WWDC 2021 Wishes

Apple’s annual developer conference is around the corner, and there seems to be eager anticipation in the tech community. I’m excited as a consumer (okay, kind of a fanboy). When it comes to #mobilecomputing, the Apple ecosystem is tops, yet this year’s WWDC could raise the bar higher. I’ve got a few things I hope to see.


Widget Wishlist

First up, new and improved widgets. I love the clean and simple design direction Apple took last year with iOS14. Now I’d like to see widgets become actionable. For example, the Reminders widget could allow you to check things off a list in the widget without needing to open the app. Also, I think the Clock widget should have a digital option (2×4 size). Just let me place a large digital clock on my home screen (like Android) – thanks. Next, I noticed that the News app has a widget option for “full screen” 4×6 size, but only on the “Today” screen (left of Home) and only using the “For You” section of News. In iOS15, this 4×6 option should be enabled for all widgets on any home screen, and for the News app it should extend beyond the “For You” section. Finally, iPadOS15 should allow widgets to be placed anywhere like iOS14 while also gaining the above improvements.

iPad Upgrades

I plan to buy an iPad in the near future, eager to use it as my primary computer (because, “What’s a computer?”) I love the last few big updates iPadOS received (desktop-class web browser, Smart Connector, full native mouse/cursor support, app Sidebars) that make iPad more computer-like than ever. But there’s still room for improvement. I’d like to see multi-user support, so I could let my kids use my iPad with their own user account for example. Also, I think it’d be good for iPad to finally support Xcode and other “pro” apps because it would further legitimize iPad as a “real” productivity device. This, in turn, would spur greater focus on iPad development in the long-term. Another big area in need of advancement is multi-tasking. I think Apple should strive to simplify gestures used for app management without sacrificing multi-app capability. At the same time, I think iPad should never enable windowed apps like on macOS or Windows. Apps should remain full-screen or split-screen, but there must be a way to make multi-app control more intuitive.

Outside of software for iPadOS, I have a specific request for Apple on the hardware side. Please give the entry level iPad base model (at $329) 64GB of RAM instead of the paltry 32GB. Seriously. Or at least compromise and add a 64GB option mid-way at $379. Another choice: make the 32GB model cost just $299 and the 128GB model cost only $399.

watchOS

For Apple Watch, there’s at least one app sorely missing: Notes. The next watchOS should add the Notes app simply to view notes on my wrist and enable voice dictation to create new notes. Speaking to my watch to add short text snippets to iMessage or compose quick email works great, so it would be easy to use for capturing a new note on the go. It’d be nice to just raise my wrist and say, “Note to self…” and fill in the blanks, creating a new note in the default section of the app.

iCloud

I understand that Apple is a traditional hardware/software company. Its paradigm is for consumers to use native apps on local devices. I like this a lot. But we do live in a mobile first, cloud first world where web apps are growing better and more prevalent than ever before. With that in mind, Apple should seriously revamp its iCloud website. It works. It’s nice. But it has feature and design disparity with its native app counterparts. And it’s slow. Because iCloud.com could use much improvement, it does disservice to the many web users who happen to not compute on an Apple device. Otherwise, the iCloud sync service works well in the background yet could be more reliable. I’ve seen a few inexplicable sync issues within Notes between iCloud and my iPhone. Thankfully, the issues always get sorted out in time, but they don’t instill confidence in the service.

Apple is likely to surprise developers and consumers with new and improved features across all its devices. I hope they do their usual and add more quality of life/ease of use things, the kind of stuff that “just works” in daily life. I’m sure there will be a lot of upgrades related to the M1 CPU with new software/hardware that relies on it. That stuff is exciting because, if nothing else, it shows that Apple continues to innovate. The Apple ecosystem as a whole will benefit.

The Edgebook is Dead

A few months back, I got a excited for a new take on an old thing. I was interested in an iteration of Windows 10. It’s name was Windows 10X. And it will never see the light of day. Bummer, because I was really interested in a Windows version of a Chromebook. I called it the Edgebook. It could have been a simple laptop without the ad-driven privacy-invading Google tentacles weaved throughout. But the potential of Windows 10X is not all lost.


I’ve been using a Chromebook for about 2 years solid now — there’s a lot to like. Its limitations are actually a feature because they make it simple. A virtue that is still oft undervalued, simplicity is a strength that makes using a Chromebook an easy affair. There is, of course, a downside to Google’s ChromeOS. It’s the same downside inherent in all of Google’s products and services: ad-based surveillance. Your personal details profit the big Google. I have been willing to make the trade-off before: sell my digital soul for “free” web software. What could it really hurt? I reasoned that if I was forced to see ads on the web, they might as well be hyper-targeted ads for things I would actually want to spend money on.

But no more.

Like the clock’s steady pendulum, I’ve swung back to the side where privacy is of paramount importance. Going from Google to Apple, I prefer to spend my money on keeping my personal data on the private side of the fence. Why be a persona non data — that is a person online who receives no respect of their personal data, not immune to digital intrusion or invasion? Although Microsoft isn’t as privacy focused as Apple, they are certainly not as privacy ignoring as Google.

So imagine a laptop that is both simple like a Chromebook and doesn’t log your every digital move? That is what I had hoped a Microsoft Edgebook would be. But now it won’t be anything at all. Apparently, beta-testers didn’t see a reason for Windows 10X to exist, or Microsoft perceived that the OS variant simply wasn’t worth releasing to the public. I guess that’s not too much of a bummer because news reports say that some of the hallmarks of Windows 10X will be migrated into full-fledged Windows 10. I’m not exactly sure what this will entail, but I do think it’s smart for Microsoft to take what they’ve learned from development on Windows 10X and apply it to their main OS. The biggest paradigm that may be adopted is the overall push towards simplicity and modernity. I welcome that.

