red escape

Section \ Tech


Apple Watch Series 8 - More is More

Note : This article is all about the standard Apple Watch Series 8. I’m not going to talk about the Apple Watch Ultra because it is a whole new beast. But I did want to mention - if you have a 45mm Apple Watch Series 8, you CAN use the new Apple Watch Ultra bands and they look pretty good. I’ll link a video below.

Like many of you, I’m still figuring out the right cadence to upgrade my Apple Watch. I upgrade my iPhone every two years, which is a bad habit formed from the days of carrier phone contracts. I don’t do that with my Watch though. The passiveness of the Apple Watch means that unless the device is broken or noticeably slow, I don’t actively want to change it. Why risk messing up a good thing?

With this in mind, my Watch upgrade history goes something like this. I went from an original Apple Watch (Series 0) to a Series 3. That was obvious, as it had a major speed increase and cellular support. Having cellular support in the Watch was awesome and sounded super useful (spoiler : it wasn’t). The next year I upgraded again, from a Series 3 to a Series 4 and it’s wonderful, massive new display. I dropped cellular on this model due to the lack of use it received over the previous year. That Series 4 is where I stayed until the Series 8 came out last fall. I thought the always on display and speed increases were nice, but it wasn’t going to make a tangible difference in how I used my Apple Watch.

I will also confess that I originally planned on upgrading to a Series 7 in 2021 with it’s rumored flat edge redesign. The design change was my motivation to upgrade and when that didn’t materialize I went back into hibernation. So why jump on the Series 8? The temperature sensor was the straw the broke the camel’s back, but more on that later. I finally realized that all the things I had skipped over the last 4 generations added up to a pretty nice upgrade, even without a huge “wow” feature that I had conditioned myself to wait for. I would still be getting the always on display, improved performance, improved battery, and fast charging. I also wanted to switch back to a cellular model, as I had started running and found that connectivity way more useful now. These upgrades would also let me take full advantage of sleep tracking, with would go hand in hand with the newly announced temperature tracking and how it worked. I swear that discussion is still coming.

What’s New

Lets talk about wha...

Read Full Story

To Affinity and Beyond

For the majority of the past twenty years I have used Adobe apps every day. I am intimately familiar with them. I have also been using the Affinity suite for the last few years. I wanted to discuss the rising popularity of Adobe alternatives and what Serif specifically brings to the table.

To start, people who know me are aware that I’m not a fan of subscription software. I refuse to even sell my own software as a subscription.

A few years ago Adobe drastically changed the landscape of the design world by moving all of their Creative Suite apps to a subscription only offering. Since that point, the trinity of Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign has been locked behind a monthly paywall.

A lot can change in a few years though – like the reinvention of European developers Serif.

Serif are the developers behind the Affinity suite of design apps. If you haven’t heard of them, Affinity is a modern reimagining of the Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign triangle. What’s wrong with the Adobe apps you might ask? I mean most designers were trained on and have 20 years or more of experience with these apps. Keyboard shortcuts for all three programs are ingrained in the subconscious of designers. Why even chance switching your entire design suite up for something that you’ve used your entire career?

The two things that pushed myself (and many other designers) were cost and quality.

I had previously read that most designers updated Creative Suite every other version. This makes sense for a few reasons. Cost is of course reason one – why buy new software you don’t need. Creative Suite had always been healthy investment, over $2000 for the Master Collection. But the reason that gets less headlines is the more interesting one – when you have a production workflow up and running well, you don’t want to be doing app updates every year. You want to keep that workflow as stable as possible. The conflict here is that Adobe would like you to spend money as often as possible. After acquiring Macromedia and snuffing out their largest competitor Adobe had created an interesting market. Outside of a few niches, they had no realistic competition. While most industries at the time couldn’t have dared be as hostile to their customers, creatives literally had no choice. Creative Cloud was something no one the industry was really asking for. It only benefited Adobe’s bottom line, but it did that exceedingly well. Adob...

