Okay, wait one more day to buy from Apple

Side view of Apple iPhone 7

Strictly speaking, you could wait as long as you like: it’s less that there was anything so compelling that you must wait for it, more that what was announced is much better than what you’d get in the shop yesterday.

You can’t get any of the new products today, nor really tomorrow either. But from Friday 9 September you can pre-order the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus. Usually I twitch if I don’t immediately tell you a price but with phones it’s complicated: many or most people buy them subsidised on a contract and not always predictably so. But as a quick guide, whatever you would’ve paid for an iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus on Monday, that’s what you’ll pay for the 7 range from Friday.

From a productivity perspective, the significant improvements are in the battery life, performance and also capacity. In reverse order, the old small 16Gb model is no more and this can only be good. Then performance is fast. Faster than last time. Do you like the level of detail you’re getting here? And lastly the battery life is claimed to be two hours longer, on average, for the iPhone 7 and one hour longer on the iPhone 7 Plus.

There is also a radically improved camera which doesn’t happen to make much difference to what I work on but your mileage may be very improved.

Have a look at the official Apple site for all the details I’ve skimped on, all the other details I’ve skipped, and also the changes to the Apple Watch. I am placing a call to Ms Bank Manager and Mr Claus in order to get myself a jet black iPhone 7 Plus and a ceramic Apple Watch Series 2 but the big advantage in the new Watch is coming to the old one too. The Apple Watch on my wrist is already improved because I’ve been testing watchOS 3 which will be released in public shortly and genuinely makes the watch feel like new.

The new Series 2 Watch appears to be faster and to have a brighter screen: I’m not fussed about the screen, the old one is fine. But you know how it is with Apple gear: if it doesn’t look great in the demos, it does when you hold it in your hand.

Handwritten notes and never-ending paper notebooks

Even I like having a new, empty paper notebook. I just can’t read my handwriting. Also, I know I’ll lose it and that irritates me when everything I ever type is saved safely all over the place. Plus, how do people use paper notebooks? How fast do they fill them and then what happens? Have they shelves of these things?

Rocketbook says hang on there, William, enough. Rocketbook is a paper notebook that you scribble away on and its pages are saved to the cloud. Dropbox. Evernote. Google Docs. You snap a photograph of the page with your phone and what is written on the page determines where it’s saved. So handwrite during a meeting, then take a mo to photograph the page and before you’ve put your phone away, the Rocketbook has saved that note to, say, an email that it is even now sending someone.

That covers my problem with potentially losing the book but there is also that business of filling up all the pages. Honestly, this sounds like a joke but it’s serious: put your Rocketbook in the microwave oven and wait for a bit. Every note on every page is erased and you have a crisp, new notebook.

I read that and think you must need special paper: yes, but that’s what the Rocketbook is made of. I read this and think you must need special pens: sort-of. The have to be FriXion pens by Pilot which I’ve never heard of but apparently are common.

There is nothing here to help with my handwriting but that’s my problem. Your pen work is much better than mine, you might love this.

One thing. This is an Indiegogo crowd-funded idea except it’s no longer an idea: it’s achieved its target by more than 3,500%.

BBC Micro – 2015

From this, which I grew up with:

To this:

I’m interested in how my reaction to this schools education project now is exactly the same as it was back with the original BBC Micro. Or rather exactly the reverse: today I think nope, couldn’t write on it, not interested – and back then it was the best computer for writing, I’m having that. I so vividly, physically remember typing on those keyboards.

The polarising new MacBook keyboard

This is a very specific kind of Blank Screen post: it’s ostensibly about one product that, statistically speaking, you are unlikely to have and, also statistically speaking, you are unlikely to ever get. I’m really selling this to you, aren’t I? Okay, try this: it’s to do with keyboards, which we all spend a lot of time with and which you, admit it, have strong opinions about.

Okay, it’s just me. But I’ve been pulling 16-hour days at the keyboard lately, the feel of these things is hugely important and the potential risk to my wrists is gigantically important to me. Then Apple’s gone and brought out a new keyboard, a new type of keyboard and, seriously, when Apple does something, the rest of the industry mocks it while working furiously to copy it.

(Are you on a notebook computer now? See the way the keyboard is toward the back and you’ve got palmrests at the front around a trackpad? That was Apple’s idea and there is now notebook you can buy that does not do exactly this.)

So a new design of keyboard is likely to appear in other machines, from Apple and others, now that it’s out there. And Apple made such a fuss of it at the launch that I was suspicious: the company doth protest too much and all that. Then people started getting the new MacBook that has this keyboard and they hated it.

Well, some hated, most people thought they would put up with it. The travel is shallow, the distance you have to press the keys before they register is tiny. The keys are also wider but it’s chiefly the travel and how that feels that is making people unhappy.

Except me.

I went in to an Apple Store specifically to try out the keyboard and I actually liked it.

But that was a few minutes. Now here’s a fella who’s spent eight weeks typing on it:

Apple’s new MacBook uses a new keyboard mechanism. The keys are larger and the throw [aka travel] is less, and so when people try it out for just a minute ot two in the Apple store, it may feel strange, different and even undesirable.

I’ve spent eight weeks with my new MacBook now, and one of things I like about it the most is the keyboard. Just like the single USB-C port, past experience doesn’t prepare or guide one for using this keyboard because it’s so different from what Apple has delivered in the past.

Eight Weeks With the MacBook Keyboard: Total Love – The Mac Observer

Read the full piece for a more informed view than I can give you. But then take away that if this keyboard does come to all computers, it’s fine.

