On making money in the App Store and why free often wins

For me at least.

I'm Scottish, which means I don't spend money unless I have to. When I was younger I used to stretch my bus passes out well past their expiry date because I knew the drivers never really bothered to check the expiry date as it was in tiny little writing. Each time I got caught I'd just say "Oh sorry about that, I must have picked up an old one, here let me pay the fare" I'd always by a new one before my next journey. The shortest time I ever managed was 8 days (probably about 20 journeys).

I don't steal apps. I don't pirate them either. But I will certainly try and get them for free or use them for free for as long as possible. Marco Arment actually made a good point in this weeks ATP where he said, and I'm paraphrasing here "If you give users a free option they will adjust their habits to stay in the free option". I'm definitely one of those people.

I visit app price websites daily. If an app is free that was previously paid, I'll 'buy' it in the knowledge that it will likely go back to being paid and I'll get the future updates for free. I probably only use 30 apps but I've got over 1000 in my purchased tab in the iOS app store.

Here's some examples of apps and services I use because they don't cost me anything.

  • Apples stock apps - Weather, Email, Notes, Calendar, Reminders, Voice Memos because they only need one login to setup and they are free and cover multiple usage cases. I know they are decent and aren't likely to go anywhere any time soon.

  • No RSS Apps. I was using Feedly for a brief period but stopped as RSS was just another unread list to work through. I haven't missed it at all.

  • Simplenote - I use this for syncing work stuff and articles for this site. There's an app on iOS and on Mac so why pay for something like Byword?

  • Twitter - I own Tweetbot but would probably avoid buying it now if I didn't already own it. I prefer the official client for its functionality.

  • Google Drive - I get 15gb of free storage but I have a lot more than that after getting a couple of review units. (Pro-tip: If you buy one and return it, they let you keep the storage too).

  • Dropbox - I use this for syncing some text files and settings for apps that support it. I have 8gb there I got just by installing things like Mailbox, Carousel, tweeting about it etc.

  • Day One - This was free recently but I got it in a freebie deal about a year ago. I didn't really use it much but I have started using it a lot more in the last couple of weeks.

  • Dark Sky - I got this for free using the Starbucks app. I already had a US iTunes account so that wasn't a problem. I just have to remember to install it whenever I get a new device as it's on a different account

  • Instapaper - I mostly use Reading List but I got this in the same scenario as Dark Sky above. Pocket is free and I'd use that if I had to pay for Instapaper. Instapaper has better parsing, better pagination, better dark mode and superior typography options though.

  • Evernote - I actually use this for storing clipped articles I have published elsewhere online or when someone links to me. This never goes over the free 60mb. I also store PDF's exported from Safari in Google Drive.

  • Instacast for Mac - I bought the iOS version but thought the Mac version was way to expensive. So I just redownloaded the trial every month and signed up with a different email address each time. I've now switched to Downcast because Vemedio seem to come up with a new way to extract money every so often. Downcast is ugly but it works and I paid for it.

I'm not against spending money on things entirely. I like the idea of paying for apps and supporting developers. I just always default to supporting my own family first. I keep my phone in a case because I don't want to pay to replace it if it breaks.

Here's a list of things I pay/paid for

  • Netflix - Because it's worth it for House of Cards, Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black on it's own.

  • Squarespace - The all in one solution for creating an online portfolio...just kidding. I don't use them because they are a sponsor I use them because I honestly think they are great. I also have piece of mind that they have really good podcast support if I ever decide to do yet another one. (Because I damn sure am not going on a network again, I can still smell the burning flesh from my fingers from the last time I did that)

  • Downcast - See Instacast above

  • Spotify - I like the unlimited nature of it. It also means my son can listen to any song he wants and I don't have to pay for it.

iTunes TV Shows - There's a catch here. I buy them in the US store where I can because it works out cheaper and most shows air there first. (Pro-tip #2: A lot of new shows will give you the pilot episode for free)

All these little purchases mount up. If I started buying lots of apps just to try them and paying for things like app.net, droplr, Dropbox, Tonx, Amazon Prime, Comixology then before you know it I'd paying potentially 100's of dollars a month. I'll try stuff if it's free but I tend to stick with what I know because it's already free.

I'm not entirely sure what the reaction to this article will be. I expect it'll probably be evenly split between people agreeing with me and people who think I'm a tightfisted bastard. People might even say "That App only costs the price of a Starbucks". I hate that. I don't drink at Starbucks because it's overpriced so that analogy doesn't work on me.

It used to be that prevailing opinion was that a paid app was likely to disappear but that's not the case anymore. Paid apps aren't any more or less likely to be sold than free ones but the paid ones sting more when they get killed off. Sparrow is a good example of this. Everpix died too.

So for me, personally, I'm not surprised about the talk of App developers not making as much money. I'm not helping. I can't see either changing any time soon.

The problems with Tech Twitter

I've had a few emails from readers since quitting Tech Twitter on Saturday asking why I did it. There were various reasons. The tech side of Twitter has just become boring to me now. It feels like a chore to participate. I'm sure there are some things (and people) I'll miss but not enough to wade through the nonsense I read every day.

Here's a few specific reasons.

Arguments

I participated in a fair few of these and every time, no matter what the subject matter or who the other person(s) was, we looked like idiots. I never liked watching them and I always regretted getting involved in them. Sadly some people can't accept when they are wrong and often confuse their opinion with fact.

Subtweets

I'll hold my hands up and say I've done this but it doesn't mean I enjoy it. It's like the Mcdonalds of Twitter. It's easy, cheap and is satisfying for all off 5 minutes than afterwards you just spend the next few hours regretting the decision.

Weird Twitter

This is just stupid. The epitome of an in-joke. It doesn't make sense by design and serves only to confuse your followers. It's a pointless endeavour.

Anecdotal Data

This is a particular bugbear of mine. Every day I'd read a tweet from someone proclaiming to know what the "average person" wants and they'd never provide any evidence to back it up. It's usually in an attempt to win an argument or prove a point but it's never valid. I don't know of anybody who considers themselves an 'average' person because there is no such thing. Average is, by definition, the data accrued from many results and then divided by the number of people in that result.

