Apple And Gaming Stuff

Well, hello there September blogosphere. While I’ve been somewhat scarce from the blog lately, that must mean I’ve been so busy with life experience that I’ve stockpiled stacks and piles of content in draft to write, right? Sounds good to me, but that’s inaccurate. No doubt, I’ve been mobile computing (iPad!) and gaming (RPGs!), but that’s only the half of it. I’ve also spent energy writing elsewhere and took a week off from everything for a big family vacation. Next thing you know, I’m flipping the page on the wall calendar and yearning for cool Fall temps to finally blow away the Texas Summer heat.

This month is bringing more cool stuff than just the Autumnal Equinox. First, next Tuesday is Apple’s first Fall event where they tell everyone what to spend their money on next, like new iPhones, maybe new iPads, or Apple Watches too. Oh, and how about new AirPods? Mobile tech is getting a boost this Fall for sure. My current iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods are working well. In fact, just yesterday I had my iPhone 8’s charge port repaired at a local shop. No longer must I wiggle the charging cord in the port and hope it sits securely enough to juice up; now I just set it and forget it. The port is a physical or mechanical point of failure, subject to wear and tear over time, and is probably why Apple rumors suggest future iPhones may be port-less, relying only upon wireless Qi charging. I have my doubts, and I’m pretty sure this month won’t see such ”courageous” advancement when Apple announces iPhone 13 or 12S or Year Model 2021.

The other new nice thing-a-ma-jig coming this month is an RPG. I’m excited to soon buy the physical edition of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – Prince’s Edition for Nintendo Switch! While it’s not a direct sequel to the the first game, it still features sublime Studio Ghibli-esque art design, youthful fantasy, and some other differences to earn a hearty play-through. I think the battle system may even be improved – very nice. Of course, the timeless dilemma is ever present with this upcoming release: when to play it. Can I pause life and disrupt the space-time continuum in order to play and finish all the awesome games available, namely the RPGs on my backlog? I wish.

Gaming has been fun lately. I continue to enjoy Fantasian Part Two; it’s become more addictive lately. But I’ve also gotten sucked back into Pokemon TCG. And then another fun game recently grabbed my attention: Asphalt 8 and 9. Ok, that’s two games, but they’re kind of the same thing. Apple Arcade launched Asphalt 8, which my kids enjoyed on vacation. So then we downloaded Asphalt 9 on the Switch, and instead of catching all the Pokemon, we’re now collecting all the exotic sports cars. Yeah, I know, it’s a racing game, not an RPG, but it does have stat boosts when upgrading car parts, and each race is like an action-battle system where you can crash other cars in order to win first place. That’s a stretch, but the Asphalt games are no less fun to play.

Anyways, this blog post is sort of a catch up for things of late. I hope to write more in the near future; I have some draft ideas slated. Here’s to the Fall being more fun and exciting than the Summer of 2021.

Windows 11 With A Future View

Earlier this Summer, Microsoft announced something new and upcoming. The age old Windows platform will see yet another release, taking things from 10 to Windows 11. The operating system will be refreshed, becoming more modern than ever, which should help the legacy platform shed years of old weight. Hopefully, Microsoft pushes the OS forward and doesn’t look back; Windows with a view of the future is something to look forward to.

Start to Relaunch

New aspects of Windows 11 suggest a positive march of progress. One is an overhauled visual design where common elements look renewed with soft rounded corners, and the overall clean and light user interface is said to invoke a sense of calm. Icons are updated and more consistent, and some are moved to a surprising new layout for Windows — the Start button is no longer bottom-left, it’s now center justified with other icons pinned to the taskbar. This tectonic shift is a departure from over a quarter-century of classic Windows design dating back to 1995, yet it shouldn’t surprise anyone since competing systems have commonly centered apps and icons. Apple’s Macs place the Dock in the middle and Google’s Chromebooks also have a centered app taskbar. Likewise, this symmetry appears to imbue Windows 11 with a sense of balance along with its calm vibe.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 isn’t a dusty OS, but it does have a few cobwebs in various corners of the system — this week I encountered old Windows XP icons in an obscure system info pane. The Start menu also shows signs of the past with Live Tiles leftover from the defunct Windows 8 and Windows Phone era. While users must adjust to the repositioned Start button and menu, they will likely appreciate the robust revamp otherwise. Windows 11’s fresh flourishes and aesthetic advances appear to be an improvement overall.

Another modernization coming in Windows 11 will ensure the OS fits the mobile computing age by simplifying the system and opening its Store to various app technologies. It appears that old legacy dialogue boxes and outdated window panes, which have remained disparate thus far, will be removed and their contents or functions reconsolidated. For example, the Settings app, along with a slick coat of paint, is being renovated by bringing in features that were scattered to and fro before. System level resources and toggles look to be more accessible as well. The previous window snapping feature is more robust, yet simple, with Snap Layouts, which enables multiple window arrangements automatically. Also in keeping with the times, new Widgets will be available in Windows 11 for easy and organized at-a-glance info.

