Nathan Ansel on leaving and coming back to Twitter ⇒

My friend Nathan recently decided leave Twitter for a while in order to reduce the amount of extraneous information that he took in every day. This experiment gave him a chance to work on living a more focused life.

He recently came back to Twitter after several weeks away, and he wrote up his thoughts about the experiment. It is so fascinating to read how and why Nate was able to gain the perspective he did while being away from Twitter, which is something that most people take for granted every day.

I highly recommend that you read Nathan’s article, I think what he writes about is an idea that most of us can apply to our lives in one way or another.

The iPad Paradox

It’s pretty amazing just how quickly my primary devices have changed over the years. First, just a laptop. Then, a desktop computer and an iPad as my laptop. Now, a MacBook and an iPad as an occasional entertainment device.

The iPad has always been the puzzle piece that just doesn’t quite fit for me. I’ve long thought that the idea of using an iPad as a mobile computer is a great one. After all, the iPad is ultimately mobile and features some world-class mobile software. But in practice, I have never been able to tear myself apart from my MacBook when I need a computer on the go (or at home).

The truth of the matter is that whatever I can get done on my iPad, I can do on my Mac with half the time and effort. And then there are all the things I can’t do on the iPad at all (like develop iOS apps). However, I still feel compelled by the iPad itself as a mobile computer. It’s simplicity and great selection of apps makes it something I enjoy using, even though it’s not necessarily easier to use than my Mac.

When Apple announced split screen as a new feature for the iPad Air 2 with iOS 9, I was obviously very intrigued. Now the iPad could allow you to see and work in two different apps at a time, essentially doubling your productivity in some situations. Taking notes while reading something else was always a pain on the iPad, but with split screen that was no longer an issue. Unfortunately, I have an iPad Air 1, which means I don’t get access to this feature. So I took matters into my own hands by jailbreaking my iPad and installing a tweak that allows me to use split screen.

After using it for a bit, I can definitely say that split screen is a great feature on the iPad, and Apple has a very simple implementation of it. Opening and using two apps at a time is not only easy to do, but also is a real joy to use when you need to do two tasks at once. This is true multitasking on iOS, and it adds a lot of value.

Split screen is nice on the iPad Air, but what I am really interested in is using this feature on the new iPad Pro. In landscape, the iPad Pro can show two portrait, iPad Air-sized apps at the same time. All of a sudden, the iPad has turned into something much more powerful (also helped by Apple’s new keyboard and Pencil accessories). More than any other product Apple has released in the past few years, the iPad Pro stands out to me as the biggest potential game-changer. I’m also extremely wary of it.

If there is any device out there that can help me simplify my mobile computing experience and leave my Mac at home, it’s got to be the iPad Pro. From the reviews and I’ve read it seems as though the Pro is an all new device, completely separated from previous iPads by not only a bigger form-factor, but also a greater facilitation of creation rather than consumption.

Josh Ginter summed this up well in his initial impressions:

So, is “iPad Pro” the right moniker? Not likely. This device isn’t an iPad. I’ve never used an iPad like I use this device. I’ve never enjoyed resting an iPad flat on the table to type out a long iMessage, yet I’ve done it multiple times with the iPad Pro in the last 24 hours. I’ve always enjoyed strolling around the house while reading the news on my iPad, but I can hardly hold the iPad Pro with one hand for more than a minute, let alone not feel like a clown with a gigantic slab of glass and aluminum resting in my forearm. And, most importantly, I’ve always shied away from using my iPad like a laptop computer. Yet, here I am, using my iPad Pro to write for the first time in a very long time.

Likewise, most of this post was written using my iPad Air and a Bluetooth keyboard. The ability to do work on an iPad has always been there, but I am very certain that the desire to do it would be increased on an iPad Pro. That’s why I would love to try one out for a few weeks.

I won’t be buying an iPad Pro (it’s just too much money for me at the moment), but I will be keeping an eye on it. I had all but given up on my desire to transition to an iPad-only mobile workflow, but the iPad Pro has sparked that interest again in a whole new way, and that’s something that excites me a great deal.

Master Fencers Duel with Lightsabers

From the Fencing Senior World Championships in Moscow this year is this video of two excellent fencers reenacting a lightsaber battle between a Jedi Knight and a Sith Lord. These guys are so skilled they should be hired to choreograph every lightsaber fight in every Star Wars movie forever.

How to remove the margins from an iOS Today View Extension

If you’ve ever developed a Today Extension for iOS, you know that by default there is a margin on the left hand side so that the content of the widget aligns with the title. This is nice, but sometimes we want our content to extend to the edge of the widget.

This is very simple to accomplish, but it’s a bit of code that I always forget. Just add this to the view controller of your widget and you are all set:

- (UIEdgeInsets)widgetMarginInsetsForProposedMarginInsets:(UIEdgeInsets)defaultMarginInsets {
  return UIEdgeInsetsZero;

Yes, your opinion can be wrong

I really loved this article in the Houston Press about the danger of opinions and beliefs formed based on misinformation. Too often I see people who think that their opinion is valid simply because they believe it.

In other words, you can form an opinion in a bubble, and for the first couple of decades of our lives we all do. However, eventually you are going to venture out into the world and find that what you thought was an informed opinion was actually just a tiny thought based on little data and your feelings. Many, many, many of your opinions will turn out to be uninformed or just flat out wrong. No, the fact that you believed it doesn’t make it any more valid or worthwhile, and nobody owes your viewpoint any respect simply because it is yours.

