Weeknote: 1 June 2024 – efficiency edition

Published stuff

For Stuff this week, I wrote: The iPhone 17 Pro Max will be Apple’s thinnest ever – here’s why I think that would be a mistake. The mega thin iPhone 17 Pro Max is currently a rumour. Let’s hope it stays that way…

And over at TapSmart, there was: Don’t just remind me, Apple Calendar – help me get to places on time. Because I apparently want the impossible.

Other stuff

Still recuperating. Feeling a bit more like myself. So another very short one this week!

June 1, 2024. Read more in: Weeknotes

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Weeknote: 25 May 2024 – downtime edition

Published stuff

My Stuff column this week is Why apps could be Apple’s next subscription service – and what stands in its way. I’m not sure it’s likely nor even viable that Apple would launch such a service, but it somehow feels logical.

A trio of pieces over at TapSmart: my guide to meditative audio apps for iPhonean updated iPad buyer’s guide, and an Apple Pencil buyer’s guide. The last of those should not be necessary and may come with added snark.

Upcoming stuff

Lots and lots of WWDC24, no doubt. I’m currently wondering if we’ll hear these words: “And we call it… Apple OS”.

Other stuff

I’ve felt something nagging at me for some time now – a slowly building unease and feeling of being overwhelmed. Which I now realise is burnout. So apologies for the short one this week. I’m sure lots of interesting stuff happened, but I’ve decided this weekend needs to be one for me. Normal service will be resumed as soon as we know what normal is, as an excellent game, based on a towel, based on a book, based on a radio show, once told me.

May 25, 2024. Read more in: Weeknotes

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Weeknote: 18 May 2024 – AI(EEEEE) edition

AI, Lego T. rex, RetroArch and ARc Search

Published stuff

For Stuff, I explain why Google AI will help you – but kill the web as we know it. This one features cameos by Arc Search, Retro Dodo and an actual dodo. I also updated my upcoming Lego sets round-up. Apologies to your bank account.

Over at TapSmart, I wrote about the best alternatives to Safari for iPhone and what I want to see at WWDC 2024. Somehow, the latter wasn’t just ‘an off switch for the Home indicator’ and ‘for Apple to FINALLY let you sync photos to iCloud without you having to manually trigger uploads because the iPhone only has 93% of its battery charge left’.

Other stuff

Apple’s emulation rules remain fuzzy, but RetroArch made it to the App Store. I never thought I’d see the day. Although it is cut down – many cores are missing, either because Apple won’t allow JIT, or because it’s pissing around with other developers and the RetroArch dev was being cautious. (Apple reportedly keeps rejecting MAME4iOS for spam, much to the chagrin of the MAME4iOS creator.) 

Unsurprisingly, RetroArch’s appearance on iOS kicked off yet more ‘emulation is illegal’ rubbishEmulators are legal. Yes, a great many files people load into them may not be legit but that doesn’t make the tech itself illegal, just as it doesn’t make e-readers, music players and video players illegal. Of course, that doesn’t stop people arguing otherwise. (Personally, I wish more effort was expended by games companies and individuals to provide legal routes to play – and buy – old games than spreading rubbish about emulators.)

It also made very clear broader reporting on emulators is crap. As I said on Threads, articles should make it clear that emulators are not always straightforward to use. People assume they’ll be like Spotify, when at best they’re more like VLC. Even for seasoned emulation fans, RetroArch is a UX nightmare.

Personally, I use it often – but usually with a front-end on Linux. As-is on iPhone, it’s trying. And I fear for the people who spend time setting the thing up on Apple TV, only for tvOS to one day randomly flush the cache and crush all their efforts.

Speaking of crushing, Apple’s terrible advert continues to cause fallout. Ken Segall has a great piece on it. And Samsung tried to capitalise on it with its own ad. “Creativity cannot be crushed” was the theme. A few tiny snags, however.

First, while the ad has more humanity than Apple’s, it lacks creativity. Secondly, ‘with Galaxy AI’ is mentioned at the end, for… some reason. And thirdly, the actual product – a high-end tablet – does nothing more than display sheet music the guitarist in the advert barely looks at. If anything, that neatly sums up the depressing state of the app ecosystem on Android, which Google crushed all enthusiasm for long ago.

Finally, Quinn Nelson showed off a new iPad hover trick. Some will doubtless dismiss this as gimmickry. But this subtle effect surely has potential benefits, in providing another visual cue regarding a tool that doesn’t exist in reality, including its orientation. Previously, just the mark was previewed. Now, the shape of the tool itself can also be seen. It’d be interesting to hear from digital artists whether they find this useful.

May 18, 2024. Read more in: Weeknotes

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Weeknote: 11 May 2024 – now even iPad Proier

iPad home button, iPad with macOS Finder icon, and Zzap!64 logo

Published stuff

I wrote two columns for Stuff on the recent Apple event. The first celebrates the Home button going away, and the second has my take on the iPad Pro running macOS – namely that it doesn’t need to

Over at TapSmart, I was also on the Let Loose beat, rapidly exploring 11 talking points from the event.

Other stuff

Apple apologised for an ad in which it crushed creative and cultural objects in a gigantic press, the output of which was an iPad Pro. I get what the company was going for – all these things can be squeezed into a super-thin tablet. But the execution was… bad.

The company in the past has been capable of whimsy and fun. Perhaps it could have leveraged animation, ‘sucking’ those objects into the iPad, like apps into the Mac Dock. Regardless, a clinical metal press crushing terrified toys and beautiful instruments wasn’t the best direction.

