Your Phone Is More Awesomer Than Ever

We’ve got these amazing pocket computers that no longer amaze us like they used to. When iPhones were the hot new thing – wow! – every time one came out, people literally lined up in the street to buy one. That phase faded. But next week, Apple might be wowing people again.

More new things

The upcoming annual event, where the company that Steve Jobs built showcases its latest software magic, is not a blip on most people’s radar. But for us nerds, geeks, and techies, Apple’s WWDC 2019 is buzz worthy. Why? Because the stuff that makes our iPhones and iPads amazing is about to be…more amazinger than ever!

There have been a few leaks in the past few weeks about iOS 13, the newest iteration of the operating system that makes iPhones work like magic. And they’ve been nigh tech-titillating.

Two words can sum it all up: Dark Mode.

Now, even Batman will ditch his Bat Communicator for an iPhone. Because Dark Mode.

Seriously though, Apple’s about to launch some nice new stuff. Some of it sounds like it will be the kinds of things people have been wanting for a long time. So instead of shiny new abilities, we’ll finally just get to do things we’ve needed or wanted all along.

For example, iPads might get to open files from a USB C drive. They might even allow separate profiles for your family members to share on one device. And – get this – iPhone icons and tap points might look more like buttons you can actually press! How novel.1

No more new things

I could go on and gush about other rumored tidbits with potential and promise. Instead, I want to take this moment to pose the opposite, “What if” scenario.

What if WWDC 2019 signaled more refinement rather than more features? What if Apple said, “Hey, your magical pocket computers are already mind blowing and reality distorting. So, like Snow Leopard back in the day, we’re announcing No New Features.

This is sort of what they did last year with iOS 12, deciding to polish what was already supposed to be awesome. It was more ‘under the hood’ re-work, and I am glad they did that. But what if they did it yet again?

Would we still be amazed by our amazing whiz-bang gadgets? Or would we bristle and bellow for the wonder we once lined up for? Could we be content with what we have? Even grateful?

Maybe. My iPhone 7 is truly great. My iPad Air 22 is superb. Yet, I aint gonna lie, I would love to have new software and hardware from Apple, taking iOS to yet another level of brain melting techno-euphoria. Please. Bring it!

But if that does not happen next week…if Apple plays it safe and reveals next to nothing, I’ll count that as a win for being thankful for what I’ve got and not fixing what isn’t broken.

Having said all that, you know, there is one particular feature that I think I’d want above all else. No, it’s not Dark Mode, even though I wish I were Batman. What I think I’d want most is Apple to announce they figured out how to nearly double battery life just through software optimization.

Why? Because what I have works wonderfully! And I just want it to keep on working all day every day without ever worrying about conserving my battery. Simple as that.

That means full-screen brightness, no problem. Surfing the web forever, you bet. Gaming, taking pictures, editing photos…and the iPhone will just stay alive without needing to scab on a fat eccentrically bumped out battery case.

Guess we’ll find out soon enough what’s really going down at this year’s WWDC. I’m no developer, but I’m a user who has developed a love for Apple’s rectangles.

Are you psyched or hyped for WWDC 2019? Or have you even heard about it? Chat me up below or send me the mails. I’m all ears. Thanks for reading!

  1. Except, of course, iOS 1 through 6.
  2. Yes, the one from 2014 that has an A8X chip.

Using Ulysses For Better Blogging

If writing about a writing app is too meta, then call me guilty. I’m still in my honeymoon phase using my newest tool – Ulysses. Switching to it has been like going from a hammer to a nail gun! It’s a great app for blogging if you’re on WordPress, Medium, and now Ghost! So I want to share a little how I’m currently using it.

Library Setup

In the Library, where Groups and Filters go1, I’ve got a top Group for my blog. Under that, there are four sub objects:

  1. Meta is a Group containing all my personal notes about my blog. For example, I’ve got notes about what categories I want to use.
  2. Drafts is a Filter and is just what it says. Like on WordPress, this is where I start writing stuff. More on this later.
  3. Scheduled is also a Filter. It’s like what you find on WordPress. After I’ve written a draft post, it gets edited and polished in the Scheduled filter.
  4. Published is the last Filter where I keep all my live posts. It’s my local “raw” copy. After publishing to WordPress through Ulysses, I also publish to PDF and store it in the Files app on my iPad. This means these copies are in iCloud.

