Initial 12.9” iPad Thoughts

I recently switched from a 9.7” iPad Pro to a 12.9” iPad Pro (first generation model). I have often struggled with feeling 100% productive on an iPad. It’s not that I couldn’t get work done, but it often felt like a bigger iPhone to me. Within a few hours, I knew this size was something special. It felt freeing. I spent last night working on it vs my MacBook Pro, and I never felt like I needed my laptop. I was able to get a lot done without being slowed down. The larger screen, plus iOS 11 is a game changer for me.

My new goal: go as long as possible each day without pulling out my laptop. I am going to document what tasks trigger the need.

Ideas on How iCloud Photos Could Work For Families

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Google Photos. I sometimes long for the native aspect of iCloud Photo Library, though. The feature that always holds me back is a lack of unified library with my wife. I know not everyone wants that feature, but I do. Here’s some ways I think Apple could make it work:

  1. Single Library option
  2. Read Access option
  3. Smart library option with face scanning

Single Library Option

With this option, users of a family sharing group should have the option to have a single library. Everything taken on both accounts would be accessible to both. This could be cumbersome as camera rolls fill up some random screenshots and saved photos.

Read Access Option

An option might be for users to be able to have read access to their family sharing library. Users could save anything from a family member’s library to their own. This would create a lot of manual work, though.

Smart Library based on face scanning

The option that I think could really make sense is for me to be able to designate that I want photos of certain members of our family added to my library. This would mean extending the face scanning results to iCloud Family Sharing. I could mark that I was any photos of my kids, me, or my wife added to my library. I wouldn’t end up with the extra stuff, though.

Some Details About Shared iCloud Storage

One of the new features of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra is shared iCloud Storage among family members. Since I’m on the iOS 11 public beta, I decided to roll it out to my family.

I had previously setup a family account when Apple Music was released, so I had already gone through the hassle of setting it up. The part that was awkward, but Apple has a solution for, is my iCloud account is not the account where the majority of my purchases live. I have the account that I started when I got my first iPod 2004, and I also have my iCloud account. I’ve been around so long that this is also a MobileMe and .Mac account as well. Apple allows you to designate one account as the account your family purchases pull from.

In preparation for all of this, I set up child iCloud accounts for my kids. These are special Apple IDs that can require your consent to make purchases (if enabled).

Devices running the iOS 11 beta can enable it by going to Settings > iCloud > Subscription and Apps > iCloud Storage. I didn’t document the process, but it’s simple.

The neat thing is devices running iOS 10 can join the fun. My kid accounts were automatically enabled to be apart of the shared storage, but my wife had to manually join. You can do that in Settings > iCloud. In the iOS 11 Developer build, there is an option to invite a family member via iMessage.

Couple of things to note:

  • There is no way to allocate space. I’m assuming one family member could technically take up 99% of the space.
  • Only the $2.99 and up plans are eligible.
  • While it seems child accounts auto-join, normal accounts do not.

If you think about the fact that the 2 TB plan was just lowered to $9.99, this makes it an incredible deal when combined with multiple family members.

Between Apple Music ($14.99/month for family) and a 2 TB iCloud storage plan ($9.99 per month), Apple can easily get $25 per month per family. This also creates a stickier ecosystem as well. On the flip side, this is a great deal for users. $25 a month for 2 TB of storage and unlimited Music is a great value.

You Do You

There’s been a lot of discussion of late about iPad.

  • Can it replace a PC?
  • Do I need a Mac?
  • is iOS the future of computing?

These arguments remind me a lot of the laptop vs desktop debate a decade or so ago. At the time, laptops were expensive and slow. After a period of time, they got a lot better. The benefits of the portability outweighed any negatives for some. For others, desktop computers were (and still are) the best tool for the job.

In 2008, Apple released the MacBook Air. This was an underpowered and overpriced ultra portable laptop. Overtime, the price came down and the specs came up. In fact, it’s the laptop I still recommend to anyone looking for the best bang for their buck. Even when it was overpriced and underpowered, some people still loved it. The benefits outweighed the negatived for them.

Here in 2017, we have two types of people. Those that think iPads can be used for real work and those that don’t. I’m going to set the record straight. Some people can and some people can’t. It just depends on your needs (and preferences).

If the iPad can accomplish 100% of your computing needs, that is awesome. If it can’t, then enjoy macOS. If you prefer macOS for some tasks and iOS for others, then do that.