Read Full Story

The iPad Pro revisited

I have been a believer in the iPad from day one. When Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPad on stage in 2010, I immediately bought in to having a larger tablet device positioned somewhere between my iPhone and MacBook Pro. The original iPad of course left a lot to be desired, but the germ of the idea was there.

Of course when I got my original iPad, I was mostly just a geek and graphic designer. Fast forward to now and my work has grown exponentially. In addition to graphic and web design, I now write, podcast, code and edit video and audio. And while you can pry my MacBook Pro from my cold, dead hand I have tried over the years to do more and more work from my iPad.

Obviously that original iPad didn’t get me far. iWork was in its infancy and was so-so. Other apps came along like Diet Coda and many, many drawing apps. Even Adobe has a suite of mostly useless iPad Creative Cloud apps. Over the years I have upgraded to an Air 2, then an iPad Pro 9.7″. In both cases the hardware was amazing but the software was just not up to the task. It seemed like if I needed to get “real work” done, I ended up retreating to my Mac to do so. The praise for Apple’s hardware couldn’t be higher, and in the case of the Apple Pencil they definitely raised the bar.

Not to stay they made no software improvements – iOS even added multitasking and some iPad focused features, including a basic file manager in (finally!). It still wasn’t enough for most pro workflows. With the release of the 2018 iPad Pros, these same problems have been magnified. The hardware is outperforming MacBook Pros, the keyboard and Pencil are awesome – but iOS 12 is holding back the hardware from it’s true potential.

I do feel like 2018 was a watershed moment for the iPad though, and it comes down to three main points:

1. The 2018 iPad Pro Hardware
This thing is a beast. I just recently upgraded and also got the new pencil and keyboard folio. While it weirdly makes the iPad into a mini, baby-Mac laptop, at the same time it makes the iPad feel so much more like a productivity machine. Combine the full screen display with the refined, wireless pencil charger and landscape Face ID (which I feel works better here than on the iPhone) and you have a nice computer. Did I mention the processor is faster than some Macs? The hardware has reached a point where it’s stupidly overpowered.

2. Developers give a damn
Read Full Story


So Happy Together!

I love my Apple devices, but as anyone who reads Red Escape knows I have my fair share of issues with Siri. As you can imagine, in my household we do not have a HomePod. I tried an Echo a couple of years ago and never looked back. Now I use multiple Echo devices, along with many skills, to control music, lights, smart plugs and even my Xbox.

This Has Happened Before

While while smart assistant needs are met by Alexa, I am not a Fire TV fan. I love the Apple TV interface and the hardware is pretty powerful. Also as an iOS developer, I can develop for the Apple TV. I know I haven’t yet, but the ability to do so is nice to have in my back pocket.

A little over a year ago on December 6th, 2017 Prime Video arrived on Apple TV. Supporting 4K HDR and the TV app, it brought together a service I enjoyed with a platform I loved. I can say that it substantially increased my enjoyment of the Apple TV. With series I wanted to watch like the Grand Tour, Jack Ryan, The Man in The High Castle and more, having Prime video integrated with the devices I use the most made them both more valuable to me.

Round Two

Fast forward 12 months and I have this exact problem again, but reversed. I have an Apple Music subscription, which I enjoy. However I find the HomePod, which is Apple’s speaker solution, to be limited. While the sound is great, Siri’s capabilities and dependence upon a single phone makes it unattractive to me. As I mentioned I much prefer the Amazon Echo, which is more independent and acts as conduit to all kinds of services and features. But not being able to stream music was frustrating. I had even thought, albeit briefly, about switching to Spotify to solve this problem, but as I mentioned I still prefer Apple Music. As of right now I must connect via Bluetooth to play Apple Music on my Echo.

Yesterday that changed – Apple Music is officially coming to the Amazon Echo.

