🎮 My Wizard of Oz Moment

If you’ve listened to the latest episode of the podcast you would have heard that I’ve been on a bit of a gaming kick recently, more so than I have for a while. I mentioned there that a lot of my time is spent on the Nintendo Switch, despite also owning a screaming fast Xbox One X, so I took a bit of time out to try and understand what the draw is of the Switch, and Nintendo in general.

From an early age, my life was full of adventure and wonder. By the time I had hit my early teen years I had already been on an epic quest to save a princess, I’d visited the stars and even raced a hovercar in the year 2560 at breakneck speeds. Life was good and the future was truly bright. I could do anything.

Role forward another twenty years or so, to early 2019, and the bright future I had been promised was nowhere to be seen. The colourful splendor of my youth had dissipated, only to be replaced with a heavy grey sheen of despair. My life was no longer full of honourable quests and laughing with friends. It was full of monotonous tasks such as the daily commute and a repetitive need to bang my head against a brick wall, metaphorically speaking of course. My life had become a monochromatic reflection of its former glory. Don’t get me wrong, I have a loving family, a good job and my health, but there is an aspect of my life that was in dire need of some colour. I needed a ‘Wizard of Oz’ moment, in that my life, like Dorothy’s, will change from a dull sepia to vivid life and colour.

Very recently I finally had my ‘Wizard of Oz’ moment. My life, once devoid of hope and luminosity, once again exploded into colour. What I am trying to say, via the use of some very convoluted metaphors, is that Shuntaro Furukawa and his company Nintendo were back in my life, thanks to the purchase of the Nintendo Switch. I had owned the Wii U (and Wii) prior to this, but the Wii U just didn’t grab my imagination like the Switch did, and continues to do.

img_1678

Since its release at the start of 2017, the system has seemingly exploded. Initially, at least, it was unlikely to be anyones primary console, but it lends itself to be a perfect secondary one. It feels like this has been a major contributing factor to the sales phenomenon the Switch has turned out to be. The flexibility of it’s use-case, as a home console or mobile device ticks so many boxes, and can easily be justified as a companion to an Xbox, not a replacement.

I’ve been a big fan of my Xbox (of various generations) over the years, and again continue to enjoy it, but after hour 500 in Destiny, having torn through thousands upon thousands of repetitive monsters, the grey drabness I mentioned above really started to sink in. I started to miss the colour, energy and pure joy that is a Nintendo console and it’s enviable pile of fantastic IPs.

I recalled my fondest gaming memories, such as playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a game that remains one of my favourite of all time, and of endless multiplayer matches of Goldeneye and Street Fighter 2 with my brother. The list went on and on, with a single, very important link (pun intended) binding my happy memories together. That link being, of course, Nintendo.

My hunger for new Nintendo hardware was not hampered by the lackluster Wii U. The device felt cheap, it didn’t work well and the game catalog ended up being attrocious, but the console did act as yet another example of Nintendo not resting on its laurels and not following the crowd. It was something different, unique and it turns out it formed the very core foundation of what would become the Nintendo Switch.

When I started to see some of the announcement videos, as the launch date approached, I was both very nervous they could actually pull of what was promised this time, still tainted by the Wii U, but also completely on board. if anyone deserves my trust and loyalty when it comes to gaming, it’s Nintendo. It turns out this trust paid off, big time.

The console, as is the hallmark for Nintendo, took past design cues, both those that were successful, and those less so, and evolved the Wii U design into something that both looks, and feels, leaps and bounds ahead of what came before it. The console felt mature, yet maintained so many of the nice, family friendly characteristics that make Nintendo Nintendo, from the quirky dual controllers that can pop up for a quick 2 player action, to the smart colours and designs.

The strength of Nintendo’s past offerings has always sat with their first party games featuring Link, Mario, Kirby et al. This hasn’t changed with the Switch, but something that even Nintendo didn’t bank on, I’d imagine, is the incredibly strong third party support from incredible feats of engineering with ports of Doom and Wolfenstein 2, to unbelievable support from the indie community. Games such as The Messenger and Celeste are some of my favourite games on the system. While these are not Switch exclusives, they do feel so incredibly at home on the dynamic little console.