Claiming to know what the average person wants is just a lame attempt to make it seem like you a) know what the hell you're talking about and b) that your somehow in tune with the wider world and have your ear so close to the ground you somehow represent the people. All you can ever really say is what you want, you might be able to say what a friend or family member wants but please, never be under the illusion that because you've spoken to even 500 people that you somehow represent the millions upon millions who could potentially by a product or use a service. You don't. You're just another person with a twitter account.

Followers

People are obsessed by how many people enjoy the tweets of someone else. It's an irrelevant metric. You can't do anything with those followers. You can maybe "reach" more people but that's it. People also pay too much attention to who follows who. Even going as far as to congratulate each other when an internet famous person gets involved.

As an example, a few weeks ago one of my posts here was shared by Casey Liss. I thanked him and moved on. But people were tweeting me, DM'ing me and emailing me to A) say well done and B) asking me how it affected my traffic. Long story short, it didn't affect it that much. There was a slight bump after he tweeted it but nothing major (a few hundred views).

I don't see this as an achievement. I have nothing against Casey, I think he's a smart guy and I enjoy listening to him on ATP but he's no more important or relevant than any of my readers. I'm sure if you asked him he won't consider himself any more special than the rest of us and I don't either. I don't consider anyone on Twitter or in life to be above or below me.

Smugness

This kind of leads from the previous one. When someone is linked by or spoken about, they become increasingly smug about. They insist on referencing it every few hours, they'll say something like "Oh this is what it's like to be Retweeted by such and such" looking for pats on the back from their peers for this monumental achievement. Congratulations, you managed to get a fellow Twitter user to touch a certain part of their screen. Please, rush off and tell your parents, they'll be so proud of you.

That's what it boils down to is outside of our bubble, nobody really cares. If I was to sell someone at work "Hey guess what, Casey Liss liked something I wrote" they'd probably respond with "Who the fuck is Casey Liss" and it wouldn't be the in joke that we all share because they wouldn't know who Marco and Siracusa are either.

Smugness manifests itself when people are right as well. Normally after they've had a lucky guess about a product launch or an acquisition. People will use terms like "Called it" and usually link back to their tweet declaring that "Apple should totally buy Beats". Again this is not an achievement. You guessed correctly, well done, now move on.

Picking a side

You have to pick a side. Twitter users seem incapable of comprehending that you can like Samsung as a company but you can dislike some of the things they do. You're forced to be black and white and you can't change your mind.

I worked at both Samsung and Apple and I've seen people struggle to comprehend how this is even possible. Nobody cares that Apple offered me a job when I was working at Samsung. Nobody cares that they asked me questions about how Samsung worked internally. If that had happened the other way round though it's be different.

Samsung is a good company, they don't do everything perfectly but no company does. They are just the company it's cool to hate at the moment. Apple has been through this a few times as well. Where all the negative stories are repeated and reported ad-nauseum and the good stories are buried.

Narrative repetition

Every story has a narrative and if you don't stick to or choose to believe that narrative then you're a fool (or so says Twitter). The Samsung example above is a good one. Others are that Google is now evil. Samsung is a copycat (Xiaomi is now taking that one over). Anyone who uses a Blackberry is an idiot. The list goes on and on.

Counter Culture

This is a relatively new one. This phenomenon is spread by those people who are interested in the tech industry but want everyone to know that they are above it, that they grok it on a higher level than you could even comprehend.

They'll say things like "You can't delay an unannounced product" or mock the "Internet Outrage Machine" or make up cute little words like "Commentariat" or "Blogosphere". These people have now gone above commenting on the tech industry itself and are now commenting on the people who comment on the tech industry. They watch them, they mock them, they call them out for being "stupid".

They make the same terrible jokes all the time as well. Whenever theres an Apple earnings call they'll invariably tweet something like "Apple made a ton of money, shareholders freak out" or they'll pick on their favourite websites like MacRumours or 9to5mac.

Lastly these people will belittle any rumour that doesn't fit in with their worldview of Apple. I've said before and I'll say it again, unless you have specific evidence to the contrary you've no right to dismiss a rumour any more than I have a right to dispute what you had for breakfast this morning.

In reality they are just like the rest of us. They aren't any smarter or any more self aware, they're just trying to differentiate themselves by pretending to be smarter than the rest of us.

Conclusion

As you can see there's a lot of things that frustrate me about tech Twitter. Maybe that's because of the people I follow but I can't be bothered vetting each person. I'm still following a handful as those people don't really participate in any of the above nonsense.

It's been over 24 hours since I unfollowed almost everyone who does participate in it and my Timeline is much better for it. I haven't seen a single argument nor have I missed any news. Grass is greener, the air is fresher, puppies are cuter. The world is a better place.

Quitting Tech Twitter

For the last 6 months my Twitter timeline has been evenly split between Technology and Football. Both in terms of who I follow and my followers.

My tech followers don't like football tweets and the football followers don't much care for a 140 character analysis of Amazons stock price.

The tech side of my timeline has several issues. It's hugely combative and is full of trolls. I've realised I get very little value from my timeline nowadays and I doubt I'm adding any value to yours either. In fact I end up giving away thoughts for free on Twitter instead of taking the time to flesh them out here.

So I'm giving up being obsessed about follower counts, arguing about the latest apps features, having to make snap decisions about announcements or news.

I'm looking forward to not having to do things like decode subtweets or read "weird twitter". I am most looking forward to not having to abide by all the silly little rules that people on the internet make up and then get angry about. Things like "you can't delay an unannounced product" or betteridges law or privacy or whatever pathetic little talking point we've all landed on today.

I've decided to unfollow the majority of people who are tech focused on Twitter. There are a few people I've become friends with who'll I'll continue to follow but beyond that I am out.

I'm going to keep writing here and beyond this post I won't be discussing this decision on Twitter. If you follow me, be warned it'll just be for football and personal related tweets from now on. It will likely be lower volume as well.

I'm not quitting twitter entirely, I'm just quitting the tech side of it.

