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Result of a quick play with Aurora HDR 2018, pretty happy with it, could take it a bit further for a final image but like it so far.
Iceland boat aurorahdr s

Installing Aurora HDR 2018 for a quick spin before I get some much needed exercise to relieve some stress.

Using the excellent JSON Feed WordPress plugin, by Manton Reece and Daniel Jalkut, to add a ‘/feed/json’ URL and then set my Micro.Blog account to use this as a cross-posting feed. Neat.

Listening to The MacStories iOS 11 review narrated by Mike Hurley. Decided to take advantage of the Club MacStories discount. Purchased another subscription to Overcast to load mp3 file into there. Chapter support is nice.

Austin Mann Reviews the iPhone 8 Plus Camera

Photographer and filmmaker Austin Mann shares his thoughts on the iPhone 8 Plus ,while travelling in India, covering Studio Lighting in Portrait Mode and Slow Sync Shutter.

Both are great features and I too find ‘Studio Light’ is my favourite of the lighting effects and I’ve not yet had much success so far with either of the Stage Light effects.

Slow Sync flash will actually make the flash occasionally useable which is handy.

Lower file size thanks to the HEIF and HEVC formats is great, though I worry about compatibility down the line. I running this for now but I’m considering switching back, saving space on the device is nice but it’s more the space it will save on iCloud thats appealing.

iOS 11: The MacStories Review – MacStories

If you want to read just one review on iOS 11, that is thoughtful, insightful, and comprehensive, then Federico Viticci’s iOS 11 reviewon MacStories is the one.

Much like the Siracusa OS X reviews were the reviews to read for Mac, Federico’s reviews are the ones to read for iOS.

You can read the 25 page web version for free, or if you would like an eBook version then you could join Club MacStories. Members also get to see a ‘Making of’ piece on the review and also get a discount on the review audiobook which is a new version for this year.

Trove 2.0 on Kickstarter

After backing the original Trove on Kickstarter in August of 2014, I’ve been using it everyday since I received it. I also ordered the limited Factory Edition which I’ve kept as a souvenir.

I recently decided I wanted to get another Trove wallet. Perhaps something with a bit more colour — I ordered ‘Moon’ from the original collection which is basically black and grey. I held off ordering as I couldn’t decide which colour to get.

This weekend an email arrived from Trove with advance notice of their launch of their second version of the Trove, again via Kickstarter.

I backed the next version and got in on the early bird. Within 24 hours the project was fully funded.

Based on my previous experience with Trove and how happy I am with my current Trove even after 3 years of use, if you are looking for a minimal wallet, back this now.

My Next Phone

It wasn’t an easy decision, and I’m still not 100 percent convinced. On Friday I pre-ordered the iPhone 8 Plus 25GB in Space Grey. It’s the first time I’ve picked an iPhone that isn’t the flagship model1 when upgrading, which I’ve typically done every other year.

The iPhone X looks amazing, it’s time for my biennial upgrade, but it’s not my choice for my next phone and thats surprising me.

I generally like to buy the best (most powerful and fully featured) model I can personally justify, so it doesn’t feel as outdated in the 24+ months use it will see. My 6S still feels pretty darn good and I’m happy with it, but I do want the dual camera and performance capabilities of the Plus model. I’m generally happy to not be an early, or first adopter, of new things.

Now I like shiny new gadgets as much as the next person, but they can have issues and teething troubles and those I can do without. So far, upgrading at the second iteration of each iPhone model (the S version) has worked out pretty well for me.

Is the Plus Too Big?

Since the 7 Plus was released with dual lens and a portrait mode2, I’ve been considering upgrading to the bigger model when the time came.

I’m not sure from brief experiences in a shop with the Plus model if it’s going to prove uncomfortable for me. I imagine the something more in-between the 6S and the 7 Plus would probably be the sweet spot for a phone size-wise. Say the size of the X for example, with its bigger screen, higher pixel density in a smaller overall size than the Plus.

Sure the larger size of the Plus is going to make one-handed use, challenging, and possibly a little uncomfortable or unwieldy at times. I’ll find out soon enough if it’s a going to work our for me or not.