I had dreamed of this integration, but honestly I never imagined it would happen. I even briefly flirted with the idea of buying a HomePod when they hit $250 during Black Friday sales. Ultimately I decided that even $100 off wasn’t a valuable proposition for a speaker that only played music (although it sounded great) and lacked so much on the smart assistant front. Thankfully Apple also decided that the revenue from potential Apple Music subscriptions outweighed the benefits of ...

Read Full Story

CarPlay Could Use A Tune-Up

Let me start off by saying I’m a daily CarPlay user. I’ve used several generic infotainment systems with the notable exception of Android Auto. So far in my experience, CarPlay is far and away the best system. It has definitely made me a safer driver and mostly removed the temptation to look at my phone. However, there are several areas where I feel it falls short, and one major philosophy that I believe Apple has wrong that is preventing it from truly solving the CarPlay problem.

First off, there is a dearth of apps for CarPlay. Apple has defined a few, very specific categories and all other apps are forbidden from running on CarPlay. Why you ask? I have no inside knowledge, but I believe Apple’s philosophy to be that texting, mapping and audio are enough. Nothing else should happen inside the car. That is admirable but also dangerously naive. The world is more complex than ever, whether Apple or I like it or not, and the fastest way to get people to pick up their phones while driving is to tell them that the one app they want to use can’t be controlled through CarPlay. Isn’t any app with a CarPlay UI a safer alternative than a driver interacting with their phone? I don’t think Skype video chats or streaming Youtube would make for safe driving apps (more on that in a minute) but at least allowing a Skype user to be in a call as an audio only participant or allowing the Youtube app to stream audio only would be marked improvements over people who are inevitably driving down the road, watching YouTube on their phone screens. I say open any app up to CarPlay and only disapprove an app who’s safety is worse than a person using their phone while driving.

I told you we’d be coming back to Youtube and here we are. This should be a slam dunk. You obviously don’t want people watching video while driving. What about the dad waiting for 45 minutes to pick his daughter up from soccer practice? What about two people sitting in a car, killing time, who want to take advantage of that large touchscreen? It turns out we solved this problem many years ago with in car DVD players. If you remember, they are supposed to be hooked up to your brake so that the unit will only allow DVD playback if the vehicle is in park. Heck, my current CarPlay enabled head unit will play videos from a USB stick as long as I am parked.

I propose an enhanced level of interactivity for apps called Parked Mode – which would allow a user to watch Youtu...

Read Full Story

Back To The Future : The iPad learns from the Mac

To save it’s future, Apple decided to go back to the past and deliver some of the biggest features of the 80s to the iPad. In the process the iPad has been juiced up by features we take for granted on our Macs, but which will signal a tectonic shift on the tablet.

I think the overwhelming majority of developers were thrilled with many of the announcements made at WWDC last week. For iPad users and developers especially Apple made several major improvements in iOS11 that make the iPad a far more capable machine for productivity work.

The “Files” app which Apple previewed last Monday feels like a miniature Finder. That has been one of the top requested features for iOS year after year. Apple finally delivering some form of file management on the iPad also shows signs of the platform maturing. In addition to managing files and folders, the “Files” app also integrates with Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, Creative Cloud and more. Files and folders also support tags just like files on macOS.

The other big tentpole feature is “Drag and Drop”. Users can now highlight multiple items using a very convenient two handed “click and drag” gesture that feels very natural. The beauty of this feature is that it can be implemented in many ways. Springboard uses it for selections – meaning you can now move multiple icons to different home screens and folders. All apps benefit from image and text drag and drop in multitasking and of course, uses it for selecting multiple files. All said, it certainly feels like Apple has nailed a click-and-drag mechanic for touch screens.

Other, smaller features that are still worthy of mention include the new iPad keyboard, which now features roll down keys for symbols and numbers. This feature has potential to be the most unappreciated feature of iOS11 for iPad. If this allows users to type even 80% of time without having to switch keyboards the time savings would be immense. While the iOS keyboard is a marvel for being able to become anything, it suffers because it doesn’t have any tactile feedback, so the less you have to move your hands while typing on iPad the better.