The thing about the last three Filters is that I never need to “send” or “move” or “drag and drop” any of my posts to them. This is because each one is set to one Keyword2.

My “Drafts” keyword is red. “Scheduled” is yellow. And – you guessed it – “Published” is green!

I simply add the right keyword to my posts corresponding to the stage they’re in, and they auto-magically get sorted into the proper filters. Works every time!

Template Setup

This is where things get more interesting. I like my blog posts to be done a certain way. And I want them to be consistent. With Ulysses, I can make this happen easily.

I created a “Sheet” and called it “Blog Post Template.” It’s already got the red keyword, “Draft,” applied to it. It also has one extra keyword in the color grey, “Template.” Creative, I know.

When I’m ready to start a new draft post, I swipe the template, tap the ellipses, and then tap, “Duplicate.” Viola! Right there in the Drafts filter is my new post. But wait, there’s more.

This template – now a new draft – is preset with text fields in it. At least that’s how it looks. The fields are indicated by the ‘%%’ Comment Blocks that span entire paragraphs. Each one is labeled for the different parts of the post: intro, body, conclusion, call to action. And the dividing lines between each section are ready to go.

On top of that, my “Call to action” section already has the basic text I use, including a link to my Contact info, and it’s already defined to be strong and emphasized.3

Finally, this template is also marked as a Favorite sheet, so it’s always ready to get at in the special Favorites group.4

This is how I’ve set up Ulysses to help streamline my blogging. In addition to that, I simply use the built-in publishing features to automatically get my posts up on WordPress. I’ve mentioned a bit how that process works on my recent write up about Ulysses.

It’s a great app, and I hope to learn how to use it better with practice. Out of the gate, it already makes blogging – and journaling – better.

What’s your writing or blogging set up? Keep it simple, or do you have an elaborate process? Let me know in the comments below or you can write to me. Thanks for reading!

  1. Think: Folders and Smart-Folders.
  2. Keywords in Ulysses are applied to any “Sheet.” A sheet can be a note, a blog post, or a scene in a book you’re writing. They’re like documents but better. And Keywords are color coded however you like!
  3. Read: Bold and Italic.
  4. When you duplicate a favorite sheet, the new sheet does not get the ‘favorite’ status duplicated. For my setup, that works out great.

Water Tower Sunset

The joy of photography for me happens when the wonder of creation surprises me, like a kid still discovering nature for the first time. Some of my favorite photos are ones that turn out better than expected. That happened in this picture I took of a water tower.

My family had been hiking Abilene State Park one day several years ago, and we were headed down a trail from Buffalo Wallow. This path took us by the small water tower.

I looked up, noticing the many birds gathering on the tower’s steel bracing. The sight of them really caught my eye. My camera was hanging from its black strap around my neck1, so I lifted it up, composed the image, and snapped away.

My aim was to put the tower off center and at an interesting angle; it’s structure, as I recall, was more of my focus after the birds. The tower’s dark silhouette against the setting sun was kinda nice. Otherwise, it’s just plain old white in full sun.

It was during the edit phase that this photo became one of my favorites. I remember tweaking it in Lightroom. I like vivid color, so as I sought to bring out the sky more – it was washed out looking – I saw colors that I had no idea were in the sunset!

It was truly surprising. I was able to bring out more color than I imagined. It was the last thing on my mind when making the picture in the field. I went for the birds, then the tower. But the colorful sky, with its beautiful gradient, is what won me over here.

This is one reason I like photography. The ability to see, discover, and capture the wonder of creation. There’s glory exhibited around us, if only we take the time to stop and behold. And sometimes it will surprise you like a young child. Don’t lose your sense of wonder!

What do you like about this photo? How would you do it differently? Comment below or message me. Thanks for reading!

