I thought I’d make a gift list for a change β€” the idea behind this list is: if I didn’t have any of the stuff I currently have, what could someone give me where I would end up being so happy with it, I would tell other people they need to get it.

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iPad Productivity Report – 12/5/2016

A year of being iPad only, and iPad ergonomics.

A Year iPad Only

A little over a year ago, I wrote in a post about going to the iPad Pro as a full time computer and made this prediction:

The iPad Pro right now might not be for you, but come this time next year, I am guessing we will be seeing a lot more people starting to shift their computing to iPads.

It’s now been that year, and I think you know where I am going with this β€” there has indeed been a lot more people picking up the iPad as either their primary, or only, computing device. Not the wave I had hoped for, but a far greater amount of people than my most pessimistic parts expected.

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It’s a solid knife, but nothing revolutionary.

It’s likely no surprise to readers of this site that my love for knives is not just limited to pocket knives and survival knives, but also to the two kitchen drawers I have stuffed with kitchen knives. I want to talk about the Misen knife, which had a well funded Kickstarter campaign. The sell is this: it has better steel, it has a better edge, superior design, free sharpening for life, and all at a very affordable price of $65.

It’s a really good pitch, and I backed the campaign because I wanted to see if the knife really lived up to the hype. I know a lot about knifes, but not as much about kitchen knives. I did, however, immediately recognize the steel this knife is made from: AUS-8. Let’s just say that as steels go, it is middle of the road and a steel I would personally stay away from in pocket and survival knives because of its rather run of the mill qualities.

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The Compass 1 versus Compass 2

This new stand is a piece of shit.

One of the best products Twelve South has ever made is the Compass. A collapsible stand for iPads which can hold it at two angles, but really you just use it to hold it at an easel like angle. I’ve had one, off and on for years, and swear by them.

However, at some point Twelve South revised the design and launched the Compass 2. The new design looks very much the same, but is worse in just about every aspect (I’m being generous here, because I honestly can’t think of a way that it is better). I hate it.

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