Apple Asked For Feedback

Apple asked for feedback from developers today in an email survey. I try to keep this blog positive and restrict most of my snark to Twitter, but I figured I might as well post it here, too.

If you can’t see that image for some reason, here’s what I wrote:

I’m a long-time, independent Mac developer. I’ve traditionally sold directly to customers and, now, with the Mac App Store, still push customers to my website first. The value Apple provides with the store is simply not even near worth the 30% cut. When selling directly to customers, after credit card fees, etc. I pay around 8%. I’d be happy to give Apple (maybe) 15% for the (limited) exposure the App Store offers. But not more than that.

Also, in general, the Mac App Store is a kafkaesque hellscape full of scam artists that erode customers’ trust in the overall system and shitty apps that are nowhere near the level of quality that long-time Mac users expect from 3rd party software.

Add to that the arbitrariness of App Review, which seems more interested in penalizing legitimate developers for the most insignificant of reasons, while big name companies get away with flaunting the rules, and fly-by-night developers actively ship malicious, misleading, predatory, and outright-broken software. I have no idea what the point of App Review is if they’re not going to enforce the rules consistently and actually vet the apps in the store.

I absolutely love developing for Apple’s platforms, but if you weren’t the 800-pound gorilla in the industry, there’s absolutely no way in hell I would put up with the shit you throw at honest, hard-working developers trying to better your platform and earn a living.

Missing Rdio and Making the Best of Apple Music with Shortcuts

Man, I miss Rdio. I mean, I really miss it. I loved that service.

When I was a teenager, I’d spend hours on the weekend and get lost in new and used music stores (CD’s) just digging through stacks of beautiful album artwork and unfamiliar band names. I’d talk with other customers and ask the clerk to let me sample a few tracks when something caught my eye. The joy was in the discovery as much as the actual purchase and listening that came later.

Rdio was the first streaming music service I used. It was like walking into an infinitely large music store. And it was all free! (Well, $10/month.) Their UI was wonderful. Websites today are walled gardens designed to keep you on the property for as long as possible. But Rdio, like the web of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, was overflowing with links leading through a maze designed to get lost in. Each album page – in addition to the artwork and song listing – had detailed info about the band, their other music, related artists, genres, etc. (The only similar mainstream experience I can think of today is when you fall down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.) And the majority of the pages had an in-depth critic’s take on the music in addition to listener submitted reviews that were generally well written and free of the awfulness we see in YouTube’s and Facebook’s comments section today.

What I’m trying to say is Rdio came very close to recreating the record store experience in digital form. Apple tried and failed with Ping and has since made additional social attempts inside Apple Music. I can’t really speak about what Spotify is like now. I was a subscriber for a few months after Rdio died, but it never really stuck for me – and Apple Music’s tight integration with Mac and iOS have kept me tied to their service instead.

So using Apple Music the last few years has been fine I guess. I can play what’s in my own collection (usually), and search their streaming library, but I find it extremely difficult to organically discover new music. It’s sort-of possible on the desktop with iTunes, but the iOS app (and I took a look just now to double-check) only shows “other albums by this artist.” The “For You” tab makes an attempt by showing other genres similar to what you already listen to, but I find their algorithmic recommendations lacking. And, again, if you do tap on one of the suggested albums, that’s about as far as you can go. You can’t further explore beyond that artist. And don’t even get me started on the “Browse” section or whatever the hell Beats 1 is doing. That’s a dumpster fire of shitty editorialized content that I can only assume is mass promoted by the record labels for the masses. (Yes, I might just be snobby and elitist about my music, but I really do have a lot of pop music in my collection that I enjoy. I just find most of Apple’s selections…shallow.)

Anyway, like I said, it’s fine. Not anything special, but fine.

