A Note On Notes On Apple Watch

Digital note taking might be pedestrian, but it’s essential to the workflow of many; I’m certainly no exception. I love notes apps and have used several over the years. One of them, Apple Notes, has served me very well. Inexplicably, though, the app is nowhere to be found on Apple Watch, which is a, uh, noteworthy omission.

With Apple Notes missing from the Watch, I simply did not expect what happened today. I noticed Microsoft’s OneNote on my Apple Watch; it’s purple icon stood out like amethyst in a geode. What was that doing there?

Surprise! With OneNote, I now have my notes on my Watch.

How can this be? Microsoft has enabled note viewing and taking on Apple’s Watch, but Apple hasn’t. Curious.

OneNote on Apple Watch shows your most recent notes in a list like it does in the mobile app. The list displays:

  1. The section color the note is in.
  2. The section title the note is in.
  3. The date the note was taken.

At the top of the list is a simple “+” button, which lets you add a new note by either finger drawing or dictation. Where does that new note go? It is automatically added to the designated “Quick Notes” section in the mobile app (you choose the section in settings).

This is both a surprise and a delight to me. I can finally take notes on my watch or simply review them. There are only two feature wishes I have:

  1. Ability to add a Complication to take a new note (by dictation).
  2. Ability to take a new note via Siri command (e.g., “Hey, Siri, take a note…”).

I checked into this and found there are a few other note-taking apps that include a Watch app. It’s probably only a matter of time until Apple finally adds Apple Notes to its Watch, but with it being seven series’ old, why has it already taken so long? This omission is more glaring since third-party developers already offer notes on the Watch.

In fact, per this article, OneNote has been available on Apple Watch since 2015:

We recently released OneNote for the Apple Watch to access your content when you’re on the go. We designed OneNote for Apple Watch with a strong focus on lightweight interactions and placed a premium on convenience. A core principle of our design was ensuring that you could quickly and easily reference the information you are looking for. If you pinned a note on OneNote for iPhone, we’ll surface it right at the top of your Apple Watch app, so you don’t need to hunt for it. This is perfect for when you’re frequently checking your to-do list.

Additionally, OneNote for Apple Watch presents a unique opportunity to capture any quick idea, to-do, or thought you have while you’re on the go. All you need to do is speak what’s on your mind, and we’ll save it to OneNote immediately so you don’t forget it. Just tap the large + button and start dictating–it’s really is that simple.

Greg Akselrod and Avneesh Kohli, program managers on the OneNote team

In any case, the functionality of notes on Apple Watch exists. If you are missing it like I was, you don’t have to anymore. Noted.

When The Computing Ideal Isn’t Practical

Happy Holidays, y’all. Blogging from one of my computers, I don’t know if it’s my primary or secondary. In a recent post, Tales of Computeria, I mentioned some computer fluidity, and since then my workflow has shifted a bit more. I drafted this post on my gaming laptop instead of my iPad this round. Wait, what? Yeah, I used a non-Apple device.

The iPad is great, and I’d say it’s still my main “computer,” but it’s no longer my only one. I’m putting the gaming notebook to more use because it’s so capable. Simply put, I had to use it for a few key things that my iPad can’t do, and when it comes to multi-windowing and multi-tasking, a traditional PC still outperforms a tablet by a good amount. In other words, for certain, uh, more productive tasks, the laptop is better and nicer to use than my iPad. Best tool for the job, ya know? (Conversely, when I just want to kick back and read some web articles in Pocket or watch some videos on YouTube, I grab my tablet.)

I realized something recently: no matter how much one prefers to go all-in with a single ecosystem – be it Google’s, Apple’s, or Microsoft’s – the hard fact is that, for many people, computing on only one platform is impractical. Yes, sure, living a mono-platform life – nothing but an iPhone and iPad – is ideal, yet it’s unreal…istic. At least for my needs, it was a good idea that, in execution, didn’t work so well.

Between myself, my job, my wife and sons, and many others in my community, we are all over the place in the metaverse (bonus point for using a buzzword). I don’t know anyone who exclusively uses only one ecosystem, referring to either hardware or software. Some people use Google Docs and some use MS Word (it seems even many Apple users ignore Apple’s Pages). Some folks use Chromebooks, yet many use either Windows PCs or Macs. When last I checked, about half of US consumers use Android phones and the other half uses iPhones. In my own household, this tech diversity is certainly the norm. Google, Apple, Microsoft: we use them all.