I don’t know if macOS is ever discontinued in favor of something like iOS. I don’t know 100% of what the future of computing holds. The thing I do know is: you do you.

Pick the devices that allow you to do the best work, and use those. The discussion about iPad vs Mac is like discussing a match vs a lighter. Each serves their purpose for different tasks.

Everyone’s work (and preference) is different. Trying to argue your needs against someone else's needs is pointless.

Why I'm Not iOS Only

Being the host of an educational podcast, you would think I'd be iOS only at this point. I'm not, and I'm much more closely tied to requiring a Mac vs requiring an iPad to effectively do my job.

Website Content Management

During my day job, I manage the backend of websites. This isn't writing code, but updating content. This does require a lot of text selection, though. I still find text selection to be quite cumbersome on iOS. In Wordpress especially, some custom pages have "content blocks". These blocks are near impossible to work with on iOS. Is this the fault of iOS? No, but I'd like to see Safari bridge the gap with this regard. We've given it enough time that I feel confident that the creators of these content management systems and plugins are not going to be build for iOS management, so I believe Apple should build some sort of "Desktop" mode for mobile Safari to make it look and behave more like a traditional desktop browser.

Most of the website management apps are built around publishing blogs, but not actual site management.

Ideally, all of these web companies would build native iOS apps that could take advantage of all that the devices have it offer. Since they haven't, it's time for Apple to take control of the issue.

Ergonomics

I stand in front of a 13" MacBook Pro with a 24" external monitor all day. I have both displays at eye level, and I have my trackpad and keyboard (external) at the proper height. I'd like to be able to plug an iPad Pro into an external display and be able to interact with it from an external keyboard + input type device. I finding using iOS for extended periods of time puts strain on my shoulders and neck. What would this look like? I have no idea, but I'd love to see something.

I'd love to go iOS only, but these are the two big things holding me back.

iTunes 4.9 and 12 Years of Podcasting

Almost 12 years later, iTunes 4.9 remains an important update for 2 reasons.

Podcast Support
I've had my own podcast since 2012, and it's also a huge part of my entertainment consumption. Podcast support in iTunes made it easy to find and download almost 8,000 shows. Prior to that, you had to use a third party program. iTunes brought it mainstream. They made it easy to subscribe and easy to find new shows.

I'm sure that number has grown to many hundreds of thousands in the years following. I have friends who make their living off podcasts. While I don't use iTunes or Apple's podcast app (see what I use), we all owe a lot to Apple taking this category of media to the mainstream. It's an open standard, and a way that anyone can create content.

Odeo Releases Twttr
Had Apple not released iTunes 4.9 with podcasting support, it's possible that Twitter would have never been created. Had Twitter not ever been created, there would be a lot of friends I would have never made. I've also discovered a lot of podcasts via Twitter as well. This all worked out well for everyone involved. While Twitter has its problems, I still think it is a net positive for society.

Here's to 12 years of podcasts and many more. Thank you iTunes 4.9.

Brief Thoughts on Fire TV

I picked up a Fire TV stick a few days ago, so I wanted to share a few thoughts.

App availablity

It's very similar to what I have on Apple TV. The main one it's missing is Nick Jr, but it has Amazon Video and Spotify. Overall, most of the apps are very similar to the corresponding Apple TV one.

Remote

I like the remote a lot better than the Apple TV one. The main downside is that the Fire TV remote doesn't have volume buttons. We use this a lot on our Apple TV remotes. I enjoyed going back to a traditional D-pad for navigation.

Interface

In some ways it's better, but in some ways it's worse. While the Apple TV one is very static, the Fire TV one seems to constantly be moving around. I do like that you can get straight to recently watched shows straight from the home screen, though.

Overal value

Do I think the Fire TV stick is better than the Apple TV? I don't. If I didn't have an Apple TV, I don't think I could justify buying one over the Fire TV stick, though.

For $40, it's a really fantastic device. I have ordered a 2nd one to keep on our upstairs TV. Amazon doesn't need Apple here. The Fire TV is cheap enough that people can buy along with something else if they really want Amazon content.

Amazon Video is in a situation where people likely sign up for Prime for the shipping benefits, and the video subscription is secondary. They won't cancel Prime because there isn't an Apple TV app. Apple needs Amazon more than Amazon needs Apple in this situation. The following tweet says it best:

If anything, this just shows where Apple has zero competitive advantage with video content.