But over the last few months I’ve made a conscious effort to start listening to more music again. I used to always have something playing in my bedroom, dorm, various apartments, and later houses. But I think once my kids were born, their needs and noise took over and music fell to the wayside. But now I’m using the wonderful Anesidora app to keep Pandora shuffling through songs in my office where I sit all day. I need to stay focused on my work, and having to think about and choose something to play takes me out of the zone. I like that I can just tell Pandora to play something it thinks I’ll enjoy and it will take care of the rest. It’s mindless and exactly what I want.

But Pandora typically only plays music I’ve already listened to and given a thumbs-up. It rarely surfaces new music. That’s what I still have to try and use Apple Music for. And I typically try and do that when I’m in the car.

Using your phone for anything while driving is stupid. So if I want to queue up some music, I have to do it when I’m still in the driveway or if I think I have time and it’s safe while stopped at a traffic light. But I need to be fast about it. And that’s where Marvis, Launch Center Pro, and Apple’s Shortcuts app come into play.

I discovered Marvis last month from Ryan Christoffel at MacStories. It’s a highly-customizable client for Apple Music. All of your songs, playlists, and the entire Apple Music catalog in a gorgeous, functional UI that you can design around your own needs. Here’s what my setup looks like:

Marvis Pro Screenshot

I’ve got the Home screen organized so that I can tap and play my most listened to playlists and albums without scrolling or having to dig through Music.app’s tabs and navigation stacks.

Specifically, at the top I can start any music I’ve recently added to my library. I’ll often go on a music adding binge and add a ton of stuff at once then finally listen to it days or a week or so later. This section collects all those albums in one spot so I don’t forget to try something new that looked interesting to me.

Beneath that are three of Apple Music’s main auto-generate playlists. Again, I have one-tap access to my Favorites when I want to hear something familiar and New Music that Apple thinks I might like (which is often hit or miss).

Further down the screen is “New For You”, which is a stream of new releases from artists already in your library. I’ve wanted this feature in iTunes for years, and I’m thrilled Apple Music delivered.

Of note: I’ve used the display settings in Marvis to pack as much music into as small a space as possible. This puts as many tap targets within “thumb reach” as possible and minimizes any scrolling I need to do. Very important when that red light could turn green at any moment.

Next up, if I want even faster access to my most common playlists, I’ve created three shortcuts in Shortcuts.app to play Apple’s “New Music for You”, “Your Favorites”, and their top Alternative songs and added them to Launch Center Pro’s excellent Today widget. From my phone’s home screen, I can swipe left and tap to start playing.

Launch Center Pro Screenshot

And going a bit further with Shortcuts, I’ve added two as icons on my home screen:

  • “Play Album”, which starts playing the full album that the current song belongs to. This is super useful when I’m listening to a suggested music playlist and it plays a new artist I’d like to hear more of.
  • And “Bookmark Song”. This adds the current song to a playlist I made called “Bookmarks”. I treat it like an Instapaper for music that I can come back to later when I have time to explore.

Shortcuts Screenshot

So, that’s my music setup at the moment. I achingly miss Rdio but am trying to make the best of Apple Music by making it as easy as possible to listen to the music I love and explore the new songs it thinks I’ll enjoy.

Losing Faith

I posted this to Twitter earlier today, but thought I’d add it here for posterity…

Last week I mentioned that I had been yelling about Apple a lot on here lately and was going to try and be more positive. But allow me one more thought before I shut up…

We went on vacation this past week. Before we left I updated my phone to iOS 12.3 – my wife remained on the previous version. (This is where you all collectively go “uh-oh”.)

Spent five days at a state park shooting tons of video of the kids swimming, hiking, fishing, playing with their grandparents, etc. Irreplaceable stuff.

Get home, back on WiFi, start uploading everything to iCloud and Google Photos. After an hour or two everything’s synced.

Problem: All videos, of any length, stutter, stall, and skip frames in both Photos.app (macOS) and Google Photos on every Mac I try. Completely unwatchable. Time to debug things.

I export the raw files out of Photos.app to Finder and try opening with QuickTime. Same problem. Next, I use Photos.app to import directly from my phone via USB. Still broken.

