Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

The Touch Bar can wow you over!

In the tech space, sometimes people can be notorious for bemoaning new technology. Case in point? The Touch Bar on the new retina MacBook Pro’s.

I’ve been using a 15″ retina MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for about six months now. I am a vim user when I SSH to servers so I do use the Escape key (and maybe find it a tad annoying that I don’t get any feedback that I’ve hit the Esc key). Otherwise, I use BBEdit. I’ve used the function keys to control screen brightness, adjust volume, and play music. I don’t find Siri useful. I’ve wondered why when I use Keynote I can see little slides appear on my Touch Bar (not like I can read the text, right?). Safari has always been odd with switching tabs via a keyboard (unlike Chrome’s shortcuts), but now you can also switch tabs using the Touch Bar (alas, I’m not really a Safari user). PDFpenPro has selection tools that I can now access via the Touch Bar, so its a bit of a productivity improvement.

So all in, I’m more or less indifferent to the Touch Bar. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. Oh wait, I can’t forget the killer feature: unlocking my MacBook Pro with my fingerprints! Touch ID is a killer feature especially since I use 1Password which also supports it. I think this feature alone has improved my productivity tremendously, and saved lots of time re-entering my password.

However, Sara saw my keyboard the other day and she was amazed that it could also display emoji. And this made her really like the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar (she’s a 13″ MacBook Air user). So Apple can wow users!

Touch Bar with emojis

I presume she will find other uses for it as she’s a creative user of the Mac. I’m just a boring text/code wrangler.

How would the Touch Bar be improved? It needs to be offered across the board on Macs (even for keyboards that iMac and Mac Mini users will use). It probably needs to have haptic feedback; this I suspect will improve the touch typing experience. However even as I write this, I think to myself that when I type on my iPhone or iPad, I don’t get haptic feedback and I intuitively know where everything is…

Uber Data Extractor

This is pretty cool: Uber Trip History Bookmarklet.

It allows you to get your complete Uber trip history, download it as a CSV file, and then run the Uber Data Visualiser. You get to learn quite a bit about your trips. I’ve attached a snapshot of mine, there’s more data and you should run it too!

Would be interesting to see this kind of history for Grab rides (and all the other various ride services out there).

Uber Data Visualizer

Should I get the BlackBerry KeyOne?

I’ve been thinking that my next Android device to replace the Nexus 6 would likely be the BlackBerry KeyOne. It is apparently already selling in Selfridges, and the reviews are starting to pour in.

Verdict? Good keyboard and battery life. The good battery life should be good for the fact that I like to tether and share the Internet from my Android device when travelling. It also has fast USB C charging.

I want to increase my productivity on the go. Email on the go is something I feel like I’ve not managed to wrap myself around since I ditched my BlackBerry 9700 in 2013. I want to use Twitter (though the 3 tweets on a screen seems like a limitation; until you notice that on your iPhone 7, you also only see 3 tweets…). I want to use Bloomberg. And likely I want to blog. But maybe I also want to manage tasks on the go, like run OmniFocus. Oh, and Slack – that’s pretty crucial now.

So now I’ve spent many years in the iOS ecosystem. I don’t find my Android being too useful beyond running the occasional GMail, Gogole Maps, Swarm, Chrome. I want to use Android more clearly, hence the BlackBerry. But I also see software I like like OmniFocus that will likely never come to Android, and they don’t encourage 3rd party clients. A tad annoying.

Who says the ecosystem doesn’t matter?

Upgrade notes on macOS Sierra

I’m notorious for not updating OS X (macOS) too quickly, preferring to wait months on end for Apple to iron out bugs. I just hope that in 2017 they don’t make a major release and something sensible, i.e. that fixes usability and makes the OS much more stable.

However when you buy a new Mac, you’re more or less forced into the new OS. I did pickup a MacBook Pro 15″ with the new TouchBar, and at some stage I’ll talk about my usage (its been about 3 months of daily usage).

One thing that has annoyed me about the new macOS Sierra is that I don’t get to use GPGTools – it will not work on macOS Sierra. There is now however a beta you could try to ensure you’re signing and encrypting email just as well.