Why I've Switched to Spotify

After subscribing to Apple Music since its release in summer of 2015, I've officially moved my library to Spotify for good. I tinkered with this last summer, but thankfully Apple fixed the issues I was having (see this blog post). Over the past few months, I've gradually become frustrated by Apple Music. While my previous frustration was about a technical issue, this issue is much deeper. Apple Music, for me, does a terrible job at discovery. Here's why:

Beats1

I was really excited about Beats1 in the beginning, but the novelty quickly wore off. It seemed like every time I turned it on, it was playing genres I didn't like. There were times that Zane Lowe would interview artists I like, but I had no way of knowing. Why isn't their a push notification when an artist I have saved is the focal point of a show?

New Music Mix

I probably should have said this at the beginning, but this article is really just describing my experiences. You might certainly have a different one. I was really excited about the New Music Mix that launched with iOS 10. Spotify's Discover Weekly mix is great. I have found at least ten artists who I now follow from it. I usually listen to it multiple times each week. While similar in idea, Apple's version of this is boring to me. I hardly ever listened to it more than once. The suggestions were just okay. To make matters worse, I still had Christmas music in it in late January. I don't know if Apple doesn't have the amount of data Spotify has, or if it's another issue, but something is off.

Playlists

I am a big fan of the "Singer/songwriter" and Folk/Americana genres. Spotify has tons of options that are frequently updated. Apple simply does not. In fact, one of the options for Singer/songwriter for Apple Music is "Best of 2015". They didn't even make one for 2016. Apple's playlist might be human curated, but the ones I followed were rarely updated.

For You

I've never loved this feature. I particularly don't love the iOS 10 version of it. It has a lot to scroll through. It tends to offer the same suggestions over and over for playlists that are rarely updated. The new release section is buried at the bottom. (Spotify emails me when artists I follow release new music.).

To sum it up, Apple Music was starting to feel like the iTunes Store where I didn't have to pay per track. Spotify has introduced me to tons of new artists, and Apple Music hasn't. Why is this? I'm not sure, but Apple certainly knows just as much about my listening habits. They just weren't doing as much with the data. I'll miss the native Apple TV app, but AirPlay will do just fine.

How I Lost Access To Apple ID (And All My App Purchases)

Last week, I cracked my iPhone screen for the very first time (not really sure how). Since we are 2 hours from the nearest Apple Store, Apple sent me a replacement via Fedex. When I got the new iPhone, I quickly went to work restoring it from iCloud. Like many of you, I have a secondary account I use for purchases. This is my original iTunes ID. As I was typing in that passcode, I entered it wrong a few times. I have it memorized (it's still difficult to guess), but my brain was just off sync at that moment. I typed it in wrong enough times that I locked the account.

I went online to unlock it, but since I have 2 step authentication (the old kind), it wanted the recovery key. The problem is I had no idea where I put it. I tried all the ones I could find, but no luck. I then realized I was typing in the wrong password (I looked it up in 1Password). Doh!

I gave Apple a call, and I assumed this would be a quick fix. They'd unlock it, and I could then sign in. They quickly realized I was in a weird state of lockout. According to this support article, I should be able to get in. I remembered the password, and I had the device. The problem was I was still locked out. Apple can't unlock it without the recovery key. I was basically stuck. Both people I talked with at Apple said this was an extremely weird situation they had never been in. Had I not remembered the password, I could see where I'd be out of luck. It was a bit frustrating that I remembered the password, but still couldn't get in.

Thankfully, this isn't my iCloud account (it's on two-factor, and only my purchase history. Due to the recent trend of free apps with subscription, I only had to pay for about $25 worth of apps that I was currently using daily. I had been using quite a few of them for years without having to pay for a new version, so a part of me was happy being able to support them again. The bigger bummer is I had $65 worth of iTunes credit that I did lose. A number of the free ones registered subscriptions with iCloud, so I didn't lose access to them either (Overcast as an example).

I lost a few movies and TV shows, but they weren't ones I planned on watching again. I had local copies of all my purchased music as well. I have recently switched back to Spotify, so I didn't mind losing my Apple Music library.

This was all really annoying, but I don't have anyone to blame but myself. While I wish Apple could have unlocked it, I am also thankful they take security seriously.