How many iPhones, iPads and Macs does Apple sell per Day, Hour, Minute and Second? Q3 2014 Edition

I missed the last quarter but I'm back to break down each of the Apple sales figures by Day, Hour, Minute and Second again.

The following data is from Apples Q3 financial report which is valid from March 30th through June 28th 2014 and is rounded down to the nearest whole number.

35,200,000 total iPhones were sold in the quarter.

That’s an average of

  • 386,813 per day
  • 16,117 per hour
  • 268 per minute
  • 4 per second

13,270,000 iPads were sold in the quarter,

That's an average of

  • 145,824 per day
  • 6,076 per hour
  • 101 per minute
  • 1 per second

4,400,000 Macs were sold in the quarter,

That's an average of

  • 48,351 per day
  • 2,014 per hour
  • 33 per minute
  • 1 every 2 seconds

A quick breakdown of iOS gaming over the years

I recieved an email from a reader named Claire today in response to this post that made me think. She said that, to her, it felt like big hit games were getting fewer and farther between. I agreed so I want on the hunt for actual data rather than the usual anecdata.

I checked the top 100 iPhone/iPad games on Metacritic, a site that collates multiple reviews and gives them an overall score. Here's how it broke down. (Excuse the graphs I just mocked them up quickly)

Top100

As you can see the best games for iOS clearly came out in 2010 and ever since then theres been a steady decline in "Hits"

That's not the only thing I checked though. I also checked the number of games per year that had a score greater than 75. Here's how that breaks down.

So going by that metric the best year was 2012 as that had a large volume of good games.

But I thought this was slightly flawed as some years had a significantly higher number of games reviewed.

I then sorted by percentage of games with scores of 75 or more and this is how that broke down

As you can see in terms of percentage it's pretty close across the board with a swing of less than 20%. The last few years have been the worst on this metric as well however.

In terms of raw standout "hits", 2010 was clearly the pinnacle. This data isn't conclusive of course and I'm not claiming otherwise. My name isn't Horace. These graphs clearly go some way of showing why Claire and myself agreed that it doesn't "feel" as good as the good old days of 2010, though.

Is it possible to delay an unannounced product?

Everytime the word "Delay" is used in an article it seems that people are in a clamour to point out that you can't delay an announced product.

You can.

I don't actually know why people think you can't? I acknowledge that, technically, you can't push a date back if one didn't exist in the first place. But in most of these cases a date did exist, just not a public one.

The most recent example is obviously the 5.5 inch iPhone. It may not have been publicly announced but Apple was aiming for a September launch. If they've encountered a problem that means they can't meet that date then that's a delay.

Apple calls it a delay. When I worked there I had many projects delayed. They didn't use any fancy terminology, they just call a spade a spade.

The problem stems from people looking to bash anyone who reports on Apple. I've written about the many facets of this before, including peoples need to be negative about everything that crosses their screen. Reporting on Apple rumours is hard work and that's one of many reasons I chose not to do it anymore.

Here's the thing I want to get off my chest though. You're choosing to read this stuff. If you've got such a problem with it then stop reading it. Whinging about how someone broke some non-existent or unwritten rule that you and your fellow readers have come up with isn't going to solve anything.

Reading tech rumours is a bit like watching a sci-fi show or movie. You have to either buy in to what's being said and take it as read or you're going to spend your time picking holes in the plot and nobody likes that person.

A tweet or a comment that says "Um, actually guys, I think you'll find you can't technically delay a product that hasn't been announced yet" is just as bad as someone that says "Um, they didn't actually have those types of lightbulbs until 1930 and this movie is set in 1921".

Unless you are actually able to provide evidence to the contrary or you are going to get in to the Apple rumour business yourself and show us all how it should be done then you're wasting everyones time.

Until such times as someone comes up with a better word than "delay" to describe "a product that was planned to be released on a certain date but never publicly announced but now will be coming out on a different date" then I'm afraid we're going to have to stick with "Delay" and those who don't like it can either get over it or stop visiting these websites in the first place.

Oh and just to rub salt in the wounds of these daft rules, the headline on this post breaks Betteridges Law.

Logitech Rechargeable Trackpad for Mac

A few weeks ago I bought a Mac Mini and since it comes with next to nothing in the box I've been trying out and researching different peripherals. I've used the Apple equivalents for years previously but I wanted to try and see what else was on offer. Last week I reviewed the Logitech K760 for example.

I'll start by saying the Magic Trackpad by Apple is a brilliant concept. OS X has a wealth of gestures so a trackpad makes just as much sense on the desktop as it does for Laptops.

I quickly found that Apple doesn't really have much competition here. Where there are probably hundreds if not thousands of Keyboards for Macs there's very few 3rd party trackpads. Most of them are built in to keyboards and are aimed at being used in a home media setup but none that are a standalone product.

Trackpadfront

There is the Logitech Rechargeable Trackpad for Mac (Yes that's it's full name). It's a silver, square piece of glass roughly the same size as the Magic Trackpad and every bit as smooth, perhaps even marginally smoother. It's also every bit as good as I found out.

I've been using one for the last week or so and after installing the software provided by Logitech it works in exactly the same way. There is a separate preference pane in system settings (a minor annoyance) but it's laid out almost identically to the Apple one.

TrackpadPane

There are some differences though. First off, this trackpad is rechargeable, so there's no messing around with changing batteries or worrying about not having any when it runs out. I typically get around 2 weeks of usage out of a pair of Duracell batteries in the Magic Trackpad. That cost mounts up over time. It charges over Micro USB and each charge should be good for around 30 days of use. When it runs out you just need to plug it in. I've been using it for a week and it hasn't run out yet.

It also doesn't click quite as satisfylingly as the Apple Magic Trackpad but there's not much in it in fairness. The Apple one is definitely louder and clickier.