I’ve seen people excusing Apple on the basis culture has changed. Apple is bigger now. People are increasingly annoyed about digital tools due to AI. So years back, this ad would have been fine. I’m not convinced. I don’t think people would have cheered an advert where vinyl collections, record players, CDs and tapes were crushed, only to reveal an iPod.

There are also grumbles that the iPad Pro isn’t pro enough. I get it. Apple has long wrestled with how far to push the device, while balancing its need to not impact on the Mac. For years, external display support for iPad was laughable. And today, it’s a device that is fantastic for consumption, excellent for certain creative tasks, but sub-optimal for others.

I do wonder, though, how much of the frustration stems from YouTubers, programmers, or tech pundits griping that the iPad Pro isn’t perfect for them in quite specific ways, and ignoring the bigger picture, where lots of people happily use one every day, preferring it to a Mac. 

On Mastodon, mcc wrote about how map apps are incapable of routing when you’re on public transport. This is a frustration of mine. When I’m in a car or on foot, my map app will instantly outline how long it’ll be until I reach my destination. When I’m on a train, it has no idea what’s happening and attempts to route me as if I at that second just got catapulted out of the window.

Finally, over at The Guardian, Keith Stuart braved the deadly waters of retro gaming by outlining the best video game magazines ever. At least, if you’re British.

Unusually for a list like this, I was in broad agreement – although omitting Wireframe even from the honourable mentions was a pity. Also, I wouldn’t personally top the list with Edge, but I get why it was done here. And it was great to see Newsfield remembered so fondly.

I’m not sure what the boring Commodore User was doing twinned with the far superior Your Sinclair, though. And Retro Gamer got short-changed down at #14. At the very least, that mag – which is still going – deserved to be above Future’s weird ACE and Edge wannabe games™.

Still, a good feature from Keith, who I hope hasn’t met his untimely demise after being set upon by a horde of furious Amstrad fans armed with sharpened copies of Amstrad Action.

May 11, 2024. Read more in: Weeknotes

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Weeknote: 4 May 2024 – with-ad plans are bad plans

Published stuff

I got an email from Netflix this week, telling me my plan was going to be 35% cheaper. The twist? Well, you already know it. But I wrote about it anyway for Stuff: Sorry, Netflix: I don’t want your ‘with adverts’ plan – here’s why.

One of my passions is the preservation of old games, and I got to write about that too: Beyond Space Invaders: why preserving forgotten arcade games matters. This digs into the new Quarter Arcades, which are moving beyond the likes of Space Invaders and Pac-Man to preserve more niche fare.

For Stuff, I also did my annual revamp to The best Star Wars Lego sets to celebrate May the 4th and updated Best upcoming Lego sets 2024: this year’s top new Lego releases.

Over at TapSmart, I wrote about allergy tracking apps for iPhone (which, given my own personal collection of allergies, was a great thing to get down), the pros and cons of an iPhone 16 Capture button, and the wonderful Cs Music Pro, which is the latest addition to my classics series.

Other stuff

Screen Time continues to be awful. I needed to disable it temporarily on the youngling’s iPad, to sign out of iCloud. When I signed back in, Screen Time inferred the set-up had been wiped and made me go through it from scratch. Additions were then – Surprise! – merged with the old set-up, but all the block set-ups were gone. Dreadful.

It feels like no-one sufficiently senior at Apple has kids, looks after kids, or cares about how much Screen Time their kids have. I’ve written before about how the system lacks a kill switch. It also doesn’t allow you to zero out an app, game or website but allow permission to be asked later. (The workaround is to allow a single minute, which is ridiculous.) Someone on Mastodon also noted it doesn’t even work on tvOS either. Perhaps WWDC or iOS 18 will bring meaningful updates, but I won’t hold my breath.

On Threads, writer Kurt Andersen drew attention to the fact that half of US vinyl buyers don’t own record players. He called this “some seriously loony late-capitalist activity”. I disagree. 

Just because you don’t have a record player today, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever have one. But if you have a record collection, it’s always there with you. By comparison, the second you stop a streaming subscription, all the music is ripped away from you. 

As long as you don’t get obsessive about it in a manner that derails other aspects of your life, what’s the harm in collecting records? And rather than ridiculing people for buying into physical media and supporting artists, shouldn’t we be encouraging those things?

(I don’t own many records myself – loads of CDs, but little vinyl. But I do have Wire’s three classic EMI albums on my office wall. I don’t feel weird about that in the slightest. Those albums mean a lot to me, and having them always visible makes me happy.)

Dave Mark posted about the Internet Archive’s problems. It really is on shaky ground now, and I find that a huge pity, because it does such fantastic work – and has put everything at risk by going hard on blatant book piracy. Technically, a lot of the other archiving the organisation does is IP infringement too – even Wayback Machine. But that is doing something no-one else is, preserving an ephemeral medium. It is important. I’d also argue some other archival work – digital files; out-of-print magazines – has real value. But the book thing was a massive overstep and showcased a certain ideology over even the slightest notions of realism and pragmatism.

Finally, my RGB30 saga continues. I swapped out the OS and am now running ArkOS. That appears to have solved the battery drain issue, but ArkOS is clunky and ugly compared to Rocknix. Bleh. Not sure which way I’m going to go with this one. I don’t regret buying the device, though. I’m still having a ball with Pico-8 on it.

May 4, 2024. Read more in: Weeknotes

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