One thing this has reaffirmed is that I will never (ever) trust the only copies of my photos to anyone. Imagine if this happened to my iCloud account, and I had all my photos in iCloud photo library without local backups. I could have potentially lost them all. A good rule of thumb is keep copies of the things you can't easily replace.

Update 2017-02-08

I decided to try to log back into my Apple ID on the web, and it let me in! I guess waiting 8 hours or so unlocked it enough where I could get the 2FA text message.

Will You Like AirPods?

I've owned my AirPods for a week, so here is a super simple Buyer's Guide:

You will love them if:

  • EarPods fit your ears.
  • You want really portable headphones.
  • You are a grown up and won't lose them on day 1.

You will hate them if:

  • EarPods don't fit your ear at all (you actually still might love them, but they won't stay in).
  • You need the absolute best sound quality available ($159 wireless earbuds aren't the product category you should be looking at).
  • You lose your chapstick.

I love AirPods. They are my favorite tech purchase from the past few years. I love the charging case. I love how the music auto-pauses when I remove one of them. I really just love everything about them.

What's Wrong With Apple TV?

Let me preface this article with that fact that I own 4 of the current generation Apple TVs. Prior to that, I owned 4 Roku 3s. Prior to that, I owned 4 Apple TV (3rd generation). This is an industry I care deeply about.

After reading @joesteel's article on Apple TV, I started thinking about its value proposition to potential consumers. I then started asking myself what is wrong with Apple TV in its current form? Here's what I came up with:

Does tvOS matter?

I love my Apple TVs, but they are used differently than an iOS device. With iOS, you spend time in apps that are for reading, games, news, etc. With Apple TV, you find a show and watch it. The majority of the time it's being used is simply to display content (and likely something you aren't paying Apple for). Think about tablets for a second. If you simply needed a tablet for Netflix and Hulu, would iOS or Android really matter to you? Once you hit play, does the OS really matter at that point? Do the tvOS apps look nicer than Roku apps? Sure, Roku is a lot cheaper, and it has access to just about everything Apple TV does.

Rentals make me sad

Apple's model of renting me $5 movies or selling $2 TV shows seems archaic compared to Netflix, Hulu, or Sling TV. Outside of Apple Music and movies you already purchased, most content available on Apple TV is available elsewhere. Amazon is quitely becoming a major player in the entertainment industry, and Apple TV users must AirPlay content to view it.

Game or no game

Apple should have either not allowed games on tvOS or go all in. They should have released their own controller and made sure some top tier games were on the platform (buy a studio, pay a studio, etc). While Apple initially touted the gaming capaibilities, not much as been said since. There aren't many games worth playing,but and the decent ones are simply iOS ports.

This half-hearted approach is symbolic of how Apple TV has been treated over the years by Apple.

Cook doctrine

The Tim Cook doctrine in a nutshell:

We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.

In the TV/movie business, content is the technology. There aren't many ways to watch a TV show or a movie. You hit play and sit back.

Apple hasn't invested in content, and that has made tvOS a "me too" product at best. I love my Apple TV, but if someone tells me to convince them why it's better than a Roku or Fire TV at half or a third of the cost (depending on the model), I have a tough time. Siri remote and AirPlay are neat, but they aren't a reason to pay 2x the price.

Apple Watch and Cellular Connectivity

With the release of Apple Watch series 2 (I haven't bought one), I've started to ponder the watch of the future. After thinking through the watch's role in our lives, I've finally settled on the fact that the Apple Watch needs cellular. iPhones are fantastic. They are great cameras, and they allow us to carry extremely powerful computer in your pocket. I do see a day coming when I would leave my iPhone at home for periods of time.

I take my iPhone whenever I leave the house. This includes the grocery store, the gym, the gas station, or the coffee shop. A lot of the time, I only take it for phone calls and text messages. When the Apple Watch includes a cellular connection, I could leave in the morning to run a few errands with only an Apple Watch. My shopping list would be on there. Thanks to Continuity, so would my Phone calls and text messages. My iMessages would come straight from the cellular network as well.

This reality sounds amazing to me. It's one less thing to carry, but I can still be reached and access basic functions of my apps. Think about how much more useful your iPhone or LTE iPad is because of its always on connection. When a version of the Apple Watch can do this without being near your iPhone, it'll drive up its usefulness.

We will be living in the time of Dick Tracy.

Turning Off Apple Music

Update (2016-10-10): Apple fixed this earlier in the summer, and I've returned to Apple Music.