Also worthy of mention is the new Control Center / Multitasking Viewer. On the iPad, users swipe up from the bottom of the screen all the way to the top. They are greeted by a very Mission Control-eqse view of the control center and all the running applications. It looks amazing and functions much easier than any...

Read Full Story

If Apple Made Your Toothbrush
Toothbrushes are not sexy. They are extremely utilitarian and even with modern technological advances, the toothbrush hasn’t deviated much from it’s roots. Surely Jony Ive is sitting in his secret, hollowed out volcano / design studio crafting a revolutionary, magical new toothbrush made out of chamfered aluminum as we speak! Sadly, I don’t think that is the case (he’s obviously working on the secret Apple Car) but I have recently found the next best thing – Quip – a company from Brooklyn whom I feel is making the task of brushing your teeth easier – and dare I say slightly more enjoyable? I just happened to be in the market. My poor toothbrush was ready to be retired and I was checking out some of the newer models. I didn’t plan on spending much time on this task, but I saw an ad on Twitter (see @jack they DO work!) for Quip and it piqued my curiosity. It seemed like a very complimentary product to my Harry’s razor, which I love. After a bit of research and some reviews, I purchased a Quip of my very own. I elected to spring for the metal handle and I recommend you do the same. After holding it in my hand, the metal handle Quip feels far and away more premium than any toothbrush I’ve ever had. The design of the Quip is extremely sleek. It’s easily the most attractive toothbrush I’ve ever seen. I made the comparison earlier with an Apple product because the Quip feels like a very high-end, well thought out product. The handle comes in metal (again, highly recommend) in the same grey/silver/gold combinations as an iPhone or MacBook. The replaceable brush head is also extremely well conceived. It has a longer distance between the handle and the brush head, and the area between is also very thin and flat. I’ve always wondered why toothbrushes, admittedly the less than $20 cheap ones, had these large, curvy areas so close to the brush head. The Quip design allows much easier movement while brushing. It’s one of those famous Apple moments where you think “Of course it’s like this, why wouldn’t it be?” Another one of those “a-ha” moments is the vibration motor in the Quip. Toothbrushes have had small vibration motors for years now. While the motor is primarily designed to help us more effectively clean our teeth, Quip saw an opportunity to solve another problem. Who honestly brushes their teeth for the full recommended two minutes? Quip’s motor automatically turns off after two minutes, so you know when you’re done brushing. It also puls...

Read Full Story

MLB At Bat Hits a Home Run
Despite being “America’s pastime” the appeal of baseball has eluded me for most of my life. As a child growing up in Indiana, I’m fairly sure its required of kids to play basketball. Once one gets to high school, football is all the rage. Baseball unfortunately was always this sad, outsider sport. The coaches and players were dedicated; they truly loved the game because no one gave them any respect for playing. Thus, I had the impression my entire youth that baseball was a slow, boring and way too drawn out affair. At the ripe old age of 33, I’m starting to change my tune. With the number of technology related projects I juggle these days, taking time to watch sports has become a rarity. I watched maybe 15 minutes of the NCAA tournament, an event which used to consume days of my life. Recently I was listening to an episode of The Talk Show with John Gruber where Jason Snell was a guest. They spent probably the first third of the podcast talking baseball and gushing over the MLB At Bat app for Apple TV. Being the geek that I am, I was compelled to download the app, even if my interest at the time was limited to it’s technological feats. I am a satisfied, paying HBO Now customer so I thought it would be an interesting science experiment to see how the technology worked for other applications. What I did not expect was to be drawn in to the actual sport of baseball. One evening while coding, I turned on the day’s free game and let it play in the background. I found myself watching the tv for longer periods of time, completely ignoring the actual work I had planned to do. When the weekend rolled around, I actually sat down and watched an entire game live. After a few days I was actually learning players, teams and seeing how the game worked at a level far deeper than I had ever taken the time to before. I finally started to get baseball. In my older age I understood what my younger self mistook as being slow and boring was in fact a well paced strategy, not unlike chess. I was impressed and, more importantly, actually enjoying watching a sport where I had no vested interest. Whatever game was the free game of the day, I watched. I had no favorite players or teams (Indiana has no MLB team, our in market team is the Cincinnati Reds) and I could simply enjoy the mechanics of the game. It was beautiful. In the process of shipping Caffiend 1.5, which we finally did this past weekend, I haven’t had as much time to watch baseball as I did prev...