  1. This was before everyone’s camera was always in their pocket!

Ulysses Is The Right Tool For The Write Job

When you’ve got to get work done, it’s great when you have the right tool and super frustrating when you don’t. What’s more awesome is when you can have high quality tools that help you the best. I think I’ve found such a tool for writing: Ulysses.

I don’t know why they chose the name Ulysses, but it’s memorable. Maybe that’s why. It kinda stands out, which I guess is by design, because it’s considered a “Pro” writing app. So what’s it like? I had two weeks to find out. Let me hit the highlights.


First up, Markdown. I had heard about writing in markdown before, but using Ulysses is the first time I’ve ever experienced this simple kind of markup language. It’s not code, and it’s simpler than HTML.

To me, it’s a natural way to mark up your text in order to…define it. Instead of formatting or styling, you “define” text with special characters. If you’ve ever used a hashtag – # – symbol to tag your Tweet or Instagram photo, then you’ve got the basic idea of Markdown.

It was very quick for me to pick it up because there’s nothing to learn about it. Like picking up a hammer and whacking a nail, the concept is simple. It just takes practice to get good with the tool.

And I love it! Markdown is superb in its simplicity. It makes the process of writing better because it let’s you focus on getting the words out onto the screen rather than spending time on how those words look. It’s almost just like writing plain text in email.

The real advantage to using Markdown is how flexible and easy it is to export your text to practically anywhere and not have to worry about formatting. Have you ever written something in Microsoft Word and copy/pasted the text to some other app or site and had to fight the glitchy formatting of your words after you perfected them? I have.1 It’s a real headache.

Get your texts in order

I like the organizational scheme of Ulysses. It has a very nice library where you create either folders or smart folders called Groups and Filters. You can also make any number of sub-folders. This lets you go deep with putting stuff where you want it, but you can also just keep it simple.

You can also add any number of color coded keywords to your sheets. Sheets are like individual documents in Ulysses, but you never have to hit a “save” button. And if you want, you can forget using Groups and instead just use Filters for Keywords to auto-populate with all the right sheets.

Also, in the library list, you can choose to focus on just one Group or writing project at a time. This is great for minimizing distraction. It’s also great for hiding sensitive writing from nearby eyes.2

Writing goals

Ulysses is all about helping you write all the words, getting them from your head to the screen in front of you. So it has a bunch of statistics or metrics like total word count, character count, and more. And it uses those with goal setting. So you can be motivated to type a certain number of words in a certain amount of time if you wish.

In the two weeks that I’ve been trying Ulysses, I set a goal to write at least 100 words per day in my private journal. During that time, I’ve hit my goal every day! The goal feature in Ulysses has really helped me achieve this small but consistent step in writing regularly!

The way it helps is with a nice little visual circle that changes color depending on where you are in your goal. You can tap it to enlarge it and see more detail. It reminds me daily to journal every time I see it. So I’m a fan!

Export Magic

The export feature is the magical part of Ulysses. It’s where you can see Markdown go to work for you. And it’s super handy! I’ve published 8 posts in the last two weeks straight from Ulysses to WordPress without a hitch! I’m still kind of shocked that it works so well.

So I wrote several posts in Markdown. Then I exported to WordPress, and the formatting, line breaks, dividers, headings…everything styled perfectly every time. It even got the images in-line correctly, grabbed the excerpt text and the featured image exactly how I expected. Not only that, it let me pick my blog Categories and Tags in the Ulysses app, which got added when I uploaded.

I’ve got to also mention Footnotes!3 They, too, are super simple to quickly and easily “type” in with your text and then upload upon export to WordPress – zero glitches. No fiddling to adjust later!

There’s only one part missing from WordPress export for me. I must use the WordPress app to add any hashtags or custom text to the “Share to Twitter” part. But that’s easy enough to do.

Ulysses also lets me export to PDF with ease, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but found it too difficult due to the whole copy/paste text formatting problem. Markdown plus Ulysses’ magical export feature makes the work elementary.