After nearly a year of using the service, I turned off Apple Music, iCloud Library, and the automatic renewal of my family membership (my wife is going to sign back up as a single user). I thought I'd take a minute to explain why.

My frustration with Apple Music actually has very little do with the streaming service. It lies solely on iCloud Music Library. Like I've said before, I still have a 30 GB music library that I want to keep. Most of it is studio albums, but 5% of it is live albums. I really like live albums. iCloud Music library would consistently either not match properly, or it would somehow revert weeks after the original upload. I simply got tired of babysitting the matching process. I'd have to remove and re-upload a lot of them every few weeks. I finally had enough. I rebuilt my library in Spotify and turned off Apple Music. I then synced my local library over a cable.

Spotify is a fine streaming service. There are aspects of it that I like better than Apple Music, and there other aspects that I don't. Overall, it works. Sadly, the best aspect of turning off Apple Music is that everything in my library now plays exactly what it's suppose to. It just works..

On Apple Music vs Spotify

I’ve been an Apple Music subscriber (family plan) since day one. It’s been in the news quite a bit recently. Some good news and some bad news. I also keep Spotify installed on all my devices as well. There are aspects that are great about both services. I could argue that both are the best at their ultimate objectives.

Spotify, as a pure streaming service, is hands down the best platform. Technically, it’s rock solid. You don’t really read any articles about Spotify deleting content from user’s hard drives. I don’t see random screenshots of error messages on Twitter where tracks won’t play. If someone came to me and said I don’t own/don’t care about any existing music, what should I sign up for? I’d have to say Spotify. It has one goal: to be the best streaming music app (assuming the dabble into podcasts does’t eventually clutter up the UI). Spotify doesn’t build hardware. It doesn’t run a syncing service for data. It runs a music platform. It’s only focus is on music.

Spotify

Discover Weekly

Every Monday morning, Spotify refreshes your Discover Weekly playlist. In my head, the features works like this. You get into the car on Monday morning headed to work/school/wherever. You launch Spotify, go to Discover Weekly and hit play. There is zero decision to make about what to listen to. This is a sister feature to Apple Music’s For You (I’ll discuss it later). In my experiences, it’s a really good feature. Apple claims that human curation is the future, but Discover Weekly is really good in the interim.

Notifications

This might seem like a trivial feature,but Spotify notifies me when artists I am following release new music. Apple Music sort of has this though Connect, but that is assuming the artists promotes their new material.

Friends

Apple has typically been behind on social features, and music is no different. Spotify allows you to follow friends and browse their public playlists. Why can't I do this on Apple Music? Spotify is also the default place for sharing playlists for most people.

The Bad

Over the past year, various artists have started holding out (temporary and permanent) music from Spotify. This includes Taylor Swift, Drake, Radiohead, and Beyoncé. While it's doubtful a single person likes all four of those artists, it's probable they like one. The risk for Spotify is that they become viewed like Netflix's movie selection (a lot of old stuff, but nothing new). Spotify is the young generation's iTunes in that it's their default music platform. If that platform stops having the music they want, they will look elsewhere.

Apple Music

Unified Library

As an old timer, I have 30 GB of music that I've ripped or purchased. With iCloud Music Library, my existing content co-exists with my streamed content. If Apple can fix incorrect matches, it will be a killer feature. I also still purchase a handful of albums each year. These albums appear just the same as if I was streaming them. This is also important for when artists aren'ton Apple Music. Lemonade from Beyonce is a streaming exclusive to Tidal, but can be purchased and uploaded to appear right along side the rest of your library.

Artist Perception

Regardless of how much Spotify has done to help begin growing the industry again, Apple Music has a better perception among artists. From how it responded to Taylor Swift's open letter, to having Jimmy Iovine on board, Apple Music came at a time when a lot of artists where turning against Spotify over its free plan. Spotify is also partially owned by record labels. As the Internet continues to eliminate middle men from commerce, Apple is positioning itself as a company who loves music and wants to support the artists. If the role of record labels decreases, Apple has set itself up nicely.

Human Curation

While Spotify uses a lot of computer creation for content, Apple likes to take a "human approach". Both have their advantages. I've found plenty of great content through Apple Music. One of the best examples is the Intro to X style playlists. When I find a new artist, I start with this playlist. Instead of just covering the top songs, it covers a nice progression to their style.