Read Full Story

Hello Beautiful
As anyone with electricity knows, Tesla unveiled the long awaited Model 3 this week. Even though you can argue that infrastructure isn’t in place, or range is limited, cost too high, etc., Tesla has done a wonderful job at hitting each of these points head-on. Superchargers and charging locations are rapidly expanding. Tesla has designed some truly awesome vehicles that compete with traditional automakers finest. Now, they’ve gotten aggressive on price. As I write this, the number I read was 232,000 preorders. That’s low for an iPhone, but crazy high for an electric car, even one that only costs $35k. I read a tweet that suggested Tesla had eclipsed ALL electric car sales in the entire year of 2015 in less than 24 hours with the Model 3. That’s pretty impressive. The specs are great – supercharger capable. Autopilot capable, 0-60 in under 6 seconds, futuristic design, 215 mile range. I didn’t preorder yet, but this is the first electric vehicle that feels like it’s for everybody. This is the iPhone 3GS of electric cars; and I can’t wait to see the ramp up in sales and where Tesla goes from here. I have no doubt this will be a watershed moment in the development of electric vehicles. My only complaint – what the hell happened to the interior? Seriously, where did it go? It looks like Elon pulled the monitor off his desk and VESA mounted it to an empty dashboard. I’m really hoping this isn’t final, but everything else looks amazing. Read Full Story

Meet Safari Technology Preview

Apple this week unveiled what it is calling Safari Technology Preview, which is a middle ground between public releases of the web browser and Webkit Nightly builds for developers.

Apple describes the preview browser by saying :
Safari Technology Preview gives you an early look at upcoming web technologies in OS X and iOS including the latest layout technologies, visual effects, and developer tools so you can provide input on how they are implemented and deliver a best-in-class user experience on all Apple devices.

Safari Technology Preview gives web developers a preview of improvements to Safari’s rendering engine, WebKit, along with developer tools like Responsive Design Mode built directly into Safari. The Technology Preview features the latest version of WebKit, along with a bug reporter to report issues.

The largest advantage compared to Webkit nightlies is Safari Technology Preview updates from the Mac App Store “every few weeks” according to Apple. It also runs side by side with the release version of Safari, for comparisons and testing new features without breaking your current code.

The Safari Technology Preview is available from the Apple Developer website now, for free.

Read Full Story

El Capitan a welcome upgrade for Mac users

I’m just going to go ahead and link to Jason Snell’s excellent El Cap review for Macworld, as it echoes many of my own thoughts. For designers / developers using a Mac, El Capitan will be a welcome update.

El Capitan (OSX 10.11) is all about refinement, sanding off the rough edges. Considering the breakneck pace Apple has been at with Mavericks and Yosemite, it’s nice to see them tidy up a bit.

I’ve been using El Cap for roughly a week now and I have exactly zero complaints about the new OS. There are so many nice little tweaks and improvements throughout the system that you’ll find yourself discovering new things for a while. The entire system just feels more responsive and snappier, and I fully expect that to continue and increase as more developers switch their GPU intensive apps to Metal.

You should, of course, always make sure all your essential apps have been updated or are compatible before you do an OS X upgrade and backup just in case. Don’t upgrade anything ultra mission critical right away either. Honestly though, once you’ve made sure your workflow is El-Cap Ready, go ahead and upgrade. If you’re already comfortable with Yosemite, there’s a lot to like here and the price is right.

Read Full Story