Another thing that I hit almost immediately? Some of my SSH hosts just stopped working. I’ve seen various sites talk about how ssh-agent does not automatically load pass phrases to keychain during startup to Upgrading to macOS Sierra will break your SSH keys and lock you out of your own servers.

My ~/.ssh/config now has:

Host *

UseKeychain yes

AddKeysToAgent yes

to fix things.

Everything else more or less works. I did Time Machine restore. I’m not too happy that they removed the Time Remaining from the Battery icon, and I’m not getting the battery life that I expect, but maybe when the new Mac Mini’s come out, I’ll do another Time Machine restore to that, and a clean install to the MacBook Pro.

Compression algorithms, archival

My strategy for photos is to place them in my Dropbox folder, and sync them to one box in particular but they also live on the Dropbox cloud (it also used to be that they end up on Flickr as they sometimes still do; Google Photos does backup in regular resolution stuff from my iPhone). All this gets backed up via various backup services (Backblaze, CrashPlan).

Lately, I’ve been wondering if that makes sense since Dropbox applies compression to my JPGs. I missed the announcement of Dropbox using Lepton image compression, but did read with great interest that Flickr is using it too – A Year Without a Byte.

Lepton “provides lossless, bit-exact storage for any type of photo, whether it be for archival purposes, or for serving live.” It is open source.

I understand it saves Dropbox countless petabytes. I just don’t like the idea that my images are being re-compressed without me knowing about it. It may be that other services do this too. But one thing is for sure – the moment its in my Dropbox folder, they reduce in size, and my backups are also getting said reduction. Sure it’s lossless, bit-exact storage. But I’m thinking about archival forever!

P/S: I’m going to guess this is why Dropbox doesn’t support Live Photos in Camera Uploads yet. They haven’t figured out how to save space…

Migrating to new iPhones

When we do upgrades, we have to do them family wide which is four devices at any given time. This time we all settled on the iPhone 7 in varying colours. Naturally, I got the jet black variant. I also realised that I didn’t need the form factor of the Plus sized phones – quite simply, my jeans pockets aren’t that deep, and I end up fraying the earphone 3.5mm connector quite regularly (I’m on my third one now and its almost giving way in a span of about 2 years). Smaller phone might also allow me to spend less time looking at it, and if I wanted to consume, more time on the iPad.

Anyway… one phone migrated in a jiffy. Sure, after an iTunes encrypted backup, it wouldn’t restore automatically since the iOS version of the phones were too old. A bit of a tedious un-Apple like process, but the correct document to read and follow is: Restoring from an iTunes or iCloud backup when a later version of iOS is required.

Another phone had an encrypted iTunes password that just could not be remembered. So the arduous task of turning on iCloud Backup and then doing a restore (so while no fault of Apple, this I’m sure is a common scenario).

My phone had quite a few apps that required me to login again. Google Authenticator did not have all the two-factor logins migrated for some reason, so I had to manually add a bunch back. Maybe this should have been the key to move to a 1Password vault? I’ll leave that for next time.

Most of the social apps I use required some form of verification. WhatsApp had an easy process. WeChat was by far the most complicated. LINE had a password I didn’t know anything about.

Apps you would think would just automatically restore from the iTunes backup? But no, a lot of them end up downloading again. In addition some user hostility from apps like Audible and Overcast – imagine having to re-download all your content!?!

I had to also remember about my Apple Watch, fortunately again, another good guide: Switch your Apple Watch to a new iPhone.

Why isn’t this process more seamless? Android gets this done really well – enter your Google login details, and you’re good to go. Why is this not the case with Apple? Am I forced to then use an iCloud Backup to make magic happen?

Do I care that I’m not having a dual-lens camera with some “software” bokeh effects? No.

Why don’t more apps support 3D Touch? Its been quite sometime and most don’t seem to care to support it, which I find quite odd.

I don’t consider myself an “app-holic”, but spending about two hours of time to switch things over seems rather ridiculous. There has got to be a better way.

(What about the fourth iPhone? I’ll find out tomorrow if it has any surprises for me; here’s hoping things “just work”.)


i