Pricing

Apple's family plan is $14.99/mo, and it covers up to 6 people. Spotify is $9.99/mo and an additional $4.99/mo per family member. For a lot of people, this will make the decision simple.

The Bad of Apple Music

Connect

Connect, in its current form, is useless to me. Most artists are using the big 3 social media platforms to engage with their fans. Connect is just another place. Connect should either be killed or become a place to feed in content from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Poor Tech Community Perception

From early complaints to more recent ones, Apple Music has a negative perception among (some of it is deserved) among some of the it's most passionate users. It takes a short amount of time to lose credibility, and it takes a long to build it back.

For You and Drake

For You was great in the beginning, but it's becoming stale for me. It's showing Intro to X for artists who are already in my library, and I haven't found much new recently. Apple has also made a deal with Drake for a rumored 19 million dollars. While I don't care for his music, I do recognize that he's extremely popular. I feel like he's been shoved down my throat in recent weeks. From an Intro to Drake appearing in For You, and banners appearing everywhere, I am becoming quite annoyed at his content being shoved down my throat.

Final Thoughts

Both services have room to improve, and get better. If you look what $9.99/mo buys a music fan in 2016, you'll realize how great technology has become.

I'll leave you with this, support for favorite artists. If you only stream their music, be sure to buy a t-shirt, join their fan club, or see them in concert.

On Lemonade and Forcing Fans to Rent Music

Update: The albums is coming to iTunes at midnight

With the news of Beyoncé releasing her newest album exclusively on Tidal, I'm reminded once again why exclusive streaming only releases are unfair to fans and ultimately will lead to piracy.

Let's say that you are an Apple Music (or a Spotify) subscriber, and you wake up to the news of Beyonce's new album with much excitement. You dash off to your streaming app, and try to find it. It's not there, but no worries. She must have only released it as a paid download (apparently artists make no money from streaming). Adele did this recently as well. As you open the iTunes app on your iPhone, you are amazed that Beyoncé's new album isn't there. You discover it's only on some streaming service called Tidal.

We have a fan who spends money on streaming, and who was also willing to purchase the album being told they can essentially rent access to it for $10/mo. Yes, I know that all streaming services are rentals, but this album is only available on a single streaming service with no paid download options (or even a CD to buy). If you want this album, you will pay $10/mo for as long as you want it.

This album release model is bad for fans. If someone has no interest in Tidal, their options are to either pirate it or never hear it. Yes, piracy will be the option for a lot of people, but a lot of people will just never hear it.

When an artists only releases an album on a specific streaming service, they are saying that my music is so good that you don't deserve it own it. There is no download, no CD, and no vinyl.

If an artists requires me to pay a monthly fee to access their new material on a specific streaming service, then they don't deserve my time (and certainly not my money).

If artists want consumers to respect music for the art that it is, maybe they should respect their fans first. Not offering a digital download of a new album is a big:

Looking Through Old Photos

My wife and I were browsing through old photos on our TV last night, and she commented how bad the quality was. These were photos in 2011. These photos were taken with an iPhone 4s (which was the nicest at the time).

Isn't it amazing how far that smartphone cameras have come in just a few years? This is one reason I try to upgrade to the latest iPhone when it's released. I only have one shot to get the picture I am about to take.

Apple Music is a Gateway Product for Artists

A lot of people will have you think that services like Apple Music and Spotify are/will ruin the music industry. While I am surprised these services aren't more like Netflix (not having new releases, but mainly back catalog), I'd like to argue, for me at least, that streaming services are a gateway product to get me to to spend more money on "music" (concerts, merchandise, etc).

Since I signed up for Apple Music last year:

  • I have been to two concerts while having tickets for two more. Prior to Apple Music, the last concert I saw was in 2006 (not a typo).
  • I have purchased nine albums from iTunes/Amazon.
  • I have purchased approximately twenty of my favorite records on vinyl.
  • I have signed up for one band's online membership club to receive monthly live tracks.
  • I have purchased one coffee mug from a band while at their concert

I know this might not be a sample of everyone, but for me, Apple Music has been a gateway into discovering more music while also spending more money with the music industry itself.

Drowning in Information Overload

While I was out on paternity leave in early October, I kept feeling overwhelmed. The more I realized how much work I needed to do, the more I felt like my life was spinning out of control. I discussed this with my wife, and she simply explained that by continuing to stay "connected" when I need to be dis-connected, it was impossible to relax. I did my best to simply let go of my work for that week and focus on my family (huh, a novel idea).