The point of this short article was not to review the Switch, it’s a bit late for that at this point. It was more to share a thought that gamers need to start remembering what it is that drew them towards the hobby in the first place. I can appreciate that we’re a diverse race, and we all have different ideas of what is fun and enjoyable. If the best graphics and realism are key for you, then by all means keep buying the Playstation 4’s and XBox One’s of this world. If, however, you yearn for a return to pure, and unadulterated fun in your life, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice by not picking yourself up a Switch and jumping into some of the most relaxing, empowering and enjoyable gaming experiences available today. I defy you to fire up Mario Kart 8 and not feel a massive grin crawl across your face …

I will always have an affinity to Nintendo, but systems like the Switch not only cement this for me and bring that much needed colour back into my life, but it will no doubt turn a whole new generation of young gamers onto the fun, lighthearted side of gaming that is needed now, more than ever.​

Getting Things Done on the iPad

Whilst writing my iPad Pro review I had intended in going a little more in-depth about how I actually get things done on my iPad. I took umbrage to many of the main stream iPad reviews that were written by people that are clearly not regular iPad users, and haven’t really taken the time to learn iOS.

Matt Gemmell, in writing his iPad Pro review sums up this feeling perfectly:

Also, be extremely skeptical of anyone who makes a judgement about switching to an iPad when they haven’t actually done it themselves (this goes for most judgements about most things throughout life). This group includes the apparent majority of tech journalists, most of whom seem to have an annual ritual of spending one week with the newest iPad, and then saying it’s not a laptop replacement yet in some general sense. How would you even know? I certainly didn’t until six months or so in.

As my review progressed, going into too much detail about my own personal uses didn’t seem to fit at the time and started to feel that it would be more suitable as a separate post. So, here we are.

Before I dig into a few of my own use cases for an iPad Pro, I should clarify that I have replaced my personal computer with an iPad, since about 2014. I do, however, still use a Windows PC everyday at work. While the iPad doesn’t fully replace all computing in my life, it does touch on many facets, even in the work place.

Why an iPad?

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve been using an iPad as my primary computer since 2014. At the time, I believe this would have been the (still) fantastic iPad Air 2. I still have this Air 2 (though it had a screen issue which led to Apple giving me a fresh refurbished model about a year ago), though it’s now used by my daughter for some YouTube or kids games etc. The Air 2 enjoys its retirement I’m sure …

In 2014 my wife and I lived in a small house, with a spare room that was used as my home office / study. Within lived my 27” iMac. This was, at this time, my main computing device. Also at this time, I found out I was going to be a dad. This was, of course, amazing news, but my iMac didn’t agree. The iMac knew it’s time lording it up in my spare room was numbered. The room was quickly converted into a nursery and, after a short stint in the corner of the living room, was quickly retired.

I loved that iMac because it looked so pretty, but functionally I didn’t miss a thing, even then. I did very little (read nothing) on the device to warrant its existence. I didn’t admit that, however, until I had no choice but to let it go.

Since then, the functionality and utility of the iPad has grown as has my usage of it. As mentioned earlier, many iPad Pro reviews focused on what an iPad can’t do, many of which it can do, yet clearly on time has been exploring just how. To this end, I wanted to share a few instances of how I use an iPad to, in some small way, counteract the message that you can’t get things done on an iPad.

Blogging

One of the easiest things to get done on the iPad, even prior to the Pro, was blogging. Since the Pro, however, this has become even easier. The Dent is currently hosted on WordPress.com, and posting there via the web is, surprisingly, quite robust.

After trying out many, many writing apps over the years, with apps like Drafts and Ulysses being particular highlights, I’m currently using a bit of a classic, namely iAWriter. I’ve been using it again for a few weeks now and I’m really in love with the app. It does exactly what I was looking for in a writing app. The UI itself minimalist, and the Focus mode really helps you … well, focus! This mode dims the text you’ve already written, and keeps only the current word, line or paragraph (whichever you choose) brighter. You get the choice of a light and dark mode which is really important for a writing app in my book. One of the big selling points for Ulysses, according to many people, was the fact it can also post directly to WordPress. Well, it turns out, so can iAWriter. Once you provide your credentials any post you write (including images) will be uploaded to your WordPress site and saved as a Draft, ready for you to publish at your convenience. iAWriter is one of my favourite types of apps, in that on the face of it it’s very simple, yet once you dig in a little you find some really powerful features.

Podcasting

I currently host a short-form, podcast called The Dent and am also the co-host of a long running show called Pocket Sized Podcast. When it comes to The Dent’s companion show I record, edit and post entirely from the iPad alone. For Pocket Sized Podcast I record via the iPad, but the main host, Scott, does all of the great edit work.