It’s even more dangerous when those people spread the misinformation to others who believe it simply because it’s there. It’s the reason I avoid Facebook as much as I do.

Nox — Sunset and Sunrise Times

I am super excited to announce my latest venture, and newest project. Me and my friend Nathan Ansel have started a design and development studio called Cosmic Owl. Today, we are launching our first app.

Nox is a super simple, super fast app for finding when the sun will set and rise at your current location. Nox keeps track of your location in the background, and calculates the sunset and sunrise times algorithmically. That means no internet connection is required.

The app also features a notification center widget, and it allows you to get customizable alerts before the sunset and sunrise. If that sounds useful to you, I think you will really love Nox.

The app is $0.99, and it’s available today. Check it out in the App Store.

Conditionals Are Cool ⇒

My best friend and partner in crime, Nathan Ansel, has just started his new blog called Conditionals Are Cool. It’s dedicated to writing about programming, technology, and whatever else interests him, and it is bound to be good.

Check it out and subscribe.

Conversation Parade ⇒

A fantastic new podcast about one of my favorite shows, Adventure Time. The hosts talk about the mythology of the show, and it also features interviews with the cast and crew.

If you like Adventure Time this is an insta-subscribe.

The Focus Course ⇒

Shawn Blanc is one of my favorite internet creatives. All of the work he has done with his websites and books has greatly inspired me. Today, Shawn is launching The Focus Course.

The Focus Course is a 40-day course designed to help you find your path to a focused life. Featuring videos and interactive workbooks, and a members forum, The Focus Course is an awesome resource for anyone that needs a little help finding balance between doing your best creative work and managing your busy life.

If any of this at all sounds like something you could use, I strongly encourage you to check out the website and watch the video describing the course. I was able to take it early, and Shawn has put tons of work into this thing. It is definitely worth the asking price, and I think most people would get a lot of value from it.

Dark Sky 5 ⇒

Dark Sky is one of the most accurate weather apps I have ever used. I love their textual forecasts that can predict, down to the minute, when it's going to rain.

Yesterday, the app was updated to version 5 and it's better than ever. Custom weather reports and a new forecast view are my favorite new features.

You should definitely download the app if you haven't already. And if you have an Apple Watch, Dark Sky is the best weather app for it.

Touch & Tap

Apple has a lot going on right now with the Apple Watch, new MacBook, ResearchKit, Apple TV, and of course WWDC right around the corner. However, they’ve managed to adopt a new technology really quickly that I think is the most exciting thing happening at the moment technology-wise. That thing is Force Touch and the Taptic Engine.

First introduced with the Apple Watch, Force Touch is a new technology that let’s touch sensitive surfaces detect and recognize varying amounts and types of pressure. For example, force touching the screen of the Watch lets the user access contextual options. Additionally, the Taptic Engine is a new haptic feedback mechanism that can provide very realistic feedback. An example of this is when you get a notification on the Watch and it taps your wrist to let you know.

Just to clarify, the Watch doesn’t just vibrate like your iPhone. It creates a realistic sensation of a downward force on your wrist.

Most recently, Apple have added these technologies to the trackpad of the new MacBook (and also the MacBook Pro with Retina Display). Now, instead of the trackpad moving up and down when you click, it just senses the force that you are applying, and then uses the Taptic Engine to make it feel like the trackpad is moving.

This may not sound very interesting. On the surface, it just replaces a moving trackpad with the sensation of a moving trackpad. But these technologies open up a world of possibilities. Apple is already exploring some of those on the Mac. For example, the trackpad can register “Force clicks” and perform contextual actions. If you force click a file, you will get a quick look of that file. If you click a file and apply a little more pressure, your Mac will know that you want to drag the file. Drawing on the trackpad is now pressure sensitive.

The Taptic Engine also comes into play. It can provide a tactile response to action on screen. Alex Gollner writes about how when dragging a video clip in iMovie to its maximum length, the trackpad will let you know you’ve hit the end using physical feedback. I haven’t used the new trackpad yet, so I can’t speak for it myself, but from what I’ve heard it is uncanny how realistic and accurate force touches and Taptic feedback is.

I think that these technologies are really important for Apple. I have no doubts that we will see them on the next iPhone and iPad, and that has some huge repercussions. Alex has this to say in the same article:

Perhaps we’ll look back and realise that the iOS 7 update removed borders from buttons because one day Apple user interfaces will be able to be felt as much as seen, and button text labels will feel more distinctive than button borders under our fingertips.

Can you imagine? Tapping a button in an iOS app feeling the sensation of pressing a real-life button is huge. Not to mention tactile responses when dragging and selecting in apps, or feeling textures in games. And Force Touch will give us a whole new way to interact with iOS. Plus, force sensitive drawing could make the iPad the best drawing tablet on the market.

Apple’s touch and tap technologies came out of nowhere fast. I don’t think people quite understand yet how important this will be to changing digital interfaces. We have always been able to use touch to interact with our devices, but they have never really been able to use touch to interact with us. I am very excited to see how we will be using our devices in a year or two.

Mix Your Watch ⇒

In preparation for Monday’s Apple Watch event, you can expect a lot of Apple Watch stuff coming out of HQ.

Mix Your Watch is a cool website that lets you see every combination of Apple Watch metal and strap choices visually. This is really handy for seeing how the different straps will match the metal of the watch. Handy.