Tag Archives: travel

Apple Maps adds ChargePoint

A few of years ago we took a vacation to New York City and Montreal. We were taking the subway so often, I switched to Google Maps for its transit directions. I’ve been using Google Maps exclusively ever since.

Until now, there were very few reasons to go back to Apple Maps. Apple has been playing catch-up. Why use a product that is only adding features from a competitor, but not anything new?

This week Apple rolled out a unique feature that’s interesting to me: ChargePoint integration to find charging locations for electric cars. Ryan Christoffel covers it at MacStories:

Having spent several years building partnerships to ensure its data won’t lead any drivers astray, Apple has more recently been able to focus on integrating data that’s less important, but still quite useful. A few months ago we saw the company team up with Parkopedia to improve parking data, and now charging stations are a natural next step.

I rarely need this — and the ChargePoint app itself has more detail, such as how many spots are actually available — but I’m excited about it as a new feature. I hope that it represents a fundamental improvement across the maps platform. I’m putting Apple Maps back on my home screen for a while.

Mixed feelings about the iPhone 7 future

Federico Viticci published a great review of the iPhone 7 for MacStories last week. He opened with this:

After nearly two years spent using a 5.5-inch iPhone, I’m accustomed to not having a compact phone anymore. The iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus have reshaped my iPhone experience for a simple reason: they give me more of the most important device in my life.

Followed by the main theme of his review:

In many ways, the iPhone 7 feels like a portable computer from the future – only in a tangible, practical way that is here with us today.

I’ll admit to some jealousy of Federico’s iOS-only lifestyle. Apple’s mobile OS is fun to use in part because of its simplicity and in part because of its inherent mobility.

If I could only choose one computing device — one phone, no tablets, no Macs — I would get an iPhone 7 Plus. The largest phone would make for a great mini tablet, nice for photography, writing, and the web. Maybe when I retire from living in Xcode and Objective-C, I’ll daydream about traveling the country with a backpack and iPhone 7 Plus, never tied to my desk again.

But in the meantime, I’m fortunate that I can have a Mac and a few iOS devices. When I go to a conference, I take the iPad Mini and big iPad Pro along with my phone. Because I have those larger devices available, I always want the convenience of carrying the smallest phone when I’m not sitting down to work. The weight and feel of the iPhone SE is perfect.

There’s a point in Federico Viticci’s review where he covers the headphone jack controversy. He hints at a common justification I’ve heard for some of Apple’s decisions, and I think it’s kind of a defeatist attitude that is worth commenting on:

You and I might wax philosophical about the beauty of RSS, HTML, MP4, and USB, but millions of people only demand easy tech and engaging social apps.

Federico is right, but this fact is exactly why those of us who are passionate about open standards must make a strong case for them. We can’t leave such important decisions only in the hands of big corporations and fickle customers. It’s our responsibility to write about what we believe is best for the web and best for the tech industry.

Real work on the iPad

I only took iOS devices with me to Indianapolis last week for Release Notes. My iPad Pro with smart keyboard, for writing and podcasting; an older iPad Mini, for reading on the plane; and of course my iPhone SE.

A couple of months ago, Dan Counsell wrote about the iPad as a poor choice for everyday work:

I know a lot of journalists use the iPad full time, and that’s fine. The reason they can use it full time is that typing text has very low system requirements. However as soon as you need to move files from one app to another or unzip a document the iPad starts to make your life more complicated.

Part of the issue is that out of the box, the iPad can’t do everything that a Mac can do. The iPad needs apps. As Ben Brooks wrote about Dan’s ZIP file example:

It would be great if iOS expanded zip extraction as a built in tool, but it doesn’t, and yet a tool to do unzip is easily found, safe, and free.

iOS doesn’t have the Mac’s Finder. I could actually see a third-party iOS app centered on file management first, instead of just as an extra feature on top of text documents or photos — an app that blended a little of document providers, iCloud Drive, and app launching. Kind of in the spirit of the Finder-replacement PathFinder.

There are iOS apps to do pretty much anything. What often makes iOS slower to use is there’s less glue between apps and documents than on the Mac. No drag and drop between apps on iOS. Fewer keyboard shortcuts.

I love how Workflow sidestepped these issues with automation. I use a workflow for posting Instagram photos to my own blog. And Federico Viticci uses Workflow extensively. In a recent Club MacStories newsletter he shared how he used Scrivener and Workflow to write and prepare his iOS 10 review.

