¶ Brewing Something New

Lately my creativity & drive for writing on this site has suffered.

I've felt like I am standing in an echo chamber. This site has been focused on tech and tech alone for its entirety. It's even in the name. And the name somewhat holds me back when I've considered broadening the scope of topics I write about here. I know this is my site and I can write whatever I want, no matter the name. But it still gives me pause (for all the wrong reasons).

I'll still write about tech, as it is a huge part of my life, but I'm done being confined to it. I'm branching out to new topics — observations and opinions about things such as productivity, leadership, growing relationships, service, family life, and even my faith. I am not a professional on any of those subjects but I want to exercise mental muscle of creativity by exploring topics I find occupying my mind.

It's time for change. I came up with a new name, registered the dot-com & snagged a twitter name, and hired a designer for a snazzy logo. Now it is time to push some pixels around on this site and flip some switches for the new hotness.

With this fresh start for the site I'm giving myself permission to write the way my heart wants to write. To venture into topics which strain my comfort level and hopefully allow me to grow as a writer.

No matter how you follow the site, everything will redirect just fine. You should not need to adjust your RSS reader, re-follow on Twitter, or anything like that. And of course, all the previous content from over the years will remain.

While I have loved the name techese it has been mentally holding me back. Say hello to Full City Press, brewing now, and being served up soon.

¶ Last Minute Watch Thoughts

I've posted very little — if anything — about the Apple Watch. I'm pretty excited for it as I can see some areas it would be useful for me. Admittedly, I hadn't really considered the Watch much until two things happened in the past few months.

  1. My parents bought me a Seiko 5 Automatic watch for Christmas (thanks Mom & Dad!).
  2. I lost my Fitbit One.

I hadn't really worn a watch since around 2004 when I started using a laptop as my main computer. At the time, the watch strap on the watch I wore dug into my wrist as my wrist rested on the laptop while typing. I was in college at the time, and was typing pretty much most of the day every day.

The strap on the Seiko 5 is fabric, and I don't have this problem. It's a simple watch, and I've loved wearing it. I could go on more, but I'll save that for a future article.

Losing my Fitbit has been the biggest impact. Yes, I could go buy another Fitbit. But for kicks and giggles I started using the M8 motion coprocessor in my iPhone 6 to track steps. All this gets recorded into Apple's Health app, which fascinates me. However I am mainly using Pedometer++ to visualize the data. I also still have the Fitbit app tying into the M8 with its MobileTrack function, and I also tied in the Nike+ Fuel app to it to complement my Nike+ Running app.

The experiment with the iPhone 6 for step tracking has been great. And adding the Apple Watch to that as an additional set of sensors for that ecosystem is very enticing.

But I also had a couple thoughts this morning of What If… that would make the Watch even more compelling.

Security

What if the Apple Watch could be used a token of sorts to unlock your Mac when you are near it and lock it when you walk away. I like to think this would work much like how the Watch will work with Apple Pay.

For Apple Pay, you must have the Watch in contact with your skin, and authenticate it with your iPhone. Break the skin contact, and a re-auth will be required.

What if you also had your Watch paired to your Mac, and have to log in with your password once on the Mac to authenticate, and then the Watch serves as a proximity token as long as skin contact is maintained.

It's just a little thought, but I can see that being yet another compelling selling point for the Apple Watch.

Paper by FiftyThree makes tools free

Paper by FiftyThree is a lovely drawing and sketching app for the iPad. I like to dabble in it now and then, and my son loves it (when he remembers anything besides Minion Rush exists on an iPad).

For a good long while, Paper has had basic tools for free, and an expanded toolset for an in-app purchase. Now this free app has made its tools completely free, as well. I immediately wondered how they are making money, but then I remembered Studio Neat's little experiement.

Studio Neat took an app that wasn't seeing much for sales, made it free, and put an ad in it for their own smartphone tripod mount, the Glif. Let software sell hardware. It's what Apple itself does, right?

It just so happens that FiftyThree makes a stylus named the Pencil. And it was handcrafted for use with Paper. Maybe this is the way to let the software sell the hardware.

As I said, Paper is a wonderful app. If you like to doodle, sketch, or even make artistic masterpeices, and you have an iPad, then I highly recommend grabbing it.

And hey, maybe check out the Pencil, as well. I know I'm thinking about it a little more.