The trackpad is glass and the underside is made of plastic, just like the Magic trackpad. There's no Aluminium in the Logitech version but theres no battery barrel either.

trackpadside

The Logitech Trackpad for Mac also has a shallower angle than the Apple Magic Trackpad and I prefer it. I feel it puts less pressure on my wrist when using it and it also makes it easier to position your keyboard and mouse in a more laptop style configuration if you are so inclined (I'm not, right hand side for me)

I'd recommend this trackpad over the Magic Trackpad. Just like the K760 Keyboard I reviewed last week it's got all the same functionality, it's rechargeable and costs half the price. They don't look as sleek but aren't ugly. I'd say buy these instead and you've got yourself a superior set of input devices without having to pay the 'Apple Tax' or worry about batteries.

UPDATE: After using the Logitech Trackpad for 16 days for a avaerage of 8 hours each day it has just popped up with an on screen message telling me it needs charged.

The iWatch isn't guaranteed to be great

Smartwatches are big news at the moment. They have been around for a while. I had one years ago, a Sony Ericsson MBW-100. All it did was tell me how many messages, emails and missed calls I had at a glance. It looked like a watch. Nobody ever commented on it. 

Now we've got some varying designs like the Pebble and Android Wear. The as yet unreleased Moto 360 is probably the pick of the bunch. Its round, takes a normal watch strap and has a somewhat large screen. It sort of looks like a watch but once you look at it for more than a few seconds you realise it's not. It's a computer on your wrist. 

It's been dismissed by some, though. Some have ridiculed it for having a small black bar at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes it's because it is not an iWatch. The flawed expectation is that Apple wouldn't compromise a product in that way. It's the same flawed logic people use to defend the company when they launch a feature that resembles one on another platform. 

"Apple waits until they can do it the right way"

There's a kernel of truth in that, but it doesn't get Apple off the hook. They copy others. It's that simple. It's not a bad thing. All good companies have to be able to see what trends customers are after and try to compete. But in the case of the smartwatch this mantra is being used to detail why Apple's effort will be better. Because Apple doesn't compromise products like Motorola or Samsung or LG.

Except they do.

The original iPhone had a big ugly black bar on it's back to allow for radio transparency. That's right, a big ugly black bar, the same thing the Moto 360 has been chastised for. This was done for a similar reason as the Moto 360. It wasn't technically viable to do it any other way. Apple needed a radio transparent part of the phone and Motorola needed somewhere to put the tech that drives the display. The first iPhone also didn't have 3G, another compromise.

The iPad Mini launched without a retina display and the year old A5 processor. That was a pretty big compromise.

The iPad 3 had to get bigger and heavier (albeit marginally) to accommodate it's Retina Display.

Everytime Apple has launched a new product recently they've opted for thinness over battery life. Battery life is a cited problem with smartwatches but why doesn't Apple just make the product the same size as the previous generation or even make it a little thicker and offer better battery life? Form over function mainly. Thinness is not something I look for in a phone.

All of this isn't just frustration at the fact that people have an obsession with comparing everything Apple does to the competition or the insistence on bending a narrative like a shatterproof ruler until it eventually loses integrity. It's simply a realistic view of what Apple can achieve. They are bound by the same rules as all these other companies. They aren't actually capable of magic.

This for me means that I cannot in good faith be excited by the iWatch. At least not the first one. I've been disappointed by first gen Apple products in the past and I don't have the confidence that I won't get burned again. I'm sure the iWatch will sell literally boatloads but selling well doesn't make something good. They aren't one and the same.

I hope Apple proves me wrong but if history is an indicator, they won't.

Logitech K760 Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard

I bought a Mac Mini a few weeks ago and to accompany it I am on the look out for the best peripherals that are not made by Apple. The keyboard is a pretty important add on and Apple's efforts have always been great. I wanted to try something new though and figured this would be a good oppurtunity to explore the non-Apple alternatives.

I've tried a few keyboards in the last month. I started with the cheapest my local PC World sold, to see whether it would do the job but I found the keys are too spongy and would often stick. It was an extended keyboard as well and that made me realise they are too wide for my tastes.

Then I tried this Anker Bluetooth Keyboard. It was cheap on Amazon and had good reviews. It was an improvement but the keys were a little too shallow and because it was plastic and not made very well the deck flexed in the middle a little and that's no good for me. I would recommend it for occasional iPad usage but not for a permanent desk keyboard that's going to get a lot of use.

IMG_0796.JPG

I thought I was just going to have to settle with the Apple Keyboard after all but I asked on Twitter and the most repeated suggestion was the Logitech K760. I bought one as it was only £35 on Amazon (Half the price of the Apple model) and when it came we instantly clicked.

The K760 has a similar layout and look to the Apple wireless keyboard which is excellent but there's 2 big stand out features that make it different: It's solar powered and it can pair with up to 3 bluetooth devices.

k750Solar

The solar panel runs along the top of the keyboard. This does make the whole thing a little taller than the Apple Wireless but not enough to bother me. Logitech tells me that it comes fully charged out of the box and as long as there is even a small amount of sunlight it should stay topped up to 100%. I've been using it for over a week now and never had any battery problems. I'll likely update this post in a few months with an update on that.

Solar power is an ingenious solution because not only do you not have to change the batteries all the time, you don't have to worry about recharging it either. Why this isn't more common is beyond my comprehension.

Then there's the bluetooth pairing. It's wireless and worked flawlessly in that regard. There's no lag when typing and pairing with upto three devices was very easy.

K760BTKeys

The F1,F2 and F3 keys all have the bluetooth logo on them. It's essentially like having three Bluetooth keyboards in one. I have #1 mapped to my Mac, #2 mapped to my iPhone and #3 mapped to my iPad and switching is as easy as pressing one of these buttons.

I paired each of the buttons to each of my devices using the standard process because theres no extra setup needed. Now, if I'm on my Mac and want to switch over to my iPad, I just press F3. It disconnects from the first and connects to the second in about 2 seconds. Then when I want to switch back to my Mac I just press F1. It was one of those eureka moments for me where I wondered A) whether it was actually this easy and B) why nobody had thought of it before.

It's not just a standard Keyboard either. There are iOS specific keys like a Home button shortcut, brightness control, volume control, keyboard display and a play/pause button. Sadly the track skip buttons are missing but given the limited set of keys available I probably would have made the choice to drop these over the others as well.

