My Flexible Friend, Now With More Flex

I’ve posted many times on Twitter about all of the various configurations I use my iPad in. Far too many times for many, I’m sure! When it comes to my iPad Pro, however, I may just have a new favourite setup ...

iPad Pro 12.9" with Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 with a bit of TNG thrown in for good measure

The latest developer beta of iOS 13.4 introduced full trackpad support, which will be available to everyone next week. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, so a video has got to be worth at least 2,000. I don't know about you, but I don't fancy writing 2,000 words, so I'll let old Hair Force One himself, Craig Federighi, talk you through this gem of a feature.

Product videos like the one above always make whatever it is they're showcasing seem so much better than it is in a real world setting, but I think this particular example doesn't go far enough. I've only been using it for a day, but I'm already in love.

The iPad was, and is, first and foremost a touch device, but for me my iPad Pro is often a desktop device as much as it is a tablet, so further options to enhance the desktop experience are welcome. And boy does this enhance it. The multitude of available gestures afforded to you via a trackpad feel very well defined and quickly become second nature. A few minutes in and I was flying around the device like never before. While it’s all still early days, I’m excited to watch the iPad,  and the way we interact with it continue to grow and evolve.  The iPad really is going from strength to strength and the flexibility of the device really is quite incredible.

Seeing as the implementation was kept out of the public beta, and was essentially developed behind closed doors, it feels very robust for such a broad feature. It's not without it's bugs, but there's nothing deal-breaking, that I've experienced at least. I lack the technical prowess to capture this myself, but believe me ehen I say thst this feature also includes some gorgeous liitle UI elements and transitions as the mouse pointer moves across icons, links, text and system / contextual menus and commands.

The introduction of iPadOS started the ball rolling on the evolution of the iPad, and iPadOS 13.4 helps it make a small, but at the same time huge leap forward in how people get things done with the device. Now ship that new Smart / Magic keyboard accessory darn it!

It’s Okay To Look Forward

I’ve never been what you’d call a prolific writer on The Dent, but given the current events the world’s going through at the moment I’ve felt even less inclined to post than before. Who wants to hear about how much I love trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4, or what I think about that sweet new Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro? Well, likely no more than has ever wanted to listen to me. I have, however, realised I need to still think about it.

Despite how depressing and anxiety inducing the COVID-19 situation is, we will persist. The world will persist and eventually things will get back to normal, or as close an approximation of normal that we’ll get to anymore. The greatest minds the world currently has to offer and, thank goodness, working on the pandemic situation and what can be done to move forward. That doesn’t mean the rest of us need to sit by and do nothing. While the impact we can make may not effect the world in the extent a, hopeful, medical breakthrough will, we can still make fundamental and powerful impacts on our family, friends and those in our close communities.

All that being said, this situation cannot, and should not, become all encompassing. What I’m trying to say is not only is it okay to keep getting excited, passionate and interested in seemingly inconsequential things, it’s almost neccesary. Now more than ever we need our small distractions. We need to keep ourselves on an even keel not just for our own sakes, but for those of our families and communities. No pressure guys!

From my end, in no particular order, I’m either enjoying, or looking forward the following:

  • Trackpad support in iOS 13.4: I’ve been using a mouse with my iPad, when at my desk, since iOS / iPadOS 13 launched, but the trackpad support added in the current iPadOS 13.4 beta is just incredible. It’s made my incredibly flexible device even more powerful.
  • Animal Crossing New Horizons: I’ve never actually played an Animal Crossing game, so I’ve completely bought into the hype on this one, but it looks like the perfect distraction during the end times.
  • Disney+: £49.99 a year for instant access to all of Disney’s many franchises and back catalogue? What more can I say. While this launched months ago in the U.S., we in the UK have been waiting with baited breath. This all changes next week.
  • The Xbox Series X: Terrible name, terrible design, but I’ve been an Xbox fan since day one and this next iteration sounds like a real beast.
  • Microsoft Surface Duo: Fun tech is fun!

If any of you reading this have been thinking there’s no point in starting that new podcast you’ve had on your mind for a while, or writing a blog post about how much you like that one episode of Star Trek, or whatever, I ask you to reconsider. Create, joke, play, discuss, speculate, enjoy, love, write, record, laugh. You don’t know who’s day you may brighten with whatever it is you put out there. At the very least, you will enjoy it and that should always take priority.

Stay safe, and be sensible out there everyone. While it may sound corny, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or email if you want to talk about things going on, or just about some pointless tech.

Trying the ‘Viticci Method’ AirPods Pro Modification

I’ve been a big fan of the AirPods since they launched and, being a self confessed Apple fan boy I could resist the AirPods Pro when they launched last year. I’d never tried headphones / earbuds with noise cancelling technology in them before, so I was really blown away with their performance, despite having a few reservations in relation to their overall comfort levels.

Fast forward a few weeks, however, and I noticed the performance of the noise cancellation and Transparency starting to wane. The once snug fit started to feel a bit loose, and quickly ended up feeling like they were going to fall out. Any sensible person would have tried to take them back to Apple and stick with their perfectly good 2nd generation normal AirPods. I, on the other hand, am clearly not all that sensible, so I decided to try the Viticci Method to try modifying them. To be fair, Federico says in his review that he also got the idea from someone else, but ’The Viticci Method’ sounds much better than ’Random Forum Poster Method’, so we’ll go with that.