Writing wherever

I’ve been able to use all of Ulysses’ power exclusively on my iPad Air 2 and iPhone 7! It Syncs across them without any errors! The app relies on iCloud, which has gotten so much better over time4. So whenever I happen to thumb-type texts on my iPhone or tap-out words on my iPad Bluetooth keyboard, all my writing is in unison.

The writing’s in the details

Ulysses can do a lot more than what I’ve highlighted here5. For all its features and functions, the developer has somehow managed to make it seem so simple and clean in the interface, both in how it looks and also how it works. And that’s great design!

Because of the attention to detail and the care the developer has for the process of writing, I love Ulysses!

Finally, let’s talk about the behemoth in the writing nook: subscribing. Some apps, you can just pay a one-time fee for them and be done. I like that. Other apps, like Ulysses, require a subscription where you pay a small nominal fee each month or each year6. There are pros and cons for this from both a user perspective and from the developer’s view.

I like Ulysses and am using it enough that I’m willing to subscribe to it. In fact, I did so today!

Moreover, I’m considering posting some of my writing to Medium in addition to WordPress. This prospect is all the more easy because I can write in Markdown, like I’m doing now, and export to both Medium and WordPress without any fuss!

I think Ulysses is a wonderful tool for writing. I love its focus, utility, and design. It’s robust and reliable. So I want to support the app and the developer, and I hope Ulysses continues to be the great tool it is long into the future.

I have many more words to write; Ulysses is the right tool.

What tool do you use for blogging or writing? Will you consider Ulysses? Comment below or message me. Thanks for reading!

  1. I’ve even found getting text from the Apple Notes app into WordPress problematic. And I never really understood why until I learned a little about what Markdown is.
  2. You can also lock Ulysses with its own passcode and use TouchID to keep your private journal private.
  3. For example, here’s one!
  4. For me, I use iCloud for everything. And it works great. Although I’ve had a recent problem with Apple Music not updating properly on my iPad despite working on my iPhone. But I don’t know if that’s an iCloud error or something else.
  5. The Search feature itself is very robust! Whether searching for text within a Sheet or across all your Sheets.
  6. The annual pricing saves you a good chunk of money!

Finding Feedly All Over Again

You know what it’s like to discover something new. But sometimes, it’s more interesting to rediscover something old so that it’s new again – like nostalgia being fulfilled, or an old friend who returns to take a new adventure with you.

Well, call me a nerd or a geek, whatever. This week I rediscovered an RSS reader. Feedly!

After Google Reader was shut down years ago, I looked for a replacement. That’s where Feedly came in, for a while. But at some point along the way of dabbling in different software, I kinda switched over to Pocket and other read-it-later services. Feedly fell by the wayside.

But this week, through my online reading, I was reminded of Feedly by way of a contrast. You see, there’s this little thing called Twitter.

Sometimes, Twitter has been like an RSS reader to me. You follow news sites, which cross-post links to their Twitter feed. And then, generally, you see that link to the new article.

But the big difference between Twitter and something like Feedly is that the former feed is algorithm based. So you don’t necessarily see every article from your fave news site. And you don’t see them in chronological order. It’s hit-or-miss.

The latter, though, shows you every article from every site that you want and in an order that follows the calendar!1 And it’s tailor made for easy viewing. You can scroll through all the sites you follow in a mixed feed, or you can “knock-out” everything per site in smaller and more manageable chunks. Best of all, you don’t miss anything!

There might be one drawback to using an RSS reader though. It is an aggregator. So you go to the reader to catch up on all the latest articles from your favorite online info-depots2 instead of going to the websites themselves. I don’t think that’s good for the site.

So I’m enjoying Feedly again. After installing it on my iPad, I decided I liked the web interface better. But the app is more useful on my iPhone.

When I logged in and saw some of my old sites still there, I wondered why I hadn’t been using Feedly all this time! Rediscovering it has been a nice bit of old being new again.

How do you keep up with your favorite websites? Social-media, feed reader, or visit each site? Comment below or message me. Thanks for reading!

  1. One of the biggest and simplest requests I hear people have about social feeds is to put them in chrono order. Why do you think social sites refuse to do that?
  2. The internet itself is a big Info-Depot.