But they play fine on iOS, so I never noticed any problems while filming last week.

Investigate further. It’s only MY videos that are broken. Videos my wife took are fine. Remember: I’m on 12.3. She’s on whatever 12.2 release was before.

All those videos of my kids? Gone.

This is a core competency of iOS that should never, ever fucking break for any reason. Apple markets iPhone’s camera as a top selling point – if not THE selling point.

Lucky for me, I’m tech savvy enough to know about Image Capture.app buried inside macOS’s Utilities folder. So I give it one last try using that to transfer the corrupted videos manually off my phone and into Photos.app and Google Photos.

It works. My memories are safe.

But would a normal Apple customer have thought to try that? Would an Apple Genius have figured it out? (Assuming they could even get an appointment.)

No. They would have simply lost everything.

This is fucking inexcusable on Apple’s part. DO NOT fuck with me when it comes to my photo library.

Apple needs to get off their goddamned pedestal, stop hosting self-congratulatory Lady Gaga concerts, and fix their fucking QA process, years-old bugs, and keyboards.

On the bright side, while I may never be able to trust Apple again with my photos (or type vowels on their laptops), at least they’re about to roll out a new credit card and custom-branded television content.

Courage.

Why Many of my Apps Failed And What Comes Next

I’ve started building something new.

I’m about four weeks in and already finding it incredibly useful in my day-to-day.

I’ve built many different apps over the years, thrown them against the wall, and excitedly watched which ones developed a following and which ones failed miserably.

Most of my apps have fallen into two categories. There are the ones that solve a personal need I face, that I can inform and direct with my own experiences. And there are those where I saw a market opportunity or just thought they might be fun to build.

Almost all of the ones in that second category have failed. Incoming!, Nottingham, Highwire. They each had their share of a few passionate and engaged users, but mostly were ignored. (The jury is still out on Triage.)

But that first category of apps? Those have flourished.

I was a web developer for ten years before I started building Mac apps. I know the industry well. And working at an agency meant I was juggling many different websites at once. I needed a faster/easier way to spin up local development environments, and that led to me creating VirtualHostX. Which, in turn, led to Hostbuddy and Hobo years later.

My core set of apps, as I think of them, found a wonderful niche among solo web designers and developers and the small companies they work for. And the apps have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. From 2012 to 2014 they were my full time and only job.

But since their heyday in 2014, sales have steadily declined. A big part of that, I think, is because the world has moved on from the LAMP-based standards of 2004 – 2012. Nginx, NodeJS, etc. have led to a sea change. If it weren’t for WordPress’s continued dominance, I’m not sure if I’d have any more sales at all.

So, I’ve seen the writing on the wall for a few years now, and have been on the lookout for ways to branch out and diversify my app portfolio.

I’ve done some freelance jobs here and there, and tried a few new things on my own, but nothing has taken off. And as I talked about earlier, I think a lot of that is due to none of those new ventures being true passion projects that I could bring my own experiences as a user with specific needs.

But four weeks ago I finally became fed-up with the awfulness of Mint.com. I know they’re able to provide a free service because they plaster the site with advertisements and sell my data, and I’d be ok with that if they weren’t so intrusive. But they’re taking over nearly the entire browser window now. Add to that the cumbersome Web 2.0 UI and lack of any real reporting capabilities, and I’d had enough.

What I really want is a fast, powerful, native Mac app that automatically imports my financial data and gives me the ability to slice, dice, filter, organize, and export my data in every possible way. The flexibility and power of an Excel sheet with the learning curve of iOS and the familiar paradigms of a real Mac app. Something that keeps me in control of my data, respects my privacy, and syncs to all my devices.

So I built it.

Preview1

Most of it. It’s not done yet, but all the major pieces are in place, and I’m using it to track my family’s budget every day.

I’ve taken a heavy dose of inspiration from one of my favorites apps – OmniFocus – both from a UI perspective (a clean, modern, attractive Mac interface) and from the power they afford users over their data by way of custom perspectives.