Fast forward to the end of October and early November, and I read this post by CGP Grey on "dialing down". A light bulb went off in my head. I had let lots of inputs into my life that weren't helping me accomplish my goals. As a result of The Focus Course, I had deduced that my goals/priorities are:

  1. Spiritual life (study of the Bible, praying, cherishing the love of Christ)
  2. Family
  3. Friends (with a focus on longer term friendships rather than a host of acquaintances)
  4. Making money/doing great work

After spending some time analyzing my life, how I spend my time, and how I let things into my brain, I knew I needed to make a few changes. I decided to do these as a test in November:

All social media is removed from mobile devices

Tweetbot was deleted from my iPhone. I blocked Twitter.com using 1Blocker. I can still access it, but it takes multiple steps. This has eliminated a lot of wasted brain space goofing off on Twitter. I also realized that while Twitter is awesome, it's also terrible. It 140 characters of individual thoughts/ideas that I have to continually process. A lot of people are terribly negative during the US presidential election season (it basically lasts two years). Twitter is essential to many of the projects I work on, so I don't want to leave it completely. I do want to reduce the amount of time and energy I give it, though. I've relegated it only to my Mac. I might engage a few times a day to catch up on news, etc, but it's taking up zero brain power outside of that. I no longer feel like I am missing anything.

Instagram is also on pause. While I have logged in a few times to share some photos (I don't have Facebook, so this is how I share kid photos with close friends/family), I delete it immediately after. If I share a picture, I'll give myself a few minutes to browse my feed, though. With it requiring me to download the app each time I want to browse it, I have largely reduced the amount of time I spend on it.

All of this is aimed at helping free up RAM in my brain to focus on what I want to focus on and eliminate various amounts of negativity. Like I said, I am not jumping off the Twitter train, but only engaging there in a window of time each day/week. I've also realized that I can get 90% as much enjoyment/benefit from social media with about 20% of the effort I was previously giving it.

TV Shows

This is a simple section, but I am limiting the amount of TV I watch in a given week. While TV is fun, large amounts of time in front of it are a huge waste of time. My wife and I watch a few shows together, but I don't watch it otherwise. If you spend two hours a day watching it, you are spending 14 hours per week total. The only exception to this is during football season, which is very much a social activity for me.

Audiobooks and Podcasts

I've loved spoken word content for a large portion of my adult life. I've been listening to podcasts for over a decade. While I think they can be awesome and provide the ability to learn new things all the time, I've realized this isn't always a good thing. Sometimes, I need to learn less and give myself opportunities to explore the thoughts in my own head. I've canceled my Audible subscription, and cut the podcasts I listen to down from fifteen to three. Eliminating the content is a way to give my brain opportunities for other things.

Music

Music is something I've never really loved. I always viewed it as background noise for when I drive. Over the past few months, I've discovered that music should not always be enjoyed as a passive activity. Music, in a lot of situations, should be listened to with as much attention as a movie or TV shows. Spending more amount of time actively listening to music has been good for me. Music is art. To enjoy it better, I've also cleaned up my iTunes library to just include artists that I love. I looked through each album and asked myself if I ever planned on listening to this again. Overall, I'm quite happy with the increase in music listening in my life. Spending an hour listening to music leaves my brain in a drastically different state than an hour of TV watching does.

Day One

I'm making an effort to write daily in Day One. This has been good for making note of whatever I am feeling that day. It might be about my kids, my work, or my friends.

End Result

The goal of all of this is to reduce the amount of time I spend doing things that aren't related to my four priorities listed above (exercise is something I didn't mention, but has been a consistent priority in my life for sixteen years). As of the 21st of November when I am writing this, I do not see myself going back on any of these changes. I feel more in control of my time, my emotions, and my thoughts. I've given myself more time to be bored and to sit alone with my thoughts. I feel more productive at work, at home, and in all other aspects of my life. I've not completely disconnected, but I'm reducing the amount of time I am connected.

Out of School 156: iPad Pro Hands On

I'm back from paternity leave to discuss the iPad Pro hands on that Fraser got at an Apple event in London. We discuss the hardware, iOS 9 on a larger screen, and the much discussed Apple Pen and Keyboard.

Click here to listen.

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