Weeknote: 25 November 2023 – retro, retro, retro, retro

Space Invaders, Atari 2600+, broken chat bubble

Published stuff

Retrogaming week over at Stuff, as I checked out the new Space Invaders Quarter Arcade and the Atari 2600+.

Why I think Numskull’s Space Invaders Quarter Arcade is the best retro gaming gadget ever is the title to the first piece, and speaks for itself. The diminutive cab feels like a love letter to my first videogame experience, recreated in near-perfect miniaturised form by Numskull. It’s so good.

Atari 2600+ review: slots of fun or gaming relic? has me explore a new take on the similarly ancient Atari 2600. I admit I had difficulty with this one. Mostly, I’m not sure who it’s for. Currently, the unit isn’t accurate enough to be authentic, and yet its not user-friendly enough for people who just want a quick nostalgia blast.

I liked it a lot – notably, the chunky buttons and using old carts. It feels very analogue. But objectively it’s a tricky sell – hence the disparity between the rating (which I spent a long time mulling over) and the more positive verdict. I am glad Atari’s doing things like this though.

Elsewhere, my browser games list got a bump due to the wonderful Puzzmo, and I wrote I was right about Nothing Chats. It’s time to stop thinking ‘move fast and break things’ is OK. This followed up last week’s piece on iMessage on Android, where I predicted “Nothing Chats will amount to nothing”. Although I fully admit I had no idea the level of disaster the app would be.

It was a busy week over at TapSmart too. Check out my gift guide for iPhone owners, a list of the best iPhone apps to run on your Mac, and device sharing hacks for iPhone and iPad. The last of those looks into how best to share devices between multiple people. Step one is mostly to only share them with people you really trust.

Upcoming stuff

Looking at the next couple of weeks, I’m in full-on end-of-year mode. I’ll be looking to update features about using gadgets to help with the holidays, and delving into the best of Apple in 2023 – and what I’d like to see next year. Time to copy and paste my gripe about the Home indicator…

Other stuff

Over on Threads, senior CNN reporter Oliver Darcy is annoyed about cross-posting. This was in response to an app that lets you crosspost to several social networks. He argued: “No one needs to post the exact same thing across multiple social platforms. Pick one and stick with it!”

I mostly agree with the first part of that. I don’t think every post needs to go everywhere, but I do post my weeknote to Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky and LinkedIn, and often post my columns to multiple networks.

I vehemently disagree with the second part: “Pick one and stick with it!” Why pick one social network? Even when Twitter was at its height, I dabbled elsewhere. Nowadays, no alternative has anywhere near the convenience of Twitter, where the biggest advantage was the crossover of communities.

Right now, Mastodon has many of my dev and tech friends, a smattering of academics, and a few other random folks. Threads has a smattering of Twitter/X ‘refugees’. Bluesky is where the Twitter comics community and most authors went. If I decided to ‘pick one and stick with it’, I’d lose multiple communities because none of them will ever be like Twitter once was.

So I’ll never just pick one and I will continue to crosspost some things, because my Twitter community fractured and I don’t want to lose even more pieces of it.

By the way, if you’d like to follow me on any of those places, there are links over at my Linktree page.

November 25, 2023. Read more in: Weeknotes

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Weeknote: 18 November 2023 – solar powered

Green and blue bubbles

Published stuff

Addressing green bubble fury and recent news about iMessage and Messages, my Stuff column this week is I want iMessage everywhere – even though Apple wants to keep it all for itself.

I also reviewed the new iMac (“the i stands for incremental”), and updated my feature about best upcoming Lego sets.

A quiet week over at TapSmart, but I found time to add QuadCamera to my ‘bring back’ series.

Upcoming stuff

I’m currently immersed in all things retro. Next week there will be pieces from me on the Atari 2600+ – a slightly shrunken replica of the original console that plays original cartridges – and the Quarter Arcades Space Invaders cabinet.

On the latter, I threw together a seven-second video and duly uploaded it to YouTube. Which simultaneously showed why I don’t have a proper YouTube channel and yet why I should probably do more short videos, given that this got 1.5k views in no time at all.

Other stuff

I was in Spain for a week in October. I love it there. The climate in particular aligns with what makes me feel good. Warmth. Sunlight. The ability to go for walks. Naturally, my Icelandic wife reminded me two of those things exist in the UK.