Last year, I ditched my iPhone and iPad and went all-in with Google on an Android phone and a Chromebook exclusively. It worked well enough, except my wife and kids didn’t migrate with me…which was one reason why I returned to an iPhone and an iPad. Everyone’s use-case for computing can be different; I couldn’t stay away from the great Windows 11 machine I’m now blogging with, despite the magic of my iDevices.

I was happy and comfortable working on just my iPad for a while and wasn’t looking to switch up my workflow. While it’s true that a geek-nerd like me tends to gravitate to a novel computing setup like a flavor of the month, I’m still human and am averse to change in general. I subtly or subconsciously resisted the fact that I would be using my Windows laptop, but such stubbornness became futile; the gaming got me.

After installing Steam, GOG, and the Epic game stores along with a new game, a demo, and RPGMaker MZ (and also wish-listing many other games), I found my Windows 11 device quite nice and powerful. I also must use it a lot as the administrator account for my five (5) sons’ accounts. For my writing work, many basic interface elements just work better on the “real” computer than on my small iPad. Split-View and Slide-Over are cool and useful, but snapping three side-by-side windows on the big laptop display or even just overlapping many floating ones is a multi-tasking delight. Windows 11 also retains the handy task overview feature that, with a single click, lets me see all my app windows laid out in a grid for easy switching.

With all that magnetic draw, I slowly realized being iPad-only was not pragmatic, it was more dogmatic (I’ve sort of been an Apple fanboy I guess). Now since I’ve started incorporating my Windows machine into my workflow, I’ve had to make practical decisions about a few core apps and services that needed to change. Apple software works well on Apple hardware but not on Asus hardware or in a Microsoft OS.

I needed cross-platform apps and services for my web bookmarks and history, cloud file storage, ubiquitous notes, journal entries, and maybe most important of all, login credentials. That is a lot of change! Here’s what I have switched so far:

  1. Web Browsing:
    • Safari -> Edge
  2. Cloud Syncing:
    • iCloud -> OneDrive
  3. Note Taking:
    • Apple Notes -> OneNote
  4. Journaling:
  5. Password Managing:
    • iCloud Keychain; Browser Password Managers; Pass-coded Notes -> Bitwarden

The first three of those items went from first-party Apple to first-party Microsoft solutions. While there are good things to be say about relying on third-party solutions (like Firefox and Evernote) since they’re more cross-platform, I think I made the most pragmatic choices.

Overall, I’m trying to compute in a way that makes the most sense now (I’m even editing this post on my Chromebook), and of course it’s nice to freshen things up a bit. I’ll point out that my core or basic utilities like email, contacts, reminders, and calendaring remain with Apple’s solutions since they work best with iPhone – it’s practical. Also, when so much communication and stuff (iMessage, FaceTime, Find My) is tied to my phone’s contacts, changing isn’t really an option.

Use the best tools for the job, keep things simple when possible, and stay practical. In reality, striving too much for the ideal sometimes proves less than ideal.

Eero 6 Overview

At last, my atrociously slow home internet finally gets some kind of boost, but not in speed. It got a quality of life update, if you will, with a new mesh wifi router. On sale, the little white module is already a huge smile-inducing device because it makes managing my household’s numerous devices far easier than before.

Between 7 family members, there’s a bunch of bandwidth-hogging gadgets in our home, all vying for what little speed there is overall. FTC defined “broadband?” — HA! — not out here in the rural country, at least not yet…someday. No, we have DSL, which is a good upgrade when you’re coming from dial-up internet in the late 90’s. But that was over 20 years ago…I might be bitter about it.

This is the eero 6 I got.

I work from home these days, which is tough with slow internet. To pull it off, my wife and kids typically tether their devices to their phones’ mobile hotspots. And if my work laptop slows to a crawl, I must hunt down someone’s device and turn off its wifi.

But with the eero 6 router, no more!

Behold the almighty Pause button.

Now I simply open an app on my phone where I can easily pause any devices — one at a time — or I can pause several devices at once through a profile (group), which for us is a person and any devices associated to them. So I can easily put the brakes on any devices I think might be sucking bandwidth – you can even set pausing to a schedule. It gets easier too; in the Activty tab, I can view all data usage of all connected devices in one handy list to see how much data each one is using in real-time (updated every 5 seconds), and the list is sorted by percentage; the device using the most bandwidth jumps to the top of the list, letting me quickly and easily know what gadget should be paused (or even blocked altogether).

Live data activity view.

The app sports other handy features too, to which more can be added via a subscription service, but I am more than happy with what’s included with the initial purchase.

The eero 6 wifi router I bought has the newest wifi 6 spec, which apparently makes my brand new gaming laptop very happy, as it now surfs the web more easily. The eero can handle 75 devices — great for a big family like mine. And it’s future proof for speed, so once we finally — someday — get fiber installed at our house, we will see all the speed we might pay for.