Another simple workflow I’ve used is to convert a podcast to MP3 from Ferrite. Every episode of Timetable was recorded on the iPhone or iPad. At WWDC, I edited Core Intuition on the iPad with the help of Ferrite and the web app Auphonic, which Jason Snell has also written about:

I was able to export and upload The Incomparable while sitting at a comfortable table in an Ashland pub, drinking their beer and using their free Wi-Fi. Auphonic did the rest, re-encoding the file as an MP3, tagging it properly, and uploading the result to both my Libsyn account and to The Incomparable’s FTP server.

When I was visiting a new coffee shop every day for 30 days, I loved taking the iPad with me because it was a lightweight, focused writing environment. With the right apps and workflows, it’s a fun computer to work on. I didn’t miss my Mac while traveling last week, and I expect iOS to serve me well on future trips.

Only taking my iPad Pro to WWDC

I’ll be in San Francisco for WWDC, although as usual in recent years I won’t be staying all week. While out there I’ll be attending AltConf and other events, recording a podcast or two, and catching up on some writing.

I probably should take my MacBook Pro to code on projects, but I never have time. And I’ve been working so much lately, I probably need a break from Xcode for a few days. So I’m going to travel light this time and only take my iPad Pro with me.

I used my iPad Pro often when working from coffee shops and libraries earlier this year. I think I have a pretty good sense of what I’m productive with on it. iPhone and Mac app coding is out, but email, chat, writing blog posts, and even light web site maintenance are all fine, and those are the kind of things I do while traveling.

That leaves podcast recording as the only question mark, but actually I’ve recorded every episode of Timetable using my iPhone specifically so that I could get used to recording away from my office. I wrote a few months ago about my microphone for Timetable. I’ll do the same thing when Daniel and I record our WWDC thoughts after the keynote, with editing on the iPad Pro.

I’m excited about the conference. I’m looking forward to catching up with folks, the news from Apple, and — because I won’t even have my laptop — a bit of a break from the stress of thinking I should be programming.

Get one thing done today

Natasha the Nomad has a post about prioritizing the “one thing” that has to be finished today, even if everything else slips:

When I wake up (or the night before), I think “What is the one thing that I can do today to feel like I had a successful day, even If I nothing else gets done today”. No matter what, I end up getting that one thing done.

I find this kind of approach really useful. Saying you’re only going to finish one thing is admitting the reality that for many days, if you’re unfocused or juggling too many tasks, there’s a lot of “work” but nothing gets done. When I work out of the house in the morning with my iPad Pro, my goal is equally simple: publish a single blog post. If I can take care of email, edit other draft posts, work on planning notes for a project, etc. — that’s great too.

A diverse community through writing

I read a lot of weblogs. RSS is a great way to keep up with sites that update infrequently, or that aren’t popular enough to bubble up on Twitter with dozens of retweets. But the Mac and iOS community has grown so much over the years. I know there are many new writers who haven’t been on my radar yet.

Brent Simmons has posted a great list of tech blogs by women that I’m going through now. There should be something there for anyone interested in development or design:

“I made a list of some blogs I already knew about, and then I asked my friends for more, and they totally came through.”

The list grew to include over 50 blogs as suggestions arrived to Brent via Twitter. I’ve already subscribed to a bunch and look forward to discovering even more.

One of my favorite new blogs is the travel blog complement to Natasha The Robot, which made Brent’s list. Natasha was recently hired at Basecamp, runs the This Week in Swift newsletter, and writes on her new blog about working remotely. From a post about taking her laptop to restaurants in Europe:

“The nice thing about this is that I get a really cool and inspiring office for a few hours – each cafe or restaurant has it’s own vibe, people, music and I don’t feel rushed internally knowing that I need to go back to my apartment or coworking space to actually work.”

When I quit my day job this year, it was partly so we could travel more without worrying too much about my work schedule, outside of when the kids are in school. In fact, just days after I finished writing my two weeks notice blog posts, we went to Europe and started a private family blog about the trip. So I’ve been inspired by Natasha’s blog as she shares her experience working in different cities.

And that’s a theme you’ll find in many of the developer-oriented blogs on Brent’s list. Wanting to get better, learning something new, and then sharing it with everyone else. Take this advice from Becky Hansmeyer, who wrote a daily series of posts about what she learned building her iPhone app, one post each day while she waited for her app to be approved by Apple. From day 4, on design and color:

“I think the biggest thing I learned in choosing colors and fonts for my app is not to get too hung up in making comparisons to other apps. I spent a lot of time looking at my favorite apps like Overcast and Tweetbot and thinking about the decisions the developers made, and as a result I wound up feeling like I had to make those same decisions. But that was stupid because my app is my own and is also designed for a much smaller market.”