You can read all about how to actually do this via Viticci’s article, so I wont go into that there, but I saw a lot of interest from people when I mentioned I’d tried this on Twitter, so I thought I’d share a bit of feedback.

Firstly, getting hold of the Symbio Eartips wasn’t the easiest. There seems to be a lot of places, such a eBay or Amazon that sell random Symbio, or Symbio like products, but it wasn’t very clear at all. To this end, I ended up just going directly to the Symbio website. This was quite expensive, in the end, about £20, but it only took a week or two so was a fairly pain free method of getting hold of them.

The modding itself sounded a little fiddly when I read Federico’s article, but having the tips in-hand made the instructions a lot clearer to understand, and it ended up only taking a minute or two to do. I got the set that came with small, medium and large sizes, so I applied all three, so I could try various fit options. I ended up going with the Small ones.

I popped them in and ... instantly felt a little bit disappointed. After the fiddling around, and extra cost, they felt pretty uncomfortable and the size didn’t seem any better. The part you put inside the Apple tips, however, is memory foam so after a little wiggling about they started to feel far more comfortable. They’ve now seemingly fit around my ear shape and are, in fact, working wonderfully!

There’re little vents around the part you insert the new tips which can be obscured a little by the memory foam inserts, which require a little adjustments here and there. When these are covered the AirPod is unable to work its magic to release some of the pressure caused by filling your ear hole the way it does. This is easily rectified, however. The real improvement can be found with the noise cancellation, however. With this modification, at least in with my ears, the noise cancellation felt super charged. It worked almost too well, I really couldn’t hear a thing. If you’re having difficulty with fit, or don’t find the noise cancellation is ... noise cancelly enough, I can’t recommend this small modification enough.

On that note, however, it’s far from ideal that I would be recommending spending £20 more on a £200+ set of headphones to get the functionality and quality they should ship with, but there we are.

If you have any questions about my experiences with this modification, please give me a shout.

Slight Apple Books Tweaks in iOS 13.4

Apple released the first developer beta of iOS 13.4 a few days ago and Apple blogs were quick to share the usual in-depth deep dives into what changes it would bring. These changes are pretty small, but from what I can tell they've all missed some equally small changes to Apple Books also.

Here's a quick comparison between Apple Books in iOS 13.3 and iOS 13.4 developer beta 1:

iOS 13.3 (left) vs. iOS 13.4 (right). Big thanks to Habib for the iOS 13.4 screenshot

Can you spot the differences? The chapter select button has moved from the top right, to the bottom right, the 'sleep timer' button is now a much more descriptive image, the playback speed indicator is larger and there's now an elipsis menu near the track name which opens the Sharesheet. The track scrubber and names have switched over as well.

Look, I did say the changes were tiny, but like I said I've not seen these particular tweaks mentioned anywhere so I couldn't resist my little exclusive of my own. The fact that I'm one of the only people I know that use Apple Books multiple hours a day, thus in a relatively rare position to notice such menial changes is by the by. I love the Apple Books app and, while these tiny changes make no difference to how I, or others, use the app, it is nice to see there is still a tiny focus on the app still from Apple's end.

Is The iPad Intuitive?

A few days ago, John Gruber and Matt Birchler had a bit of back and forth about the iPad and it's intuitiveness as a device. Both sides of the argument had some valid points, but I knew which side of the fence I sat.

One line in particular struck a cord with me, from Matt's original post on the subject:

As I have to say in every one of these pieces, I'm not arguing that macOS is trash, nor am I arguing that iPad software is perfect and needs no refinement. I'm just saying that humans have a tendency to mistake familiarity for intuitiveness.

After reading this short to and fro I had started to compile my own thoughts, but struggled to verbalise my feelings on the subject without it turning into a bit of a tirade. I then read this excellent, and concise, thought from Scott Willsey on Twitter, which expands upon Matt's thoughts perfectly:

This statement, along with Matt's post, perfectly sum up my thoughts on the tiresome 'iPad vs. Mac' debate. While this article debunks the idea that you can learn anything given 10,000 hours of practise, the theory behind this is still sound. If you put enough effort in to both learning, and practising something, regardless of the specific hour count, you will eventually get better at it. By its very nature, things seem simpler and more intuitive the more you understand it. This seems like common-sense to me, though it seems to be completely lost on those making an argument about which is more intuitive.

Take a simple task like shutting down a computer for example. For a Mac user, that device will be shutdown in 2 seconds flat. Give the same task to someone that has spent 20 years using only a Windows PC and you could imagine them moving the mouse[1] around for 20 minutes looking for the Start menu. If they were willing to keep trying, and think differently they will eventually get it. If, however, they insist on following the old paradigms they've used for the last 20 years, they'll get nowhere. Give the same task to my 5 year old, who's only really known iPad's, wont even understand the concept of shutting down at all.

While I've used a Mac's in the past, I've spent so much time with iPad's that I am now a lot faster and more efficient and doing any task I would need some form of computer for via an iPad. I don't think this means that any system is more or less intuitive than the other, rather the old adage 'you only get out what you put in' applies in the 21st century more so than ever before.

  1. once you've explained why there's only one button ... ↩︎

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