So since we’ve come back, I’ve changed one of my streaks. Instead of a six-weekly exercise goal (which is so ingrained I now hit it unless I’m ill), I have a thrice-weekly outdoor walk target. Really, this means that if it’s not raining in the early morning, I exercise by going for a brisk walk rather than hopping on the elliptical trainer and watching TV.

It’s been great. I live quite near to a large pond bordered by trees, and so it’s a pleasant place to go. But it cements the fact I’m solar-powered. So I’m going to see if I can stick this small change out over the colder winter months.

Elsewhere this week, I had another reminder about technology that goes beyond mere utility. Alas, it was because one of my uncles passed away. But through the normalisation of online funerals, I could still watch the service remotely and be there in spirit.

For all of the new bells and whistles on a new phone or a great new sound system, for me it was this ropey web feed that felt truly magical. We take such things for granted today. We probably shouldn’t and should be more grateful when technology is shown to have a meaningful impact on our lives.

November 18, 2023. Read more in: Weeknotes

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Weeknote: 11 November 2023

Pain, pain, go away, (don’t come) again another day.

Published stuff

This week for Stuff, I write about the latest wearable on the street: Humane’s AI Pin won’t replace your smartphone – but I think phones should steal its best ideas. I also reviewed Apple’s new flagship laptop and may have had a hand in Stuff’s 2023 mobile app and game of the year awards.

Over TapSmart way, I delved into my favourite StandBy widgets.

Upcoming stuff

I’m currently putting the M3 iMac through its paces, while cursing that Steam’s overlay apparently no longer seems to work. (This after last week in discovering the widgets system in iOS is still flaky as hell, although at least an iPhone restart was all it took to get new ones to show up. But seriously, Apple, why doesn’t this work better?)

Other stuff

As I wrote about in my Apple Watch Series 9 review, I had a bad fall on holiday. At least nothing’s broken was my thought at the time. I’m now wondering if things were broken, just not badly; because everything still hurts. Although perhaps that’s just getting older. (If things don’t improve soon, I’ll ask about an X-Ray, but the state of the local NHS services now is such that our local surgery sent out an email inferring they don’t want to hear from anyone unless they’re basically dying.)

My HomeKit issues from two weeks ago resolved. All it took was going to Spain. During that time, Steam Guard also stopped being useless. So my default tech fix recommendation to everyone now is – if you can afford to – go for a week’s holiday. Maybe that won’t fix your problem, but at least you’ll have a nice break.

Finally, my iMac helpfully informed me it doesn’t have enough space to hold my entire photos collection. Which isn’t that big. And yet the Mac has a 1TB SSD. Turns out I have a lot of junk stored. And everywhere else.

I have a ‘paranoid’ back-up system. I run Time Machine on my iMac. Weekly clones to SSD, to two drives that I swap. Ongoing Backblaze. And when I change my main computer or upgrade to a major new OS, I take and store a full clone. So I have multiple copies of anything important. But can I get to them? Can I heck.

So my next problem during a magical period when I actually have free time is to figure out a local ‘archive’ (or, as friend and ex-colleague Chris Phin refers to it, ‘vault’ – which is much better). I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do as yet. I’ve had various recommendations, from full-on Synology systems to buying a Mac mini and plugging drives into it. I quite like the second of those, because it’d give me redundancy if the iMac conks out.

More thought needed.

November 11, 2023. Read more in: Weeknotes

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Weeknote: 4 November 2023

Remember, remember the fourth of November. Because I nearly forgot to write this weeknote.

Published stuff

Over at Stuff this week, I wrote some positive and non-snarky opinion pieces. Clearly, I must be ill. Anyway: wrap your eyes around ‘Good, better, best: With M3 MacBook Pros, Apple’s pro laptops make sense again’ and ‘Why I’m worried the M3 iMac upgrade means the end of Apple’s all-in-one’.

I also wrote about apps for NaNoWriMo (as in, writing novels), and the latest mammoth Lego modular.

Over TapSmart way, I wrote about 30 days with Apple Watch, apps to help you stay informed, and the wonderful Forget-Me-Not, which is now part of my ongoing classic apps series.

Upcoming stuff

Given what happened in tech land last week, you can probably guess what I’m working on right now. Beyond that, I’m starting to compile end-of-year app and game lists.