My app is smart. It auto-categorizes your transactions. You can just let the app do its thing and everything will end up in the (mostly) appropriate place. Or you can categorize each transaction manually. Or you can setup smart rules to do it for you automatically. Whatever fits your workflow.

Each transaction can belong to a single category. But categories can be nested. With one click you can see all the dining out you did last month. Or just the fast food orders. Or just what you spent at McDonalds.

And then there are tags. Assign multiple tags to a transaction. Do it manually, or create a smart rule to assign them automatically. Then use the app’s powerful search feature to find any combination of AND / OR.

Take search further by combining tags with categories and date based filtering. Find every Uber ride tagged #business during the last quarter and export the results to a CSV you can send to your boss to get reimbursed. Snapped a picture of the receipt with your iPhone? Yep, you can attach files, too.

And once you’ve got that perfect search query and set of filters in place, save it as a new Report that you can recall at any time. Just like an OmniFocus perspective.

And, just for fun, why not view all of your transactions plotted on a map?

Preview2

I’ve got all of this working (albeit without the necessary UI/UX polish) and it’s totally opened my eyes to some aspects of our financial situation that I’d overlooked. The last major piece is adding a budgeting component. I know the system I want to adhere to, but I’m still working through how it will fit in the interface.

Of course, I’m leaving out the iOS counterpart. But I’m saving that for later. The model layer is still a bit too much in flux. But I’ve written all the business logic to be platform agnostic. So the plan is to reimplement the appropriate features in UIKit (not everything the Mac app can do would make sense or be needed on a mobile device) and reuse as much of the existing codebase as possible.

But don’t forget syncing. As I said in my requirements, I want this app to be privacy-focused and have the user be in charge of their own data. So, no financial data will ever touch my server. Unless they enable syncing, no data will ever leave their device. But if they do want to sync, that’s all privately handled by CloudKit so I, the developer, can’t see their info even if I wanted to.

So, that’s it. That’s what I’ve built and am working towards completing. I have no idea when it will be ready. CloudKit could easily throw a big wrench into everything. And I’ve also got major updates to VirtualHostX and Hostbuddy underway and due out this Fall.

But I’m excited. It’s an app I’m passionate about and I have a clear direction and feature set in mind. It caters to a broader audience than my developer-focused products and could potentially save my tiny company if they continue to trend downwards.

iTunes Match Failed Me

Remember iTunes Match? It's great. But Apple stopped promoting it (probably rightly so) a couple years ago when they realized they could make more money charging $10/month for Apple Music than Match's $25/year.

Anyway, I loved it and still do. It uploads all of your digital music to Apple's cloud and makes it streamable on all of your devices. And I mean all of it – especially your ripped mp3s, live albums, or anything else not in the iTunes Store. And if they can "match" any of those unofficial mp3s to a song from the store, they'll "upgrade" you to the higher-quality AAC file for free. I had thousands of low quality mp3s ripped in the early 2000's and late 90's. Now they're metadata tagged appropriately, with artwork, and sound better.

When I first joined iTunes Match (seven?) years ago, I uploaded all my music, made a backup of my local library, deleted everything, and just streamed from then on to save hard drive space.

As I acquired new music, it went to Apple's cloud, but I never got around to backing it up offline.

As I've been writing about this month, I'm re-evaluating my backups strategy. This week I got around to looking at my music collection and decided it was time to retire that old external drive and put everything in B2 – around 300GB.

Knowing that drive was out of date, I figured I'd just download a fresh, complete copy from Apple.

I selected everything in iTunes, and clicked the download button. And waited.

The next morning I found my nearly 25,000 tracks stored locally – and a ton of errors.

Out of the 25,000, nearly 1,500 had failed to download and reported all sorts of various network errors.

I made a quick smart playlist showing all songs in the cloud but not available locally. This made it easy to isolate the problem items.

