No updates please

I was an avid software updater. I would read the updates list, hit the update button and see the download happen. I enjoyed doing this manually because it’s a fun process to acknowledge all the work someone has put into this update that I’m downloading. In that sense, websites are no fun – they change suddenly and have no changelist to describe what all has changed and what new features are available.

But then I got bitten. First, on my iPad Mini (Series 1). iOS 9 slowed everything to a crawl. I still have use for the iPad, but it’s limited to two apps – Scrivener and Kindle. Everything else is basically unusable. I don’t even browse the web on it. It’s just easier to bring out my iPhone 7 Plus for that.

Then, went my Macbook Pro. The main reason is under-use. When I’m developing something, I’ll update the packages, update Xcode, get the latest and greatest of iTunes. But when I’m browsing or reading on it, Safari suffices. Chrome is a crybaby on OSX, so I dumped it and never looked back. Perhaps the lack of Chrome Sync is what drove my usage down? Not sure. All I know is that my Mac cries for updates and I deny it. I don’t even know what version of OS I have. It’s a pain to find out and keep track. I don’t have Siri on it. APFS, you ask? Not gonna do it.

Finally, the iPhone. Oh, the iPhone. I still enjoyed downloading and updating apps on it for the longest time. It’s the most used device I have (and I have the Apple Watch strapped to my wrist most of the day. It’s just not used in the same way). I have truly enjoyed watching app updates change the way I use my iPhone and what I keep on my main home screen.

Then, the inevitable happened. I got bitten. The app update didn’t mention that Terminology 3 was going to change one of the main features of the app – opening on the search view. I thought the cries of a thousand users would make the developer reconsider. I don’t even know where that debate went.

Then, I updated an app I was just trying and the developer put an ad at the beginning of the app, destroying the experience completely. I gave my first ever App Store review – a 1 star with a few choice bad words. I calmed down after a day and updated the 1 to 4 stars. But I made the developer notice. I made sure they understood that not mentioning the ads in the app update is the reason why they got the bad review. They changed the update text to include mention of the ads.

I don’t mind change. I’d just like to have it mentioned to me. Today, browsing the app updates page, I saw that Delta Dental had updated their app. I opened the details and all it said was “bug fixes”. There’s more effort made to inform users of what’s changing in SnapChat than what’s changing in an insurance company’s app. There’s technology for you.

Twitter changed. Instagram changed. Facebook changed. I see more ads and more crap ‘features’ in these apps that anyone around me. Maybe they’ve labelled me guinea pig?

One day, I updated Google Search’s app. There was a time I used it as my main search app. The app team had added Cards to the app. The feature destroyed the app. It had slowed down to a crawl, it was not even loading the cards properly and wouldn’t let me jump right into a search. Google eventually fixed the cards and made the thing faster, but the app’s main focus is still ‘showing information’ instead of letting me ‘search for information’. My main ‘search’ now happens through Safari – it’s got adblocking, it’s got session retention (Google Search app is crap for that), and it’s just nicer to use.

I’d like to remember what exactly it was that broke the camel’s back, but there’s just a very long list to look through. One day, I was just not updating apps with the same zeal and the same frequency. I realized that the release notes were a joke, and features were going to keep changing at whatever terrible pace the developers decided was right. I’m a developer, I know that it’s very easy to decide to change something (and very difficult to implement it). So I respect the devs who put hours into these updates. But I’m just not going to update apps (and OS versions) as frequently as they come out with them.

Since the last few days, we’ve been talking about iOS 11. My wife has been asking me to backup her phone and update it. She’s never been this excited about an OS update. But I couldn’t be farther away from it. I’m not excited about HEIF/HEVC. I’m not interested in iOS 11 ‘degrading’ my phone. I’m not even excited about all the bugs they’ll eventually iron out with a point release in a month or two.

But, I’ve readied my phone for it. I’ve deleted about thirteen thousand photos from my phone, primarily because I was tired of keeping them around (is it true that less storage used translated to better battery life?). I’ve taken a backup or two. Maybe I’ll update my phone today. Maybe I’ll update my wife’s phone first and see how that goes.

But app updates? No, thank you.

Unraveling the future of Day One Sync

Thursday was an important milestone for Day One and its users. The launch of the Day One browser extensions marks a time when the Day One team is ready to launch API based products outside of their default apps, a somewhat return to the time when Day One 1.0 was a beautiful, open garden of apps and services that could plug-in (and out) without much trouble. Day One 2.0 robbed a lot of people of those options and these browser extensions allow us to come back into the fold.