If you’ve been thinking about upgrading to a mesh network, I would recommend it, though because our house is so small, we only needed one router, so I can’t comment on how well the eero hands off devices between routers. From my research, though, if you need more than one eero, then you don’t want to buy the dual-band version like I did, you will want the tri-band version.

Wifi network management
at your fingertips.

With dual-band, the router automatically routes your devices to the best network frequency (2.4GHz or 5GHz). While some may need the ability to dedicate certain devices to a certain spectrum, I like that I don’t have to worry about anything and just let the eero do its smart stuff. But with tri-band, the eeros gain an additional frequency that, to my understanding, is dedicated for device hand-off between routers. Without this extra band, routing might get congested or confused. And of course, your milage may very.

I hope this brief overview of the eero 6 wifi router is helpful to you. Thanks for reading.

Tales Of Computeria

On this last day of November, I’m contemplating the benefits of my under-utilized laptop. Sure, my kids get a lot out of it — we share — for their school work and such, but I’ve yet to really put my RTX-enabled GPU to work (ok, play). That’s because I prefer to stay comfy in Apple Land — my iPad is my computer (is that hipster-ish?). It’s practical, but more than that, I truly like the synergy and ease of use between my iPhone and iPad (and Apple Watch).

My iPad works much like a laptop with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse that I frequently use. And Apple has truly made iPadOS function more like MacOS in recent years with “Desktop-class browsing” in Safari — let me tell you it’s true because it really works great (cursor hover states!) in the WordPress CMS and in Google Drive/Docs.

That said, when it comes to laptop-like functionality (are you sitting down?), my Windows laptop actually works better! I mean, you know, because it’s an actual laptop and all.

I had to download a game from Steam, which can’t be done on the iPad. So to my Windows 11 laptop I turned (Win 11 is super nice BTW, though it’s still Windows). As I used my slick gaming laptop, it impressed me. The Edge browser, Discord App, Twitter, and Steam all looked and worked nicely on a much more expansive display (over 5 inches larger, which can also easily connect to a giant external monitor or TV via its handy built-in HDMI). Suffice to say, it’s a nice laptop.

So as one who typically swings back and forth between computers, it’s not surprising that I’m feeling certain attraction toward my laptop…but I’d never break up with my iPad, right? Of course not…

But here’s the thing. While I was on Steam grabbing a game demo (Rise of the Third Power if your curious), I noticed another game, Tales of Arise. It’s a recently released AAA title from Bandai Namco, and it’s a JRPG. The thing is, it was made for the PS4 and PS5 consoles, so I never considered it available to me. In other words, since it’s not on Switch, I can’t play it, so I had no desire or real interest in it even though it’s generally considered a great RPG. But after seeing it available on Steam, on my laptop, and within my ability to purchase and play it without the need to buy a new console, I was smacked in the face! I can play Tales of Arise since it was ported to PC (as opposed to Switch).

Not only can I play more great games now, I realize, but I can play them very well since my laptop has a new Nvidia RTX GPU; I’ve already enjoyed RTX-enabled Minecraft on it. So my laptop is like a PS5 or Xbox Series X; it can handle big fancy games as if it’s a latest hard-to-find console. This really flipped a switch in my brain.

After widening my eyes to the fact I can play some great games I previously thought I had no access to, my laptop started to seem like a new console to me (I’ve only been a console gamer really, with some handheld on the side, not counting mobile). So I quickly decided to soon buy an Xbox controller for it. But something else then occurred to me: not only can my laptop play AAA games like a console, it can do so much more because it’s not just a console, it’s a computer. While that seems obvious, it’s the kind of no-brainer fact that takes on renewed significance after seeing it from a fresh perspective.

A good gaming laptop can play new and great AAA console-level games, and it can perform many other tasks, run programs, and of course surf the web. Yeah, you don’t need real-time ray-tracing to send out a snarky Tweet, but does it hurt? Not really. Actually, if we move into “the Metaverse,” a strong GPU might be required just to email in virtual reality, who knows? If so, the chip shortage will be lengthened, but I digress.

So all that said, I’ll keep enjoying my iPad as my main computer, and I’ll put my laptop to good use otherwise. I won’t switch machines, and I won’t not switch either. I’ll just use whatever I feel like using or whichever fits my needs at any given moment the most. I’ll leave it at that for now.

Metroid Dread Impression

Metroid 5 Is Like Super Duper Metroid

For my birthday this year, I received a physical copy of Metroid Dread! I’m four hours into the game and have made it to the third region of the planet. So far, it’s been a fun and challenging game full of classic Metroid features.