In addition, the Microsoft Store, not known for providing either a quality or quantity of apps, looks to improve as well. Instead of Microsoft going back and forth between different strategies or types of app technologies, the company is now positioning the Microsoft Store as the Amazon of Apps, which means if a user needs an app, the Microsoft store should be the place to get it, assuming developers are fully onboard. With good marketing and luck, the new saying for users in search of an app could be, “There’s an App Store for that.” The Microsoft Store will allow all types of apps from all developers: from legacy or classic desktop apps to progressive web apps to Android apps via the Amazon App store. In that regard, Microsoft is making Windows 11 all-inclusive — no digital discrimination. Apple is welcome to port iMessage over. This will be not only a boon to users, but it’s likely to appease or avoid anticompetitive regulation.

A Windows of Opportunity

Shiny new tech, especially when it comes to mobile computing, is exciting. When Windows 11 software was announced, though, I wasn’t too thrilled because all its modern advancements come at a cost: it will require current hardware technology to power its performance. That means my creaky old budget laptop and my wife’s ancient desktop are ineligible to receive the upcoming OS upgrade. I didn’t mind much, though, since we largely rely on Chromebooks and Apple devices; there’s something to be said about not putting all your eggs in one computer basket.

Something new suddenly happened though. With my kids taking a new computer class in the Fall semester, they are required to have a Windows or Mac laptop. So, long story short, my family ended up buying a brand new Windows gaming laptop. It’s the best PC I’ve ever owned, having a discreet Nvidia RTX GPU! It’s the new family PC at home that will also serve my kids’ needs at school. Okay, it’s basically my own new personal laptop too. And because it is so modern and powerful, it will get the Windows 11 upgrade when it releases later this year. In fact, one of my purchasing factors was the laptop feature listing of Windows 11 capability. In other words, this thing is future proof.

Now that I have a dynamo of a PC that’s Windows 11 ready, I’ll be previewing the impending OS with eager eyes. I won’t go so far as installing a public beta though. Meanwhile, my family and I will enjoy using the latest that Windows 10 offers, but I’m not getting too attached because I recently switched from using my Chromebook to using an iPad as my primary machine…and that’s for a future blog post.

Are you looking forward to Windows 11, or does the prospect of change give you bad vibes? Let me know in the comments.

Here Come The HearPods

This week I was happy to hear about a new feature coming to AirPods Pro. Apple is enabling the upcoming feature through software, so the hardware a user already owns will gain a capability. Too bad I don’t yet possess the Pro version of AirPods; I have the entry-level pods. I love’em, to be sure. But with Apple sweetening the deal on AirPods Pro, I’m more eager to buy them than ever.

Listen here, the new feature that has boosted my interest in AirPods Pro is called Conversation Boost. This new ability sounds like something I both want and need as it makes the AirPods function like hearing aids. In fact, a few years ago I asked Tim Cook @Apple to make essentially what they’re soon releasing — HearPods.

I suffer from Tinnitus and mild hearing loss. Having undergone various tests at different times to assess and confirm this, I was given a pair of hearing aids to try for a week. They synced with an app on my iPhone and…long story short, they were impressive yet more than I needed at the time. What would be useful to me now is what Conversation Boost is described as. It lets AirPods Pro focus on the voice speaking in front of you and can also minimize ambient noise so that you can more easily hear what’s being said.

One situation in particular where this feature would be useful to me is regular conversation in a restaurant; I can hardly understand what others are saying unless they’re right next to me as their voice is muffled by ambient noise. I often give up on the chit-chat and only enjoy the food.

This upcoming feature, Convo Boost, is a health/quality of life capability that would bring much value to me. In addition, AirPods Pro bring other benefits I’m sure to enjoy: Noise Cancellation, deeper bass, Passive/Ambient mode, Spatial Audio, and wireless charging. So while I’ve been meaning to wait until my current AirPods bite the dust before upgrading to the Pro Pods, my ears are itching for Conversation Boost. It sounds like I’ll be purchasing the AirPods Pro sooner rather than later.

Apple Watch And AirPods Still Delightful

The tech we rely on everyday is sometimes a delight and other times a disaster. When it works how it should, all’s well. When it doesn’t, “&$!#%.” Given the complexity of a computer, it’s kind of a miracle it works at all. And with computer chips in everything these days, no one escapes both the benefits and detriments of digital devices. That said, I’m here to talk about how much I’m still lovin’ my Apple Watch and AirPods after 6 months of usage. To this day, they remain surprisingly delightful.


AirPods

Let’s start with the AirPods. These little white ear candies are excellent. Their case is small and ergonomic, so it fits my pocket, ensuring I can always pop my portable audio plugs into my ears at any moment. Fancy that song stuck in my head? Just AirPods and play. Ready to catch up on that Podcast? Instant gratification on the go. Also, the AirPods themselves being small means they never obstruct my sunglasses or my hat. It’s little things like that which add up to satisfaction.