The keys are nicely spaced and have great tactile feedback. The travel is a little more than the Apple wireless but not a massive amount. I can type just as fast on this Keyboard as I can on any other. All the keys are where you would expect them to be apart from the shortcuts mapped to the FN keys but I got used to them pretty quickly.

k760Bottom

There's no height adjustment on this keyboard, instead there are just rubber feet along the bottom. The angle is different from the Apple wireless but not massively so. The K760 is made of plastic but feels incredibly solid. There's no flex at all. The unit is sealed so you won't be replacing the batteries yourself if they do run out but Logitech does include a 3 year warranty as standard in case you run into any issues.

K760Angle

I really like this keyboard and enjoy typing on it. I prefer it to Apples effort and at half the price I'd highly recommend it over the more expensive Apple Wireless. It comes in an extended version,The K750 and a Windows version too if you're that way inclined (the windows version is the same model number but black). The extended version only supports one Bluetooth device at a time, though.

I'll have more posts soon about other peripherals I've chosen to accompany my Mac Mini in the next few weeks.

If you've got any questions about this Keyboard then feel free to contact me or send me a tweet and I'll answer it for you.

How To Be A Pro Apple Blogger

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen that I’ve been tweeting “How To Be A Pro Apple Blogger Lesson #XX” for the last week or so. It started off as just a bit of fun but a few people have asked that I collate them all into a post. I thought might make it a bit more mean spirited but here we are, you can be the judge. These aren’t aimed at anyone in particular nor are they supposed to be taken seriously. Enjoy

  1. The black bar at the bottom of the Moto 360 is unacceptable but the black bar at the bottom of the original iPhone is acceptable
  2. You must only drink coffee that’s passed through an Aeropress. Anything else is dishwater

  3. All handwritten notes must be made in a Field Notes notebook.

  4. You must never discuss the cost of things at length. Behave as if money is never an issue

  5. A post about an app is immediately devalued if it does not contain the phrase “I’ve been beta testing this for a while"

  6. You must be able to hold a convo about Typography & be able to name at least 12 fonts on sight

  7. You must never be caught using the official Twitter Apps. Tweetbot is preferred, Twitteriffic is accepted.

  8. You must avoid making your site responsive for as long as possible

  9. Google and Samsung have shady business practices but you sure do love you some SodaStream which is not hypocritical at all

  10. You must constantly use the word 'privacy' but never quantify its meaning in any of your writing

  11. Dissenting voices must be pointed out to your audience via Retweets if you're feeling fighty, Subtweets if you're appearing passive aggressive.

  12. Screenshots must always have unread Emails/iMessages/DM’s because how will people know how popular you are?

  13. Always add ten years to the time you actually started using Apple products

  14. Condescend people not in your audience by referring to them as “Average”

  15. Whatever metric Apple is doing well in, thats the most important metric right now.

  16. It is your duty to complain regularly about iTunes or another product, you know, so people know you’re not biased.

  17. Apple is wonderful, but woe betide anyone that uses 1st party apps that aren’t Safari or Mail

Apple's 2 factor security is mostly useless

I'm not a security expert, I know very little about this stuff but I do know that in my own personal circumstances Apple's 2 factor authentication is terrible

I set up 2 factor as soon as it became available and all seemed fine, until February of this year when I got an iPhone 5s and a new phone number. I punched in my Apple ID and password and all was fine. Since then I've added an iPad air and a Mac Mini to my collection and did the same thing without any problems. They have all been merrily syncing notes, emails, contacts, iMessages etc for months.

Until today I went to change something on my Apple ID. I can't log in to manage it. It asks me to use a security that will be sent to my old iPhone 4s which I have since wiped and sold on or my old phone number which I have cancelled.

Apple knows that iPhone isn't current, it doesn't show up in Find my iPhone. I'm not sure what it was that I needed to do to update that?

I've also lost my recovery key. That's my own stupidity of course and I'll probably need to call Apple to get around that because their Kbase solution is to log in and request a new one. If I could log in I wouldn't need to use the damn recovery key would ?

What I wanted to raise here is that all 2 factor does is stops you from editing the details on your Apple ID online. It doesn't protect any of the information that syncs between devices nor does it prevent someone from accessing that information if they know your password. They can log in to any iOS device or even iCloud.com without ever being prompted for the second part of the 2 factor.

Google has a much better system in place. They have an app that generates time sensitive codes and whenever you log in anywhere for the first time you first have to enter your username and password and then enter the 6 digit code which is generated using an app on your phone (it works on iPhones too). Don't have the code? You're not getting access.

So if someone knows my password for my Google account they can't get any access at all, but if they know my password for my iCloud account then they get free reign and I'd be powerless to stop them.

Apple is asking me to store more and more sensitive information with them, Contacts, Email, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Documents, Photos, and even my other passwords and credit card details but they aren't prepared to put in the effort to make sure it's protected properly.

Apple is the company that's supposed to care about it's customers privacy and Google is the one that doesn't so why are the latter doing a much better job of it whilst Apple lags behind?

Apple should probably avoid getting into gaming

Apple is getting into the gaming industry. No, not really but that's what some are guessing at. It hangs around in various forms such as "Apple should make the next Apple TV a games console too" or "Apple should buy Nintendo" but, to me, these rarely make any sense. Apple has been in the gaming industry before with the Pippin. Past failure does not preclude future success of course but it's possible they learned from their mistakes and don't want to do it again.

With regards to the Apple TV being a games console, it's certainly a neat idea and, on the surface makes sense. But there are a few parts that are often overlooked. Firstly, the Apple TV has sold 20m units the last time they released numbers in April 2014 whereas the the Xbox 360 and PS3 have sold 160m units between them.

The Apple TV is targeted as a media consumption device but even if they did open up the platform the market that's going to be buying games is used to spending around £5 on a game. Over on the consoles people are conditioned to spending not only £200 on the console, but £50 per game.

Now if you're a major game developer, or even an indie game developer, what market are you going to aim at? The 20m unit £5 a game market? Or the 160m strong £50 a game market? It's not rocket salad.