The other thing that’s bothering me about ‘going large’ is pocket-ability. Not exactly something you can test in a store. I’ve pre-ordered a case which arrived today. That seems to fit trouser and jacket pockets dimension wise, though thats without the weight of the phone in it.

I use a case as, like most people, I’m clumsy on occasion. It’s likely I’ll buy several more cases that I switch between depending on my day. iPhones feel great without a case on they wouldn’t stay in good condition under my care without some protection. Most cases are going to add bulk to an already big phone, but I’m not comfortable carrying around my phone without one. My current plan is to get one ultra thin case, one protective folio case (the Otterbox Strada case that arrived today) and a Moment case for lens attachment.

The Notch

While the notch is packed full of cool hardware for Face ID and TrueDepth, it just doesn’t look right encroaching on the screen, icons all squished up around it.

All the demonstrations so far also show clipping and/or cropping of content to fit the slimmer (than the Plus) form factor of the device and it’s notch. It’s a distinct look, but there’s a reason for that and it’s a compromise that I don’t want to make right now.

On a device where the display is a key feature it’s a real letdown.

Capturing the Moment

The camera is a key component for me. Last time round I chose the 6S and not the Plus model. At the time the only difference between the two was Optical Image Stabilisation. While a nice to have it didn’t sway me to the Plus size.

That changed with the 7 Plus, with Dual-lens and Portrait mode. The iPhone X has enhancements over and above the improvements in the 8 Plus which makes it very tempting.

Dual optical image stabilisation on both lenses with the X compared to wide only on the Plus. A fixed aperture of f/2.4 for telephoto on the X compare to f/2.8 on the 8 Plus. The wider aperture on the telephoto will give better light gathering capabilities and a shallower depth of field. If I get the Plus I miss out on these two great lens qualities.

The front facing camera only sees occasional use for quick selfies when I’m with family or friends. While TrueDepth sounds good I’m also okay skipping it this time round.

Face ID is cool but I’m comfortable with the lower but still great security of Touch ID. Not to mention the nice ability to be able to unlock my phone without focusing my attention in it’s direction. I currently have my wife’s do feeling store on my phone so she can unlock it if she needs to which is handy for lots of little things, including being able to access my 1password vault should an emergency arise3. This handiness goes away with Face ID.

I’m also concerned how we Face ID will cope in very dark rooms too, like say a nursery during a 2am feed. I’m sure if there are issues they will be resolved pretty quickly, but I’m happy to avoid potential frustrations in the short-term.

Big Features Cost Big Money

The X is a lot of money to be walking around with in your hands/pocket, I have some concerns. Over a thousand pounds on a phone4. Worth it for the phone of tomorrow today yes, but a lot to pay, even over 20 months (upgrade programme).

There are a number of places I’d feel a bit wary of using my phone in public when it costs that much. The 8 Plus costs only £200 less that the X, but it looks like the previous model, it’s not as easily identifiable as the latest and thereby most expensive model. At least it won’t be when the X is released in November. In my mind that makes me less of a target when out and about, though it doesn’t make it safe.

I recall a time when the commonly held belief was that it was better to not use the, somewhat iconic, Apple EarPods as it made you more of a target for thieves.

Sure a lot of us carry a number of devices with us on a daily basis with a total value far higher than this. Our phones however are frequently on display though, as we stand in queues, sit on the bus or train, or walk from A to B. They are in our hands and are that much more susceptible to being stolen.

While it may not always be the case, it turns out that right now I am highly reluctant to make myself (what I perceive to be) more of a target by carrying around over a £1000 worth of phone. After a year the cost of manufacturing devices with this new technology will have dropped to a more acceptable level so that ‘second (or greater) level adopters like myself will consider it more desirable than fiscally objectionable and attention drawing.

Since my first iPhone I’ve chosen to buy my phones outright but this time I’m going with the iPhone Upgrade Programme.

The phone gets paid off with no additional cost, I keep my cheap tariff with my current provider. I’m also going with AppleCare+ (for the first time on many iPhone I’ve owned) as part of the monthly payments to provide extra protection and the option to upgrade after 11 months should the next iteration of the iPhone X prove irresistible. The second version of a breakthrough model of an iPhone is always more stable and polished.

I’m picking up my iPhone this Friday, all being well. It might not be the best Apple phone available for long but I’m hoping that won’t matter much to me, at least until next September.