It gets better. My AirPods do double-duty since they instantly connect with either my iPhone or my Apple Watch. When I go for a run, I leave my phone behind and play audio straight from my watch to my AirPods. Look, I know this will sound “sound-bitey,”, but Apple isn’t lying when they say they’re magical. The tech wizardry at work really does work. In 6 months of exercise, my AirPods have been extremely reliable. Of course, I also wear them while at work, around the house, and even while driving.

AirPods have the instant Siri summoning feature that, while I don’t depend on it regularly, when I do think to use it, the response is quick and accurate. Frankly, it still feels like a tech demo sometimes because of how easy it is to use. But what I love most is how simply and easily I can have instant audio always at the ready. Oh, and because AirPods mean wireless audio, the convenience is worth their retail price.

Apple Watch

Next, Apple Watch. This thing is — avoiding the “life-saver” hyperbole — fantastic. When I bought the watch last Christmas, I intended on using it to help me get back into shape and stay fit. It’s working! I recently fulfilled my first 180 days of using Apple Watch, so I can now finally see my fitness activity trends. After 6 months of exercise, my cardio level is improved. I can see it in the data metrics thanks to the Fitness and Health apps, but I can also feel it. I can run farther, faster, and easier than before. The watch has been super reliable at recording all my fitness activities: standing, moving, exercising. It’s great at motivating and reminding me to cease and desist from a sedentary lifestyle. Seriously, it feels great after a 2 hour video game session to put on my running shoes and get moving outside.

Besides fitness, I have enjoyed my Apple Watch for all its computery capabilities too. In addition to instantly glancing down at the time, I also check the current temperature and wind speed at any moment (which helps me exercise outside at the best time). It has many of these types of nifty features I savvy. Yet the two biggest things I’ve loved using for the past 6 months are Notifications and Audio.

Getting notified by apps via my watch is delightfully convenient. Again, it’s this little thing plus others that, while simple, make a profound difference in daily living. The audio is a killer feature too — it’s like an iPod is strapped to my wrist. Three apps on my Apple Watch are now must haves: Music, Podcasts, and Now Playing. They all showcase direct quick controls for any audio playing, be it from my iPhone or from the Watch itself. The sounds stream straight to my AirPods…did I mention how great AirPods are?


Suffice to say, the AirPods and Apple Watch have easily become as essential to my daily digital lifestyle as my iPhone (which I’d say equals or exceeds the necessity of my work computer, a Windows PC). My other personal device is a Chromebook, and while great for what it is, I plan to usurp its dominance with an iPad in the coming weeks. Hopefully AirPods don’t get confused when switching between iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch. Given the complexity, it wouldn’t surprise me. Then again, I’m talking about Apple’s ecosystem, so it should all just work. I’m certainly willing to give it all 6 more months.

Day One Journal Has A New Owner

Last month, I caught the news that award winning Day One journal app was acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress. My reaction was, “Whoa, really?!” Then I realized the two have something great in common: the regular writing of words. Blogging and journaling are similar, which should be no surprise on this site.

My current journaling home, outside of Jason Journals, is the simple Apple Notes app. For my needs, Apple’s elegant solution is enough. I’ve benefited over the years from journaling, both the private and public types. And in my endeavors to record my introspective thoughts and fluctuating feels, I’ve tried a few other journaling apps, including Day One. The recent news of Day One being bought caused me to give it another look, so I downloaded it to my iPhone.

After installing it, I confirmed what I had recalled from previous times when I had tried the app. It’s elegant and easy to use. It also has a feature or two that I wish Apple Notes had. But for me, Day One is overkill because it has a lot of extra capabilities via buttons front and center, which appear like clutter to my mind. This hinders me from journaling because of increased friction. The app is robust with features, yet I find it’s too much. I just need a blank sheet, a cursor, and a minimal amount of text formatting (and also, of course, passcode locking).

I intend to keep journaling in my comfort zone of Apple notes. But I do have some questions and concerns about WordPress’ acquisition of Day One:

  1. Will the premium subscription plan of Day One somehow be included or bundled in a WordPress subscription?
  2. Will Day One remain end to end encrypted?
  3. Will Day One suffer from feature bloat with the addition of integration options for publishing journal entries directly to WordPress?
  4. Will the WordPress app for iOS include new options for Day One?

Depending on the answers, I may grow interested in using Day One. Its rich feature set, though a bit much for me, could become more useful in ways that suit my needs. And I’m sure I could acclimate to the app. Also, I don’t know how Tumblr has done, another acquisition of the WordPress company, but I trust Automattic will be a good steward of Day One.

For now, the purchase of the Day One journal is noted, and I’ll keep using the Notes app to journal.