So the response to that is that it would actually be the iOS devices that ran the games and the Apple TV would just be a conduit to the big screen. This is already possible. There have been games in the past that utilised this but they were hardly runaway successes. Real Racing used the iPad as a steering wheel and second screen whilst the TV was where the action was.

I think the problem here is that iOS device development is just too fast. There's a new iPhone and iPad every year with faster processors and graphics. This doesn't happen on Consoles. The last generation was around for about 8 years which gives games developers plenty of time to invest in making great games. Sure they can upgrade the games each and every time and in some cases the graphics will render better on the new devices without developers having to do much but it's still a pretty fast moving target. I don't foresee Apple sticking with a build of Apple TV long enough that this stops being an issue.

Lastly there's the fact that Apple has been trying to push gaming more and more for the last few years. This is often mistaken as a clue to them ramping up to their entry into that market but in reality it's in response to iOS developers responding with apathy each time it happens. Game Centre, the controller API's, the aforementioned links to Apple TV, increased power every year. Every time each of these was announced this gaming discussion stirred up and people said "This is it, this is Apple's big play for gaming". None of these things have set the world on fire so will Metal be any different? Based on recent history it doesn't look promising.

Game development is hard and there's no guarantee of returns for big investments so the 2 markets have stayed largely seperate. Don't be fooled by Apple's claims of "Console Quality Graphics" because we all know that's a line that was fluffed back stage before coming out to show it's face. They definitely get better every time but the vast majority of successful games on iOS are not graphically intensive. Apple also tried to bring controllers to iOS and of course they took off big time, right? Right?

Plenty of others have tried and failed to set the heather alight. Ouya springs to mind. It's perhaps too early to judge the Fire TV or the Vita TV. Of course the response to this, as it is in all of the markets Apple is rumoured to enter, is the mystical "They'll do it better". It doesn't work like that and frankly I'm bored of that vague nonsense.

Apple has chosen the markets it thinks are ripe for disruption because those markets are piss poor when they enter them. Not because they have the ability to make anything a success. If it did they'd have made iTunes less of a heap of crap years ago. Instead they redesigned it and it still sucks. The world of video games could maybe benefit from disruption but it's certainly not as ripe for it as tablets and smartphones were. It'd be a very long time before Apple would be even close to the likes of Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo.

I hope Apple sticks to what it's best at and that's making computing devices and media devices. I can't see what they can add to the world of gaming and they'd be doing it just to try and compete with the already established players.

Answers to some common questions about Football.

The World Cup is currently being contested in Brazil and it brings with it a sea of casual fans who normally don't go in for this kind of thing but since the USA and other countries are doing well they're keen to participate. Unfortunately theres a bit of a barrier to entry as nobody is explaining the rules of the game before hand, so I often see the same questions pop up during matches. I write about tech but you may not know that I also write about Football so I'm going to answer some of them as best I can.

Why is it called Football and not Soccer? Soccer is a less confusing name

It's called football because that makes the most sense. The vast majority of play is done with your foot at the ball. Americans already have a sport called Football so need a different name. Soccer is actually short for Association Football. We don't have this problem in Britain as we just called them "Football" and "American Football" but I guess "Rest of the world Football" doesn't sound as nice as Soccer.

What's the offside rule? Why not scrap it?

The most basic explanation of the offside rule is that at the moment the ball is passed forward if there are not at least 2 members of the opposing team between the receiving player and the goal, they are offside. The imaginary line is constantly moving with the so called "Last defender" (the Goalkeeper is usually a given because he's nearly always between the player and the goal but he does count towards the 2). This rule doesn't apply if the recieving player was in his own half when the ball was played.

In terms of scrapping it, if we did that we'd end up with some very boring play, or "Hoofball" as players would just play long passes up to each of the boxes thereby eliminating the need for passing play. Strikers would just "poach" and that would result in games being incredibly boring.

Why do the players overreact when challenged?

Unlike in American Football there is minimal contact allowed in Association Football and so there are advantages to be gained from your opponent in the form of Free Kicks and Penalties as well as Yellow and Red cards. Footballers tend to run at high speeds with a ball at their feet so when they are knocked over keeping your balance is a lot harder than it looks. Referees in Football have to make snap decisions so the acting is done to try and persuade them to give a foul. Sometimes a player is legitimately injured or hurt and it looks like play-acting. In all cases the advent of slow motion replays does nothing but exaggerate this but referees don't see these replays.

What is the purpose of the six yard box

This is the area where Goalkeepers take their Goal Kicks from to restart the match after an opposing player played the ball wide of the goal. It serves no other purpose.

What is the purpose of the centre circle

When kicking off at the start of a half or after a goal only members of the team kicking off are allowed in this area. In the event of a penalty shootout all players not involved in the current penalty must stand in the centre circle.

What is the purpose of the 18 yard box

The 18 yard box serves many purposes. This is the area where the keeper is allowed to handle the ball. It is also where, if an attacking player is fouled inside this area, a penalty is given instead of a free kick. When a penalty is awarded only the player taking the penalty and the goalkeeper are allowed in the 18 yard box

What's the purpose of the D on the edge of the box?

Around this area is the closest players are allowed to get when a penalty (of the non shootout variety) is being taken. Once the ball has been struck normal play resumes. As an added noted on Penalties, Goalkeepers must stand on the goal line until the ball is struck.

What's the deal with the wall at Free Kicks and why does the ref spray shaving foam on the ground?

This has been common in South American countries for years but this tournament is the first time it's been used in a competition involving European teams. When a free kick is awarded then there is a 10 yard radius around the ball that opposing players cannot enter. Thus to block the goal as much as possible they form a wall. The referee then uses his spray to mark the position of the ball, pace out ten yards and then mark the line the opposing players have to stand behind. This is because it's fairly common in countries where this spray is not utilised either for players to move the ball closer or the wall to creep closer to the ball. It's a welcome addition by most.

Why do all players use the same technique for throw ins?

When taking a thrown in the ball must be held in 2 hands and the ball must be released whilst it is above the head. Thus, there's only one real way to take a throw in. You can't lob it under arm or over arm unfortunately.