I’m not under the impression that this means that Day One will suddenly be as open and accepting as it once was. No, the walled garden that the team has created will remain. Their promises to end-to-end encrypt all data (while allowing complete access through their API), their wish to remain free of third-party sync services such as Dropbox, and their interest in keeping their company growing, mean that Day One is never headed back to the old days.

But that doesn’t mean things can’t move forward to a good place. Of course, with the launch of Day One Premium, what that good place is, is a little unclear. Yesterday, while launching extensions on Instagram, the Day One team answered a few questions and that gives us a hint of how things are going to work from now on.

Let’s first summarize what we understand of the customer ‘levels’ for the Day One service –

  1. Basic – This is a new tier. If you download the Day One app today (or are a Day One Classic user updating to Day One 2.0 today), on iOS or Mac, you’ll be a free user. All your data will be saved locally on the device which you use and any time you want to a. Create multiple journals, or b. Sync your data to the Day One Sync service, you’ll be prompted to pony up and become a Premium member.
  2. Premium – This too is a new tier. If you want to sync your data across devices, get access to the encrypted journals feature, support Day One in their awesome venture, and get 25% off print book orders), you get to buy into the Day One subscription service. It’s currently $35/year for new users and $25/year for older users, as explained in the FAQ.
  3. Plus – This is the new name for the old tier. If you downloaded Day One 2.0 on any platform before the Premium tier was introduced, this is where you stand. You get access to Day One Sync, get to make up to 10 journals, get access to data encryption, use cloud services such as IFTTT, etc.

Here’s what you don’t get with the Plus subscription –

  1. If you bought Day One on one platform (iOS or Mac) before Premium was launched, and bought it (for free) on the other platform after, you don’t get Sync between devices. You can still export your Day One journal and import it at the other end, but that’s just too cumbersome.
  2. Similarly, you don’t get access to more than 10 journals, and can have no more than 10 images per post.

But yesterday’s release taught me something interesting –

Day One is still a company that cares for its users. So, it seems that if you’re a Plus member, many future features and launches will work for you. Day One browser extensions currently work only with unencrypted journals. However, since Plus members do get access to encryption and Sync, in the future, it’s possible that support for end-to-end encryption will be added to the extensions and as a Plus member, you’ll still be able to use them.

Similarly, right now IFTTT is the only third-party sync service allowed to plug into Day One. You can use it in a lot of ways – saving your Instagram posts to Day One, emailing an entry into Day One, stashing away your tweets, your weight (using Withings), the day’s weather, your Instapaper Likes, and your Evernote entries.

But I suspect that when Day One launches their API, Plus members will definitely get access to it. They’ll get access to it for both encrypted and unencrypted journals, and will be able to use a lot of the tools and services they were using with Day One 1.0, updated to work with the API, of course. This seems not only likely, it seems definitive with the way the Day One team launched the browser extension.

Why am I even talking about Plus? It would seem that most future users of Day One will be either Basic or Premium members, right? But most of their current users are Plus members. On top of that, I believe that a large percentage of Day One users fall in one of two categories – they either have only on Apple device (iOS or Mac) and so don’t care for a lot of Premium features, or they went ahead and bought both Mac and iOS apps, and so they didn’t get affected by being pushed into the Plus tier either.

However, I am part of a significant majority which either want Day One access on Windows or Android. This is why understanding the Day One team’s motives behind every move they make is important to me. From what I’ve understood, they’ve got nothing but good intentions when it comes to treating Plus users with fairness, even if it comes at the cost of Premium subscriptions in the short-term.

Future Day One apps (for Windows and Android) will be free and siloed the way the new versions of the iOS and Mac apps are. You’ll have to be a Premium user in order to sync between these devices. But the devices on which you’re a Plus member right now will give you a pretty premium experience, and any third party tie-ins and API based features should be available to Plus members without having to move to the subscription model.

Of course, with the launch of the browser extensions, the Day One team has solved a very big problem – getting journal entries in, on Windows (and Mac for iOS-only) for Plus users. That saves people like me from a lot of time and effort!

p.s. According to the Day One team, Day One Classic is still around, just not under active development. Most of us (specially if you read till the end), have moved on to Day One 2.0, but if you download the Day One Classic app (or still have it installed on your system), Day One Sync is still working on it and syncing to it. So if you have that, keep using it!