I tried downloading all the missing songs, but each one failed again. So I tried downloading a few individually with no luck. You can see where this is going.

After much testing and troubleshooting these 1,500 songs (all from various albums, some from ripped CD's, some purchased from the iTunes Store) are seemingly gone.

It's not the end of the world. If I really want some of them, I'm sure I could just re-purchase or stream from Apple Music. But others, especially some amazing live albums I collected in college are gone.

So I uploaded what I had to B2. And then made a csv export of the playlist of missing songs for good measure.

And while I love and take advantage of the cloud's convenience, this is why I don't trust my data to be in only one place. It's my fault for not backing up this part of my data if it was important to me. It's the first real data loss I've experienced in years – maybe since 2010. Maybe it's just a bug that Apple will eventually fix.

But I've learned my lesson.

Backing Up Shared iCloud Photo Albums and Where to Find Them on Disk

In my quest to backup ALL THE THINGS, I turned my attention earlier this week to the shared iCloud Photo Albums my friends and family use to pass around photos and videos of our kids.

All of the items in my iCloud library (and my wife’s library) are combined and backed up to Google Photos automatically. For better or worse, Google Photos is the “source of truth” that contains all of our archives and is sorted into albums. It’s the backup I’d use to restore if iCloud ever goes belly-up. (And I have a redundant backup of Google Photos itself in case Google ever loses my data.) And the actual Photos.app library on my iMac is backed up to Backblaze for good measure, too. So the photos we take are covered.

But there are a ton of great memories of our kids snapped by other people. Those only reside in the shared iCloud photo streams. How do I back those up?

Ideally, Photos.app on Mac (or iOS) would have a preference to automatically import shared items taken by other people – and then those would feed into Google Photos. But that doesn’t exist. I could manually save-to-my-library new items as they’re shared, but that’s error prone and not scalable.

Also, what about the 2,000+ previously shared photos? I thought I would be clever and just select-all on my Mac and drag them into my main library, but after doing a few quick tests I realized Photos.app isn’t smart enough to not duplicate the photos I took and shared when importing. (This is likely due to Apple scaling-down and stripping out metadata of shared items.) And there’s no way to sort by “other people” or build a smart album of “photos taken by other people” to filter out your own images when importing.

So, I decided to do some digging.

The first step was to locate the shared albums on disk. I searched my main Photos Library.photoslibrary bundle, but couldn’t find them inside. A quick glance through ~/Application Support/ didn’t turn up any obvious hiding places either. That’s when I fired up DaisyDisk to search for large (10GB+) folders.

Success!

For my own reference and for anyone else who comes across this post after googling unsuccessfully, iCloud’s shared photo albums are stored here:

~/Library/Containers/com.apple.cloudphotosd/Data/Library/Application Support/com.apple.cloudphotosd/services/com.apple.photo.icloud.sharedstreams/assets/

Each shared album is inside that folder and given a UUID-based folder name. And inside each album, every shared photo/video is itself inside its own UUID folder name. It’s quite impenetrable and obviously not meant for users to poke around, but the programmer in me understands why it is this way.

At the top level is a Core Data database. I thought I might get clever and explore that to see if I could extract out the metadata of the shared items and use it to help me write a “smart” backup script (that perhaps imports other people’s photos directly into Photos.app) instead of just taking the brute-force approach and backing up the entire album as a dumb blob, but I haven’t had enough time yet to investigate.

So until I find the time to build that “smart” approach, I’m going about it the dumb way and nightly syncing everything to B2. It’s not ideal, but it covers my needs for now.

Fixing a Broken Service With a Tiny Bit of Automation

This post is a nice, unintentional follow-up to yesterday’s one about backing up all of my family’s photos and home videos. Anyway…

My kids go to a fantastic daycare. My wife and I couldn’t be happier. The teachers are wonderful, they love our children, and our kids adore them, too. But, the third-party service the school uses to communicate with parents is absolute horseshit.