What's going on with the time? Why does it keep running?

The vast majority of Football matches played are not televised. There are thousands of games that happen across Europe alone every weekend and the vast majority of these kick off at 3pm on a Saturday. Time is important because the game must start and end within a set period of time so that fans and the towns and cities where these matches take place are able to plan accordingly. If the clock was stopped for every break in play the length of matches would start to vary wildly. For most stoppages the referee will add on a shorter amount of time at the end of the half and this is typically 30 seconds for every major stoppage. This also means that if all matches where other results are dependent are being played at the same time then fairness is ensured.

Why don't they make (Fundamental change to the rules)

For decades FIFA (the governing body) has maintained that Football should fundamentally be the same game across the globe and that the game itself should be as easy as possible to play at grass roots level all the way up to the highest level. Thus things like replays etc are not utilised as that would be a major difference. This is the first World Cup where goal line technology has been used and whilst it's a welcome addition, it could be the start of the game becoming more fractured.

Why did the USA still advance if they lost to Germany?

The first round of the World Cup is a series of mini leagues with each team playing each other once. USA were joint with Portugal on points. In the event of a points tie it comes down to "Goal Difference" whereby you gain a point for every goal scored and lose a point for every goal conceded. In this, USA came out on top and so Ronaldo and chums got sent home. Don't worry though, if the USA lose against Belgium then they're out and if they win they are through.

A few other bits and bobs I want to mention

Football is a very tactically nuanced sport once you start paying attention to it properly.

We tried "Sudden Death" in the 90's and it didn't work out. Teams knew if they conceded they were out so it resulted in the majority of games with that rule becoming very defensive and they actually ended up going to penalties more often.

Not all players are paid millions of pounds or even close, they are just the ones who get the most media attention. In Scotland for example it's very common for a professional football player to only do it as a second job, they quite often have Mon-Fri jobs also.

If you have any questions and answers you think should be added then feel free to email me them or send me a tweet.

Negativity

Yesterday was not a proud day for our community. You’ll have no doubt seen the many posts about the benefits of independent podcasters vs joining a network. Don’t worry I’m not going to weigh in, for once I was able to squeeze everything I wanted to say on the subject into a single tweet.

What I do want to talk about is how this constant barrage of negativity is hurting us all. Marco had to unpublish those posts because of the response and he had made some great points. Points that needed to be made. Sid O’Neill, Ben Brooks and Casey Liss posted their thoughts on it too. They all took the time to flesh out their thoughts into something substantial. That’s my preferred method of doing things nowadays too.

What I see a lot of nowadays is the same people, on twitter, being consistently negative about everything. They must have a snarky comment, or a subtweet ready and others are encouraging it. Whether it’s a product launch, The World Cup, a discussion like the one on Podcasts, they can’t help but say something negative about it. A tweet that exceeds only in belittling the news or the opinions of others.

Some examples would be:

I’m not innocent. I’ve done it myself in the past because I wanted to fit in. I thought that’s how you became a good tweeter or a good writer. That you had to be cynical and a dickhead to other humans to get anywhere.

Then I actually started speaking to people with real success in this business and it turns out they’re all actually pretty nice and friendly. Sometimes they might not like something but they find a better way of wording it.

I still get my share of negativity so here’s a personal example.

I was having a discussion with Sam Hutchings about Google and Privacy the other day (the specifics are unimportant). It was long, it was back and forth and we probably should have had it somewhere that wasn’t Twitter as that’s probably the worst possible place for it.

Then I receive these tweets:

Now I’m not calling James out because his overall point was valid but nobody forced him to read through it and the (passive?) aggressive response wasn’t welcome. Especially as the conversation ended 6 hours before he sent it.

It got me wondering though and I checked Sam’s mentions to see if he’d received anything else similar and seen this gem.

A pat on the back for arguing like petulant children. Obviously the argument became a spectator sport at some point and whilst James was against it, Dan was for it and actually appeared to enjoy it. Or at least one side of it.

I’m still confused by what he meant by this tweet. I’m embarrassed that I got into an argument with someone publicly but this person seems to think Sam achieved something here? That his side was a “takedown” and that should be congratulated. What have I missed? Am I now in a position so elevated that people feel I need to be "taken down"?

This is pretty indicative of the tech industry as a whole. That it’s some sort of war and everyone has to pick a side because eventually there will only be one company left standing and they will then be declared the victors by a higher power. We’ll talk about the halcyon days before the tech wars began and how we all lived in peace. It'll be like the time war in Doctor Who but Jeff Bezos will be the last of the Tech CEO's wistfully remembering the brutality that got him to where he is.

What I’m trying to say is every product, every interaction, every piece of news doesn’t have to be won and lost. Stop being so negative about everything and learn to enjoy it. I promise you the world is a much nicer place when people talk to each other amicably and work together without feeling the need to show off all the time.

I'm not saying you have to agree with everything, you just don't have to be a dick about it. That's the easy way, anyone can do that. It requires little effort and the only people who enjoy it are other dicks.

Look at the most successful people in this industry, they aren’t constantly getting into fights with people but they still find ways to share their opinions and have discussions with their peers.

The negativity some people are insisting on polluting our community with is now hindering intelligent discussions. Marco is the latest, let's please make sure he’s the last?

I pledge to be more positive and have less arguments if you promise to offer me the same in return. Deal?

Are ads bad?

Ad revenue is a very important part of the internet. A lot of services are reliant on it. This site is one of them. There’s many, many more as well. Off the top of my head here are a few services I use every single day that are offset at least in part by revenue from ads: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Google, TV Channels, Maps, Spotify, Podcasts to name just a small amount.

How many of these would you pay for? And how much? Stop and think about it for a moment. Take out your phone, look at your home screen, how much would you pay per month or per use for the free apps that currently occupy page 1 on your phone? £0.05 a tweet? £0.50 per podcast episode? I’d be paying about £10 a month in Podcast subscriptions alone. It would soon mount up.