No Waze

So, I gave Waze a try after being a Google Maps user for a long time. I had enjoyed using Waze way back in 2012, when I drove all over California trusting this app.

But this time, it chose to disappoint. Routes keep changing arbitrarily. When I let Waze decide the route, more often than not, it picks some convoluted route with a lot of loops for no good reason. When I ask it to compute routes again, it straightens up and gives me the right route. Worst of all – when I noticed a mistake on the map, I submitted it. But instead of a streamlined process, I got contacted by another Wazer (probably a map editor) who asked me some more details about the business, and had never heard nor bothered to google for the business. I was told that Google Maps is not a valid source of information because Waze policy says no copyrighted information may be used to correct the map. (That seems like an OK policy.) Eventually, though, the map edit was accepted as is. Perhaps the user trusted me or perhaps they did their due diligence. However, a week later and the map edit has still not appeared on Waze. So much for that bureaucracy.

Waze has also been showing me ads for nearby businesses as soon as I stop at a traffic light or slow down. I don’t actually blame them for this. It could just be a tactic by Google to force people to just skip over to Google Maps.

All in all, I think my little Waze experiment is over. Time to go back to Google Maps, which keeps improving on a daily basis, by hook or by crook.

p.s. The last straw came just yesterday, when I sent my wife a message from the Waze app, to inform her of my ETA. The app asked me to pick out the contact and showed me her name and phone number. Normally, such a notification would be an SMS with a link. Uber does it like that, Lyft does it like that and frankly, that makes the most sense – the other person gets a link, opens it and can track you in their browser. But Waze noticed that my wife had the Waze app installed, so they decided to send her a notification inside the app. She doesn’t have notifications turned on for Waze. Why would she? No one needs random notifications from a low-usage app. So, she never even received the ETA link. This failure from Waze is a UX issue which they should resolve. They don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Just use the same SMS notification services that every other app in the world uses and get it over with. Since they chose to do it in this half-baked, non-thought-out manner, I think it’s high time I part with the service.

Photo by oniitamo

7 days with the Apple Watch

I was recently gifted the Apple Watch by my girlfriend and despite my initial apprehensions, I love having this device strapped to my wrist. I was test-driving the Pebble watch before this and I have an analog and a digital watch I alternated between before that. But the Apple Watch definitely has blown all of those out of the water.

As my brother Nipun once said –

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Apple needs to release a Mind-Body-Soul LifeKit

How many miles did you walk today?
How long did you sleep?
What was your calorie intake and expenditure over the weekend?

These are questions that your iPhone can answer right now.

How many pages of a book have you read in the last week?
How much time have you spent meditating using one of the meditation apps on your iPad?
How much time have you spent on twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Reddit today?
Are your iMessages mostly positive or negative?

These are some of the questions that Apple’s iOS cannot answer right now. Continue reading

Well, what about the jailbreak?

iOS8 is here today and as I always do before an iOS update, it’s time to audit my jailbreak. Of late, I’ve grown distant from the jailbreak idea as such. I still have a jailbroken iPhone 4S and iPad Mini 1, but there’s barely much happening there.

RAM? What’s that?

The first problem with my jailbreak is that it’s on a device that’s now, well, old. The iPhone 4S has 512 MB of RAM and as much as Apple fanboys will tell you that you don’t need RAM because Apple has a) tight integration with their hardware or b) amazing tricks up their sleeves that put apps to ‘sleep’ as soon as you minimize them, the truth is that if you jailbreak, you need RAM. Continue reading

Word of the day: rubric

According to TheFreeDictionary, rubric means a title, class or category. It’s also used when referring to a subheading or the full title of a file/post or page. Neiman Journalism Lab used it as follows –

The Brief, a tailored summary of business and international news under the rubric of “Your world right now.”

Source: Maybe the homepage is alive after all: Quartz is trying a new twist on the traditional website front door » Nieman Journalism Lab

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New Trent Airbender Mini 1.0 review

I recently bought an Airbender Mini second hand from eBay. I needed a case+keyboard solution for my first gen iPad Mini and this seemed to be a good solution.  The ideal case would have been the new iPad Mini Clamshell, but this was available for a fifth of the price and so, worth the try. I have been using it all afternoon and frankly, this is not the solution I am looking for.

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