Caring for your partner with technology

Over on MacNN.com there is a quietly remarkable article about using and being required to use technology when caring for someone. In the last few days, Managing Editor Mike Wuerthele’s wife had a stroke. Naturally you know where he is now both physically – constantly in hospital with her – and emotionally. During these especially hard first days, he’s finding that technology and particularly iPads are a recurring feature. Reading his piece, you feel that sometimes this is aggravating as it’s another form on another iPad but other times that it’s a help, that these devices and others are helping the recovery process.

It’s a fascinatingly personal article despite his efforts to avoid being personal at all: he doesn’t name his wife, he doesn’t say which hospital they’re in. He’s written it and will be back writing more specifically to bring some attention to medical aid and hopefully let others know what is available and what it all achieves. His article does exactly that but read it to see how a partner and a carer’s pain trembles just under the surface.

Read Technology in Recovery: Out of the ER, into the fire on MacNN.

Blowing bubbles before your next meeting

Not you. Your calendar. You can’t actually buy it, I’m afraid, but there is a concept device called monYay: Notifly – and that’s a really hard thing to type because autocorrect goes crazy trying to fix that cap Y and change the second word into notify – which sits on your desk until it’s time to go to your next meeting. Then:


The monYay bit of the name comes from wanting to change Mondays into Mon-yays! and I can get behind that even though I quite like Mondays. Read a little more on the official website, along with lots of other excellent ideas.

Via Swiss Miss.

Get more out of that expensive computer of yours

I’m not saying you and I should spend more time in front of our computers. I’m saying that while you’re there, you can make these things work harder for you.

Seriously, how much did that thing cost you? And you’re just switching it on to write in Word, check out Facebook and send the odd email?

Take a minute to just look into it a bit more. You spend a lot of time writing, for one thing: start there. Start with how no matter what word processor you use, I know that it is replete with shortcuts. You know how much, much, much faster it is to open a document by pressing Control-O on PCs or Command-O on Macs? There’s more. Google the name of your word processor and the phrase “keyboard shortcuts”. You will recoil at how many there are, but learn a couple of them now and they will become muscle memory.

This isn’t about teaching yourself something, not really, and it’s not even exactly about getting faster at the repetitive things you have to do on your computer. It’s about removing obstacles. Someone asked me recently about the whole Blank Screen thing and why I prattle on in workshops, books and online. Among many reasons – you know me, I can’t be concise – I remembered that I’d shown someone how to speed up a thing on her website.

I created a button for her which meant to write something on her site, she pressed that instead of schlepping through the most tortuous series of steps to get into where she could right. The result is that, yes, it’s quicker for her, but the real result and the reason I talk to you so much, is that because it’s quicker, she does it.

She does it more. She does it a lot. It is great to see her dusty old blog become this active, sparkling new thing.

My book goes as far into this as you usefully can while keeping you awake and more specific issues have cropped up in most mentoring sessions I do. I wouldn’t want to force you to become as technology dependent as I am – but you already are, you already have that computer, get more out of it.

I wanted to say this to you now because it’s on my mind and it’s part of a project I’m working on for later in the year. But you say something and then you realise it: do take a look at my Blank Screen mentoring service as this is just one thing you’ll find it good for.

Weekend read: How Film is Made Today

Just absorbing.

Visiting the Eastman Kodak factory in Rochester, NY was the first visit in my month-long journey. I wanted to document how Kodak film, which starts as an acetate or polyester base and chemicals, reaches the movie theater screen in a digital era. That process today is quite different from 50 years ago when technicians developed camera negatives by hand and editors cut film with scissors. It’s one that blends the physical and the digital mediums. I interviewed Kodak factory workers, filmmakers, negative processing technicians and colorists, toured labs and offices, all the while witnessing firsthand film’s entire course. Even though the process does integrate digital technology today, I found there’s something special about shooting a movie on film, and part of my journey was to discover why that is.

How Motion Picture Film is Made – Ryan Cavataro, Gear Patrol (22 March 2015)

Read the full piece.

Weekend read: Swiss watchmakers have no chance against Apple

If the Apple Watch is a hit, it won’t be because Apple is winning over would-be Tag Heuer or Rolex customers. It’ll be because Apple will have convinced tens of millions of people to wear tiny computers on their wrists. Those people will then have no need for “watches.” Apple has some work to do here—most people are still far from convinced that they need one of these things, and the design could be thinner and prettier. But it’s starting strong.

Meanwhile, there’s no reason to believe that the people who buy Tag Heuer watches for their craftsmanship have any interest in tracking their fitness or getting text message notifications on their horological heirlooms. And if you’re buying a classic mechanical watch, it’s supposed to last forever, to be passed down to your offspring—not to go obsolete after a couple of years.

Why Swiss smartwatches have no chance against the Apple Watch – Dan Frommer, Quartz (19 March 2015)

Right now I am wearing a wristwatch that has no hands and no digits: its face just has the word “now” written on it. By far the most accurate watch I’ve ever had, though lately I do think it’s been losing a few seconds. Still, much as I like and rely on it, it’s going. I will be buying an Apple watch because I already see how I’ll use it. At £300 it will be the most expensive watch I’ve ever bought yet I am persuaded, I see the value. I’ve never seen the value in expensive analogue watches – or rather, I’ve never seen the value to me. I definitely appreciate the artistry and engineering brilliance, but this is the first time I’ve recognised a specific worth to me of an expensive watch.

So I think Frommer may be right: Swiss watchmakers could even be wound up.

Read the full piece.