Physical case featuring cool Samus portrait, with E.M.M.I.s photo-bombing the background.

Following polished and succinct opening cut-scenes with backstory, players quickly find themselves somewhere deep inside the planet, ready to explore with urgent caution. Like the world in Super Metroid (Metroid 3 for SNES), Planet ZDR is a huge labyrinth of corridors and passageways. Exploration is a constant room-to-room question of “Which way is next?” There are innumerable door types with different locking/unlocking requirements. Early in the game, there is a mostly linear path — yet it doesn’t feel linear — through the planet’s regions despite there being multiple ways to go between each room. Backtracking is present from the start, plus there are a few tricky-to-reach places for the random energy tank or missile expansion. After a few hours, though, Metroid Dread opens up slightly.

As in other Metroid titles, there are many places where players see a room or item that can’t yet be accessed or obtained — teasing. Sometimes these areas clue players into what might be needed before access is available — it’s pretty obvious where the Morph Ball is required — but other times the game surprises players with a special “switch,” such as reversing the flow of magma to open thermal gates, which unblocks a path somewhere.

Running-and-gunning action is the name of the gameplay loop on top of constant exploration for key items, which gain access to vital upgrades and new areas.

Due to numerous complex passageways, entrances, exits, doors, locks, and the like, level design is excellent, suggesting countless hours of thorough gameplay testing. Though rooms share a common theme in a particular region, there are enough details and differences to avoid gross monotony. The pristine 2D platforms with 3D-ish backgrounds look gorgeous in both handheld and docked mode, with gameplay on a big TV revealing more fine detail, like motes of dust floating through light shafts. Special effects fit the game engine perfectly: an aura like transparency in the cloaked suit, the subtle pulsating light of Samus’ laser sight, or the electric bolts of the spider magnet.

Music is adequately atmospheric and changes slightly, for example when sneaking or all-out running through an E.M.M.I. area. As in Super Metroid, music also changes for each region. Sound effects are perfectly suited to everything. What’s most fun for veteran players is the nostalgia of music tracks and sound effects slightly revised from Super Metroid.

Maps are indispensable for exploring planet ZDR’s massive maze of interconnected corridors.

Looking for the right items at the right time while searching for the right way through each area is a test of patience, a mental puzzle to solve. The E.M.M.I. areas are fun to blitz through, hoping to get lucky and find the next door to race out of before being caught. It doesn’t feel gimmicky at all; there’s fun in being chased. Afterwards, with a quickened pulse, players must consciously slow their pace in regular areas so as to not miss possible entrances, exits, or items. They also must slow down to properly engage each enemy as creatures are very well designed to require slightly different moves for defense or offense. For example, a certain flying creature charges players, then suddenly pauses in a sort of head fake, then rushes in again. Timing is everything, and players must use the parry move before shooting. Other alien-like insects simply require that Samus duck to shoot. However, these change a bit with weapon upgrades.

Metroid Dread’s atmosphere, size, and setting all contribute to a feeling of isolation, except for a handful of initial mission briefings from the in-game A.I. As for dread, players will feel more hesitant caution and sudden urgency. While E.M.M.I.s add appreciable value with their new gameplay element — viscerally annihilate when possible, otherwise avoid like the plague — the classic problem of quickly losing energy when entering a high-heat area without protective armor stokes panic, which then instills apprehension later upon seeing heatwaves emanate from an adjacent area.

An E.M.M.I. (All image credits to Nintendo.)

The game is quite challenging; I’ve seen the game over screen many times. The first major boss I fought began to frustrate and discourage me after several attempts because it seemed there wasn’t a way to effectively maneuver and fight. Finally, after much trial and error, and with my son’s helpful observation, I figured it out and was able to easily win at that point; it felt really good. Metroid Dread is also difficult to grasp because there are many moves mapped to many buttons; I often press the wrong shoulder button. It takes a lot of practice, but I find that once a bit of proficiency sets in with muscle memory, the game’s control scheme really flows. I have enjoyed several moments of rushing into a room, getting ambushed, but then being able to quickly react, defend, target, and neutralize threats like a pro bounty hunter should. It’s very satisfying.

Overall, Samus’ latest mission is filled with classic Metroid gameplay, and it might be one of the best titles in the series; it’s near the top with Super Metroid. The triple-A game appears to be a highly respectable addition to Nintendo’s trophy case. With several hours left to play, I may have a final verdict when I finish. For those who want a fun Switch game to play, Metroid Dread should be on top of the must-play list.