Now you can get your same Verizon data plan cheaper

If you have Verizon, you'll want to check and see if you can take advantage of their new data prices today. Many of the pricing tiers dropped by $10.

Verizon isn't automatically giving existing customers the new pricing, but you can go into your account settings and select the same data plan for the cheaper price, and it will start on your next billing cycle.

$10 a month may not seem like much, but that's $120 per year. I can think of a few good uses for $120 to go to.

1Password 5.2 for iOS & 5.1 for Mac

Speaking of app updates, today we at AgileBits released a couple awesome updates for iOS and Mac today.

1Password 5.2 for iOS brought home the awesomesauce by adding a nifty Login Creator to help build Login items properly. It also added a Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP) feature for Pro owners helping strengthen up security for sites that offer. Two-step verification is a great thing and 1Password is aiming to make it easy to use and understand.

1Password 5.1 for Mac focuses on sync — both behind the scenes and on stage. A lot of code was optimized to make sync the best it has ever been (iOS benefitted from this in shared code, as well) and the Sync interface in Preferences has been completely re-done to make setting up sync as easy as selecting a vault and choosing a service from a drop down list.

Both updates are free to existing owners of 1Password 5 on the respective platforms. Everyone on the team poured a lot of effort into these releases, so if you see any of us on Twitter, be sure to send an emoji high-five.

Twitterrific 5.9 — The Photography Update

Twitterrific is an app that is near and dear to my heart, as I have been using since day one of being on Twitter (nearly 7 years!). Over the years I have developed a wonderful friendship with some of the folks at The Iconfactory. As such, I've been a beta tester for a good long while, and the 5.9 update has been particularly difficult to keep quiet as I've just wanted to scream about its awesomeness from the mountains.

Yeah yeah, there aren't mountains in the Great Plains, so maybe just a small hill. I digress.

I love photos. Twitterrific 5.9 is all about photos. You can now add mutliple photos (up to 4) using Twitter's photo service, and you can view photos (even multiple photos) from just about any service you can link to. Best of all, Instagram photos now load in Twitterrific's photo viewer without having to load the mobile site.

Videos also get a nice treatment with an improved viewer with playback controls, as well as animated GIFs. My colleagues at work and I basically live off GIFs, so this is extremely welcome.

Twitterrific 5.9 is a free update in the App Store, and it really is the most delightful Twitter app out there. If you love simplicity without sacrificing features, you need to get acquainted with Twitterrific.

Be sure to check out The Iconfactory's feature overview video for Twitterrific 5.9, and either leave or update a review on the App Store.

Apple's Lost Functional High Ground

Marco Arment:

Apple’s hardware today is amazing — it has never been better. But the software quality has taken such a nosedive in the last few years that I’m deeply concerned for its future.

[…]

The problem seems to be quite simple: they’re doing too much, with unrealistic deadlines.

We don’t need major OS releases every year. We don’t need each OS release to have a huge list of new features. We need our computers, phones, and tablets to work well first so we can enjoy new features released at a healthy, gradual, sustainable pace.

Apple's (lack of) software quality has been a consistent topic with my team at work, with my techie friends in town, and even with many friends who are not what I would call technology focused. That latter group should scare the crap out of Apple.

Those are the folks where the phrase “it just works” sounded like magic. And they believed the magic because save for a few things, it was magic. But now everyone sees the reality behind the tricks. The mystery is gone.

We're carrying around a drowned magician in the world's most exquisite glass case.

Why NORAD Tracks Santa

NPR:

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup's secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

[…]

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. "And then there was a small voice that just asked, 'Is this Santa Claus?' "

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

"And Dad realized that it wasn't a joke," her sister says. "So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho'd and asked if he had been a good boy and, 'May I talk to your mother?' And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet? There's a phone number to call Santa. It's in the Sears ad.' Dad looked it up, and there it was, his ;red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus."

This story brought a flood of memories back from my childhood. I remember my parents and I calling the hotline, and trying again and again after getting busy signals until we finally spoke to an airman to get Santa's location.

These days there's an app for that (and a site), but the past years I have tried to call in with my son because there are still men & women of the armed forces answering these phones on Christmas Eve, talking to countless boys & girls.

Thank you to those who serve in our military daily, but especially to those providing an evening of fun and whimsy to the small voices on the other end of the telephone.

This Christmas Eve, dial up 1-877 HI-NORAD with your children and thank a service man or woman for their efforts in keeping tabs on Santa.