For both shows I use the fantastic Ferrite to record my side of the conversation. I also use it to edit (what little editing I do) for The Dent. Ferrite is both a powerful audio recorder and multi-track editing tool which is just a powerhouse on the iPad Pro. The app features Pencil support as well, which is really invaluable when it comes to precise editing and manipulation for complex recordings. While his post is now a little dated, Jason Snell wrote an interesting piece about using Ferrite for podcasting on his blog, which is well worth checking out.

IMG_0872

Recording and editing The Dent is easy because I am, essentially, talking to myself. For Pocket Sized Podcast, or other shows I’ve been a guest on the iPad alone isn’t enough, unfortunately. For this, I will need to use Skype or FaceTime Audio to complete the call to the other hosts. This, however, is still simple, though it is an extra step. On these occasions, I will simply hold the call on my iPhone, whilst recording into Ferrite as usual. This is a little bit of a cheat, I appreciate, but needs must, and I am still iOS focused at least …

Photography

Don’t worry, I don’t take photos with my iPad Pro. I do, however, really enjoy editing photos on my iPad Pro. Since my daughter came along I have, admittedly, taken less photos that actually need editing. I now take far more photos than ever, for obvious reasons (dogs and kids are cute it turns out) but I wouldn’t generally edit fun family snaps. When I do take photos that need editing, the iPad is my go-to, however. My favourite photo editing app is actually only available on the iPhone, unfortunately, and that is Darkroom. The good news, however, is that an iPad version is currently in beta and will hopefully be released soon.

One of the real highlights of editing photos on the iPad Pro comes from using apps like Pixelmator, in conjunction with the Pencil. The precision and power you get from combining these really is incredible. I certainly don’t push this particular workflow anywhere near it’s limits currently, but I’m looking forward to exploring it more over the coming months / years.

Video Production

Okay, so classifying anything I currently do, or have done, with video as video production is most certainly pushing it. So far, I’ve uploaded just two videos to The Dent YouTube channel but both videos were recorded and editing using an iPad Pro and the fantastic LumaFusion. These videos are, essentially, experiments. Experiments designed to learn the ropes of a very powerful, professional grade bit of software. This blog, the podcast and now the YouTube channel are all experiments, to some extent. This is never going to be a profession for me, but it’s all good fun, and something I find relaxing to do (not to mention it lets me spend more time with my beloved iPad). If you want to see what some real professionals can do with the iPad Pro with LumaFusion, I can highly recommend the fantastic Chris Lawley’s entire YouTube channel which is completely produced from an iPad Pro. YouTuber Jonathan Morrison also released a fascinating video about his process behind producing another video entirely on the iPad Pro with LumaFusion. Jonathan is most certainly a professional, and he came away very impressed with what the iPad Pro could do.

Jobby job

While I included a caveat at the start of this article saying that my day job requires that I use a PC due to necessary software, that isn’t to say that the iPad Pro isn’t infiltrating my life even there.

I currently bring the iPad to work with me every day, and it sits by my side while I work. The iPad comes to meetings with me for note taking, or for marking up some ideas with the Pencil should they come up. I’m currently using the stock Notes app, after a foray into many other third party apps such as (the admittedly great) Bear. As with many stock Apple apps, I find the integration hard to ignore, especially when my requirements are fairly light at this point in time.

I also use the iPad to manage my time and tasks / projects as well. I’ve long held a misguided belief that I should be using the same apps across both iPhone and iPad. I really like Things 3 for work related tasks, but it was just too much for every day / personal use. To this end, I would often switch between Things 3 and GoodTask 3. I’ve now settled on a happy medium. I use Things 3 for work, mainly on the iPad (where it looks truly lovely) and GoodTask whilst at home. Happy times all around!

All Work and no Play …

While everyone is ranting and raving about not being able to do real work on an iPad Pro, or if it can replace your laptop, they seem to be forgetting that you don’t actually need to have work tasks that you do on your personal laptop in order for an iPad Pro to replace your laptop. I’m firmly in the camp that you can do work on the iPad, but I also appreciate that most people don’t ever do work on their personal computers, be they iPads, iMac, PCs or Chromebooks.

The vast majority of people use their personal computers in exactly that way, as personal devices to use when you don’t need to get work done. As some people like to point out, the iPad really is a fantastic consumption device. It’s great to read on, watch some Netflix on, chat with friends on, and even game on. Paired with an MFi controller and you’ve got yourself a, in my opinion, near perfect entertainment centre.

IMG_0861

I’m going to close this article out not with my own words, but from those of Federico Viticci. I think the Tweet from him below sums up my feelings on this whole subject perfectly.