Despite the better looking future for Windows 10 along with its classic robust flexibility and capability as an operating system, I’ve already decided to switch from my Chromebook to either an iPad or a Mac, because Apple and iPhone. As of now, I’m lasered on the iPad as the most simple and modern computer on the market. Oh, and did I mentioned it’s also the most private? Yeah, take my money, Apple.

Of Macs and iPads

So how’s your month of May going? Mine has been adventurous. The new company I work for turned a corner last week, so things are looking better. We were given new laptops with VPN remote access to the new-to-us servers. My former dual-monitor set up was replaced with a new Ultrawide curved display. Best of all, an office building was bought; we should start moving in sometime next month. I shouldn’t have to work from home much longer and will be able to finally resume some new “normal.” Meanwhile, I’ve been swamped with imminent deadlines for my structural steel design work. I think I’m going to make it.


With that out of the way, I’ll get back to computing. In my previous post, I contemplated switching from my Chromebook to a Windows desktop PC. Well, that’s changed a bit. As I was pricing a custom build on NewEgg and then considering an off-the-shelf PC from Best Buy, I noticed that the best price point I could get to for my needs was around $700. It occurred to me that the Mac mini is the same price. Then it clicked in my brain – since I like using mostly Apple stock software for my personal stuff everyday, I should just buy a Mac desktop instead of a Windows desktop.

This was a no-brainer idea. I was a bit surprised that I had not been more adamant about it before. This was also a relief because it helped me resist sliding down the switching path into the Microsoft camp. I need to stop switching ecosystems and just stick with one (assuming that’s possible for me). Living in Apple land can be expensive, but to me it’s worth it.

As I thought more about a Mac mini, I began to remember the fact that almost every single app I would use on a Mac is also pre-installed on the device I’ve been wanting all along – the iPad. Can you guess where this is going next? So then I figured why not just stick with switching from a Chromebook back to an iPad? It has all the apps I really need, and the entry-level iPad costs much less than a Mac mini.

In 2019, when I switched from iPad to Chromebook, I needed a solid solution for simple text input and manipulation. I also needed a desktop — not a mobile — web browser. It’s been almost 2 years since then, and in that time, Apple has made the budget model iPad compatible with the Apple Smart Keyboard and given it full native mouse/trackpad support. The iPad is also now more computer-like than ever with a desktop-class browser that many people say really works, and it remains affordable and accessible. So it looks like I’ll be switching back in 2021. Surprise, surprise.

Also, the Apple Pencil looks compelling. I’ll probably buy one and will need an iPad to go with it.

Contemplating Another Computer

Howdy, y’all. I had to take a break for a bit so I could step back from the edge of the stress cliff. My day job has been undergoing a huge transition from the rubble and remnants of one company to the promise and potential of a new company. It’s been a rough ride. Okay, that said, this post is about my core geekery – computing. I tend to switch things up, and like my job situation, I’m wanting to switch out my Chromebook for a “real” PC.


This switch is directly related to my job transition. As I was forced to work from home on my work laptop, which is a very capable Windows 10 machine, I decided to use it as my personal machine too. It was easy to do because there was nothing to set up. Having been solely using a Chromebook, everything I did was cloud based via web apps. So with Chrome installed on my work laptop, I logged into my Google account. And that was it; all my stuff was there.

My work laptop (which I can’t use anymore – that’s another bump in the rough transition road) is no slouch. It was used for CAD design, having quite a mobile spec load out: 32GB RAM, core i7 CPU, SSD storage. Given all that horsepower, it made my personal computing fly compared to my Chromebook. Plus, since it ran Windows 10 instead of Chrome OS, there were no limitations. I could do pretty much anything with it since it ran desktop apps and not only a browser.

The capability and flexibility of that Windows 10 machine has made me want my own. So I’d like to switch off my Chromebook and replace it with a desktop PC. In fact, I’ve already been on NewEgg building a custom PC wish-list. I have found that it’s hard to save money when building a PC of your own. There are areas where you can save a few dollars, but overall it still adds up to a lot. In my case, I need to also buy Windows 10 software and not just PC hardware, which adds a good chunk to the cost. Anyways, it’s fun to custom build my own PC hot-rod. I make a budget build, a dream build, and then I build something in between that’s neither compromised nor crazy. You can buy just a new RTX GPU that costs as much as an entire computer! As much as I want to run Minecraft with real-time ray-tracing, that will have to wait a long time.

Being mostly an Apple guy when it comes to mobile computing, there’s a question: why not get a Mac? Because I want to do some PC gaming, stay more compatible with my wife’s Windows PC, and be able to use my own PC in lieu of my work PC if the need arises.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to buy anything for a while. But that’s no big deal. My needs are basically met. But I’ve got some wants and maybe some future needs to consider. Even a budget-friendly Windows PC offers greater flexibility than my Chromebook, and that alone is enough reason to switch. That said, I did learn a good lesson years ago: never buy an entry level Windows machine. Not only is the build quality sub-par, it’s not future proof, and it’s also painfully sluggish.

Here’s the rub of all this. I also still really want an iPad and plan to buy one. So I figure I’ll be replacing my Chromebook laptop with two things: a desktop PC and an Apple tablet — a computer and a mobile computer. I’ll probably keep the Chromebook around too and let the kids use it for school, so I’ll still have access to it if the switch-a-roo bug bites me again. And I’m sure it will.