I won’t say what the service is because I don’t want to give them free publicity or maybe even alert them to what I’m doing, but if you have daycare-aged children, you probably know it. All the schools use use it.

All of the teachers carry around iPads in the classroom. They use this third-party app to check-in / check-out the children, capture photos and videos throughout the day, record what they ate for lunch and how long they napped, and (if your child is young enough) document their diaper changes. At the end of the day, after we sign them out of school, my wife and I get an automated email from the service with a summary of each kid’s day. But what we look forward to most are the photos/videos they take of our kids that get sent to us as they happen. When you’re slogging through a boring day at the office, seeing a happy picture of your kid on the playground with their friends is awesome.

Now, let me be clear. The service works. Mostly. I mean, it functions adequately. But it’s a horrorshow of app / website design.

It looks like something straight out of 2009-era iPhone development. It’s difficult to use. Crashes frequently. And from what the teachers have told me, the educator version isn’t any better.

Luckily, you don’t have to use their app. You can opt-in to get all the updates and photos sent to you via email, which is what my wife and I do. But, the HTML emails they send have never rendered properly in any email client – desktop or web – that I’ve tried. But that’s fine. They may not be pleasant to look at, but I can read the information in them.

My biggest gripe is that we often want to save any particularly good photos of our kids and share them with the grandparents. You can’t save the photo out of the email, because the embedded image is cropped to a square for some strange reason. You need to first tap on the image to load the full version in a browser and download it from there. Fine. But, any photo that contains any child in addition to your kid – like a group shot with a friend – is displayed with a transparent div on top of it so you can’t download it (at least on a mobile device) for privacy reasons. Look, I get it. Some parents might not want other parents unintentionally posting photos of their kids to social media. But it’s still annoying. It just forces us to take – and then crop – a screenshot. Also, the emails containing videos, which are often the best ones, can’t be downloaded at all.

Last night I got frustrated enough to finally do something about this.

I use Postmark to send all of my company‘s transactional emails. They’re fantastic for sending emails, but one feature they offer that I’ve never taken advantage of is handling inbound emails.

You can forward any email to a secret address they provide you, and they’ll parse the email and POST all of its information as a helpful JSON object to whatever URL you specify.

So, I setup a webhook in their control panel pointing to a PHP script on my web server. Then, I told Fastmail to forward all emails from the daycare service to my secret Postmark email address. You can see where this is going, can’t you?

When they send a new email to my server, the PHP script finds the link in the email’s HTML content that points to the full version on the service’s website. It then downloads that web page, parses out the URL to the full image, downloads that, and saves it into a folder on my server. This works for videos, too.

The PHP script I wrote is specific to the service our daycare uses, but if you’re curious, here it is…

That’s the first step.

Next, my iMac at home runs a script every hour to download any new photos or videos from my server and puts them in a folder inside my Mac’s “Pictures” folder. When that happens, a folder action I built with Automator automatically imports them into Apple’s Photos.app, where they’re synced to all of my mobile devices and iCloud. Soon after that, Google Photos on my iPhone will detect the new items and archive them in Google’s cloud, where they’re backed-up and made available on my wife’s phone as well.

Here’s a photo of the Automator action. It couldn’t be simpler – just one step…

The result? We get to see all of our kids’ photos as they happen, in the nice Photos app on our phones – rather than digging through the service’s crappy emails. And, sharing the pictures with the rest of our family is a one-tap process – even for the videos which previously weren’t available at all!

A Stupid Idea?

I have a stupid idea. Bear with me…

Apple’s new MacBook Pro is rumored to be updated later this year with the function keys replaced with a tappable OLED display. The idea being this display could change based on the app you’re using. But what if it wasn’t just the function keys. What if the whole keyboard was one big OLED touchable display?

When Steve Jobs stood on stage and announced the first iPhone in January 2007, before revealing the design, he showed a slide of “the usual suspects.” The standard smart phones at the time. He said the problem with theses phones (among other things) is the “bottom third.” He was referring to their fixed-in-plastic keyboards that are the same no matter what app you use. He said Apple “solved this problem thirty years ago with bitmap displays.”