  1. Not counting the Plus model variant when I bought my last and current iphone the 6S. 
  2. The camera is always an important part of the phone for me, especially since becoming a parent, I take many pictures and increasingly shoot videos. 
  3. For logins, passwords and other secure info not already in our shared vault. 
  4. £1149 for the 256GB. For a phone like this 64GB is just not enough. Base option should have been 128GB for the X. I can’t see anyone opting for the 64GB unless it’s a company phone, and in that case wouldn’t they be looking at the iPhone 8 instead? 

Learn Ulysses with The Sweet Setup

I’ve been using Ulysses for awhile and I’m familiar with most of the basics but there’s more to learn.

This recently launched course from the people over at The Sweet Setup covered the parts of Ulysses I already knew, as well as a few I didn’t. Throw in some tips and handy keyboard shortcuts along the way and this video course is perfect for beginners while possibly still covering some areas for those who’ve been using the app for awhile (like some of the iOS app features and the search, find and replace).

Videos are streamable and downloadable and have full transcripts accompanying them.

The part of the course that really caught my interest was the setup interviews with a number of writers including Shawn Blanc himself and Matt Gemmell, among others. I very much enjoy reading about and learning from the way other people work, comparing it to my practices, then trialling and adopting (or not) any useful practices.

As part of the launch week the course is $6 cheaper at the moment, coming in a $23 dollars. For me it was useful and good value. If you are unfamiliar with Ulysses and want to get up to speed quickly with the best writing app out there — this course should be on your to-do list.

Weekly Roundup — 29th August

Only the second roundup and I’m heading for 4 days late.

We took advantage of the bank holiday weekend and enjoyed lots of family time. Any downtime I spent working on the first iteration of a personal theme for this site. I pulled together a quick static version and then used the underscores starter theme as a basis.

The site isn’t complete, but it’s good enough to roll with and build on.

Aside from this we’ve been catching up on cycling events including the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup. We even managed to sneak in some baby free time on Friday with a day off work while little one was at nursery.

 Cycle to Work Day is almost here — I somehow manage to forget most years. I’m aware of it up until the actual day and then it escapes me, usually until around lunchtime and I see some tweet or email about it. In fact I stopped paused then resumed writing this in order to add a event (with alert the evening before) to my calendar. It’s the fifth anniversary of the event in the UK, if you’ve been meaning to take a two-wheeled trip to work then why not join in.

Using 1Password for one-time passwords — a helpful article from the people at The Sweet Setup on how you can use 1Password to provide one-time passwords for two-factor authentication on cloud services like Dropbox. I currently use Authy on my iPhone for this but it doesn’t cover all the cloud services I use. 1Password may be the way forward for me.

Ben Brooks on Things 3 — I recently switched from OmniFocus to Things 3. I briefly looked at the new app from Cultured Code when version 3 came out, that is to say I read the reviews and admired the screenshots. Initially I dismissed my desire to try it as aesthetic longing and a form of tool/software procrastination.

Eventually I relented and I’m glad I did. I’ve spent a fair amount of task management software over the years. Things 3 is so far the most enjoyable to use. While less feature rich than others it covers most of what I need and in a way that clicks with me and the way I think and work. It makes me smile.

Crashplan sunsetting Home User backups — they are no longer selling new subscriptions and will end current services for home users in October next year. Crashplan were the first online backup service I used. I read plenty of reviews and my choice came down to Crashplan or Backblaze.

I rolled with Crashplan for a few years without complaint until I wanted to backup a second computer. It would be cheaper to use Backblaze than switch to the family plan so I took the plunge, switched, then began the long initial backup. Since then I’ve been a happy Backblaze user. Now I’m glad I switched when I chose to, instead of when I would have to.

What makes your beard go grey? — it’s inevitable. It’s not really bothering me, a bit of grey has a distinguished feel to it these days. What bothers me is when people point it out, like I haven’t noticed it. Thanks! Incidentally it’s World Beard Day this Saturday (2nd September).

Thats it for last week. Still plenty to finish on the site so I’ll chip away at this while trying to balance this with actually writing more words this week (that aren’t code or otherwise work related). Have a good one.