Or this quote from Kristina Thai, who wrote a post about preparing to give a talk for the first time:

“My presentation didn’t flow, it was jagged and very rough around the edges, but I kept at it, made some changes and it got better. And better. And even better. And then I practiced it in front of a couple of friends who gave me even more feedback until I was ready.”

Kristina also gave a talk called Become a Better Engineer Through Writing. You can get a sense of the talk by downloading the slides. It covers the value to programmers in keeping a private journal, why you might write tutorials for your site, and makes a strong case for blogging.

Blogging isn’t difficult, but it’s still not yet as easy as tweeting. By creating a blog, you’re making a statement that you care about something. As I go through Brent’s list of bloggers, that’s what I’m looking for: what does the author care about, and what can I learn from or be inspired by in their writing? Because the more diverse our RSS subscriptions are — the more varied the opinions in what we read and share with others — the closer it gets us to a strong, healthy community.

Back from Europe

After blogging every day for a couple weeks at the end of July, I decided to take a break while my family and I took a vacation to London and Paris over the last 10 days. Instead we kept a private-ish travel blog of the trip. It’s similar to what I might post in a private journal (handwritten or Day One), but accessible to family in a richer “own your own content” way than just Facebook photos.

I also posted 7 photos throughout the trip to my Instagram account. I like to use Instagram to capture just the very best photo from something, so the timeline never feels overloaded. Of course we took hundreds of photos overall. Some went to the trip blog, some went to Instagram and Facebook, some went to Snapchat (teenagers!), and the rest we’ll sort through as we have time. We had wi-fi in the apartments and so I made sure everything was synced up to Dropbox at least once a day.

I worked a little while traveling, but could only be so productive without getting in the way of enjoying the vacation. I’m catching up on some email and client work this morning. Feeling fairly rested despite a very long travel day coming back home.

Conferences in cool places

Last week my Instagram timeline included a bunch of really beautiful photos from folks in Ireland for Úll. Jason Snell writes about the conference:

“The location, in Killarney in county Kerry, is spectacular. It’s rainy and windy and the different patterns on the surface of the lake right outside the hotel are beautiful to watch.”

There were a lot of neat ideas for Úll that I bet made it special, including a kids track and the train ride. I’m a sucker for anything train related, for example the train car hotel rooms in the upcoming Release Notes conference venue.

These special touches transform a conference into half work, half vacation. Every technical thing you might want to learn is on the internet these days anyway. Conferences should be about inspiration as much as anything else, and a great setting is part of that.

Here’s Jason again, writing about the national park location for Yosemite CocoaConf:

“As I just experienced at Úll in Ireland, these sorts of conferences are truly special. It’s a chance for a small group of people who share an interest in Apple and related technologies to spend a few days together. They’re always a blast, but add in the unique setting of Yosemite National Park and this one promises to be that much more amazing.”

I’m sorry to miss that one. For the last several years I’ve mostly fallen into a pattern of traveling to attend just one non-WWDC conference a year. This year I’ll be speaking at CocoaConf in Austin and hope to make Release Notes as well. Tickets for CocoaConf are on sale now, and Release Notes tickets should be announced soon.

Honeymoon world tour

“Via Daring Fireball”:http://daringfireball.net/linked/2010/09/12/lanyrd, I’m loving “this blog and idea”:http://sparkabout.net/ from newlyweds Simon Willison and Natalie Downe, who are traveling the world on a working honeymoon:

“We’ve been in Morocco now for just over a month. We launched Lanyrd from a rented apartment in Casablanca, and we’re writing this update from a Riad in Marrakech. So far, travelling and working on a startup have complemented each other surprisingly well.”

In 1999, Traci and I took a similar but shorter 2-month vacation to Europe where we both worked remotely. This was before wi-fi, so much of the destination planning centered around pay-by-the-hour internet cafes or reliable hotel phone lines for dial-up. Lots of backpacking, cheap rooms, and trains and boats between 6 countries. We were constantly broke and our accommodations varied between the crummy (freezing showers at a hostel) to the beautiful (freezing showers with a Mediterranean view), but those were easily some of the best weeks of my life. At the end of the trip we got engaged and came back to America to get married and have kids and never leave our neighborhood again.

Someday we’ll go back.