Doesn’t that sound like an apt description of the standard laptop keyboard we’ve all grown accustomed to? What if it could change form whenever we switched apps?

Many people, myself included, are almost as fast at touch typing on a full-size, on screen, iPad keyboard as we are on a physical keyboard.

The travel of the keys on the new MacBook (One) has been drastically reduced to save space. Any further reduction and you’d practically be typing on a flat surface.

The new force touch trackpad in the MacBook (One) and recent MacBook Pros simulates the “click feel” by vibrating slightly.

What if the rumored MacBook Pro had a huge battery saving OLED screen for a keyboard that vibrated on key press? Would that be so bad?

Coding on My iPad Pro

Last month, my 9-5 job was kind enough to gift me an iPad Pro and its new keyboard. I’ve had a few iPads in the past, but they’ve always ended up stashed away, unused, in a drawer somewhere. I simply never got hooked on their utility. I never found that killer app, which, for me, would be the ability to code anywhere. This Pro model, however, has changed all of that.

I’ve always had two Macs. One to take places and another to get “real work” done. In the past that meant a spec’d out iMac and an 11″ MacBook Air. More recently, it’s been a work-issued 15″ MacBook Pro that stays plugged into my cinema display 99% of the time and a MacBook (One) when I travel. The new MacBook is certainly the most portable Mac I’ve ever owned, but it’s slow and lacks the screen space to do any UI intensive work.

Now that I have an iPad Pro, I’ve sold my MacBook and only touch my MacBook Pro when I have serious work to do. The iPad has replaced nearly everything I use my laptop for. That may not be so unbelievable. Lots of folks like Viticci have moved to an iOS only way of life. As I do more and more tasks on my phone, I’ve been tempted to try going iOS primarily, but I could never make that jump because I code for a living.

Until now.

I was screen sharing from my iPad to another machine on my local network, when it dawned on me how great it could be if this particular Mac were always available to me – even from outside my house. So, I splurged and ordered a datacenter-hosted Mac Mini from MacStadium. Ten minutes later I was connected to my new Mac in the cloud. And ten minutes after that, I had Xcode open and started testing the waters.

I’m using Screens.app to connect. And with a good internet connection there’s virtually no lag when screen sharing with my new Mac Mini. I’m able to run a native Mac resolution of 1920×1200 on my iPad in full screen. That gives me plenty of room to run Xcode and the iOS Simulator. With Apple’s new external keyboard, all of my usual Xcode and OS X keyboard shortcuts work just fine. And since coding is primarily a keyboard driven activity, my arm doesn’t get tired from reaching out and touching the screen like a designer’s might.

All in all I’m thrilled with my new setup. It gives me the simplicity and benefits of iOS, while still allowing me to do real work outside of the house or from the couch.

ipad-pro-xcode

Big or Small

I’ve always gone with portability and sleekness over outright power and versatility. I bought an 11″ MacBook Air the day they came out. I switched to an iPad Mini from the bulky third generation iPad. I walk around with a slim wallet. I keep my iPhone naked in my pocket – no case.

So I was hesitant but very curious about the iPhone 6 Plus. I’ve always scoffed at Android users with huge phones – mainly because I never saw the benefit. Very few Android apps adapt themselves to take advantage of the extra screen real estate. Most users spend all day with stretched and scaled up apps that could just as easily run on a smaller screen device. But with Apple’s recent advancements in AutoLayout, size classes, and their keynote demo, I love the idea of the additional UI elements a larger screen iPhone could provide.

That said, it goes against my very nature not to get the most portable device I can afford.

But after spending a day with a Samsung Note III in my pocket as a size comparison, I came to a realization I hope comes true.

The 6 Plus may be a huge phone, but it might just allow me to give up my iPad (which I don’t use very often) and consolidate down to only one iDevice.

In that sense, going with the Plus actually is the smaller option.