Other stuff

A few random thoughts knocking around this week.

One was about returning to Forget-Me-Not and realising it’s stuck in GameClub, which itself appears to be dormant. I wish I could somehow magic it into Apple Arcade as a ‘+’ game. Alas. But it also again made me think about old mobile titles that have vanished and now leave people with no way to access them. I look forward to the day when we can emulate iPhones – albeit probably (with some irony) on Android devices.

With news YouTube Premium pricing is going up, I’m starting to wonder whether in a few years every streaming service will cost £25 per month or something. Or if they’ll bin monthly options to stop people service hopping. It’ll be £100 per year or nothing.

Clearly, the entire industry is not sustainable. But people have been trained to pay – albeit relatively low monthly amounts. So what happens when those amounts are no longer low? (My guess: music will do better than telly, because you have access to ‘everything’ vs just a slice, and also you more often ‘relisten’ to songs than rewatch shows.)

Finally, Apple announced it had made billions but not enough billions. Its revenue dropped by 1%. Naturally, lots of publications raced to dust off their ‘Apple is doomed’ narratives.

It made me quite grumpy and the press response to me suggested a lot of what is wrong with the commercial world. Here was one of the biggest companies in the world, making billions in profit, being called beleaguered and in a rough patch because it cannot maintain endless massive growth and instead has ups and downs.

Parts of the world are literally on fire. We should be prizing sustainability. But no. And we are collectively never going to learn this lesson.

On a brighter note, after a recent trip to Spain, I again recognised the value of walking, versus hoofing for half an hour on the elliptical trainer. Turns out, I’m solar powered. So I’m struggling with the clocks going back. (I’d love to be on BST all year, but understand why that can’t happen.) However, on every dry morning, I’ve headed out early, walked to the local pond, and attempted to point my head at the sun. It feels good. I never want to leave.

November 4, 2023. Read more in: Weeknotes


Weeknote: 28 October 2023

One-handed typing isn’t fun.

Published stuff

For Stuff, I wrote about the hidden meaning behind the upcoming Apple event. I’m pretty sure it’s the only piece about Monday’s ‘Scary fast’ that includes the line “And then gets all upset later when people ask him why he was impersonating an owl”.

Also, does it feel like you’ve been working on a Word document for decades? Just imagine how Word itself feels. I did with Microsoft Word hits 40 – and Clippy is nowhere to be seen.

Meanwhile, over at TapSmart, I wrote about 30 days with the iPhone 15 Pro Max and added OmniFocus to my classic app series.

Upcoming stuff

Another retro console is on the way. Because I don’t have enough of those. And Apple is doing things on Monday, which I imagine will require me to write about them. Although not during the middle of the night when the event finishes in Europe. Tsk. (Strange that Apple’s running an event so late compared to usual. Must be something something China or something something Japan and gaming.)

Other stuff

Everything is going up in price. But companies can choose how they communicate this to customers. One of my comics went up recently, and the editorial apologised and said rising costs had forced this. Simple. Honest.

Then Netflix emailed me, with a message that said: “We’re updating our prices – here’s why: to deliver even more value for your membership – with stories that lift you up, move you or simply make your day a bit better”. This approach felt like an insult, especially when the offering is not changing. I’m just now going to pay more for what I already had.

Spotify offered similar BS language in its comments about payment changes to artists. “We’re always evaluating how we can best serve artists”, it said, while seemingly preparing to punch small indies in the face. Gnh.

Clearly, honesty isn’t the best policy or more companies would use it. Either that or those streaming services are about to learn they perhaps should.

Finally, much tech is frivolous. But today I unfortunately discovered first-hand that Apple Watch fall detection works. Fortunately, I’m not badly injured (although will be one-handed for a spell), and was aware enough to halt the emergency services countdown the watch had instigated. But it’s nice to know I’d have been in a better situation if I’d been unlucky enough to fall in a different and much worse way. And I’m now seriously considering pushing this tech on my parents more forcefully.

In short: some tech really does matter and can make a meaningful difference. It’s down to those of us who report on such things to make that clear. That’s certainly something I’ll be bearing in mind far more in future.

Also: typing one-handed isn’t fun. My brain churns out works too quickly for me to keep up. I suspect I might be exploring dictation over the coming weeks.

October 28, 2023. Read more in: Weeknotes

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