I’m always being told that people are prepared to pay for good content but who pays for content that needs to get better? I’m not as good as say Shawn Blanc or Jason Kottke. If ads stopped being a thing then I wouldn’t just be competing with them for your time but I’d also be competing with them for you hard earned cash and I really can’t say with any sort of confidence that I’d come out on top. That’s why I’ve never bothered to set up a patreon account.

Eventually if you ended up paying directly, you’d start cutting services out to save money. You’d be more wary of posting that Instagram picture because you’re a student and it’s not worth going in to your overdraft for no matter how good the picture. That clever Vine video? Only an idiot would put the effort in and pay for the privilege.

Direct payment would lead to less tweets, less podcasts, less Youtube videos. I watch a lot of Youtube videos and I watch the ads before their videos because it’s a minor inconvenience to me compared to what they went through to create the content. Content that is informative, funny, entertaining. It’s not all cat videos. But knowing that they need to rely on a payment from each and every subscriber could start putting content creators off. They’d be less likely to make mistakes or take risks trying to find out what people like.

That’s part of what I’m learning about. The posts I expect to be read and shared a lot never are and the ones you least expect are the ones that do big numbers. It’s a constant adventure trying to figure out what it is people want. If I posted a bad article, instead of them thinking “I didn’t like that” and coming back in a week and giving me another try, they might cancel their subscription and never return.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t mind ads. I have one in the corner of this site. It only shows on desktops, where most people probably use an ad blocker. That’s fine. I don’t see that as theft, like some, but it’s not an annoying ad so it’d be good if you whitelisted me. You don’t have to. I won’t know.

Ads serve a purpose. I’m regularly buying things I’ve seen adverts for or watching a Movie or TV show I saw a trailer for. Not all of them are successful with me but if they aren’t successful with anyone they soon stop.

I see ads as an infinitesimal inconvenience in exchange for what I’m normally getting in return. At the moment, if used correctly, they can be a happy medium. The creator gets paid, the consumer doesn’t pay and the ads get seen.

My pal Sid O’Neill reckons we’re in a bubble. Maybe he’ll write about it? (Hint Hint) but I personally don’t see it. I’m worried about the alternatives.

I like what we have just now. I’m not scared of change, I embrace it but until someone comes up with a superior way of paying for content, I’m happy to be inconvenienced ever so slightly in return for even mediocre content. It’s a small price to (not) pay

The Amazon Fire Phone

The Product

Intriguing. That’s the word I’d use to describe the phone Amazon announced yesterday. It’s got the makings of a decent imaging system. And the “dynamic perspective” feature might be more than a “gimmick”.

The reason I’m intrigued is because it looks to me that Amazon has tried to push the market forward a little in a few key areas.

Amazon might be the first to alter the way we interact with our smartphones. It’s likely the touch screen is going to be replaced at some point and this is the first step along this road. You might chastise it just now, but hardcore gamers said the same thing about the Wii’s motion controllers and it wasn’t long before Sony and Microsoft were doing it too.

They didn’t just show off a fancy wallpaper (like Apple did with Parallax), they’ve got games that actually use the technology and so far they look great. I’m curious to see what developers can come up with beyond what’s already been shown. The phone essentially knows where you are looking, and that’s got bags of potential.

Speaking of potential, the camera has the potential to be really great as well. It’s 13 megapixel with an f2.0 aperture and OIS. This could be something good and I look forward to seeing sample shots from it. Apple has had the best camera phone on the market for a few years now, theres nothing to say Amazon won’t push this forward.

Alongside the camera is the ability to have unlimited photos stored and backed up. Amazon can do this because they are the kings of web storage but it’s undoubtedly something we’d all like to see come to whatever phone we use just now. The closest you can get is Google+. Photostream is fast becoming the poorest offering, I’m hopeful that this changes with iOS 8.

Amazon is a shop first and foremost. They exist to sell you things and the Fire phone is definitely set up to assist with that. You can scan things in the real world and buy them on Amazon (if they stock it). This, again, is another example of the way Amazon is trying to change the way we do things.

This is undoubtedly going to hurt brick and mortar stores because it will encourage people to go “showrooming” more often but that’s not Amazons problem. They shouldn’t slow their efforts to let the competition catch up.

This technology is also used to recognise video and audio content so that you can buy a movie straight from Amazon, who don’t just sell digital copies they sell physical copies as well, something Apple and Google do not. It’s essentially Shazam but it works for video as well. Again, I’m curious to see where they takes this as it could be something we see a lot more of in the future.

Overall though I’d like to get my hands on one and play around with it. As far as ecosystems go Amazon’s isn’t a bad one to be locked in to and the phone itself doesn’t seem like a huge dud.

The Reaction

That’s not to say it’s all gravy and this launch is akin to the original iPhone but there is a similarity. The negative reaction to the Fire Phone seems to be based around 3 key areas. It’s US only, it’s exclusive to AT&T and it costs a lot on and off contract. These 3 things were also true of the first iPhone and boy did that turn out to be a flop.

Negative reactions to these types of launch always appear to be based around “It’s not an iPhone”. People misremember the iPhone as some sort of hallelujah moment when it was announced in January 2007. It wasn’t. It was panned by a lot of people when it was first announced for various reasons. The 3 aforementioned ones plus it had a poor camera, no MMS, no video recording, no apps and the back looked ugly!

Everyones waiting for these giant leaps. These clear cut “whoa I just witnessed the unveiling of the Next Big Thing” don’t really happen all that often. Yet the industry still keeps moving forward, it evolves. I see each of these events as baby steps along the way. I can concentrate on the good points and take a ‘wait and see’ approach with the rest.

Investors often take this strategy and that’s another bone of contention. Why, when people on Twitter are sending so many tweets chastising a product, do the investors keep buying more stock in Amazon? Because Amazon keeps growing and Amazon looks very much like the future. Drones, digital content, ebooks, phones, tablets, subscriptions, fast shipping. These are all things that 20 years ago you would expect to see in 2014 but when we have them all we do is complain about them.

Investors aren’t trying to impress their Twitter followers with their witty dismissals of a product in 140 characters or less. They aren’t looking for retweets or faves and they usually don’t have blogs to drive traffic to. They just want to make money and in spite of what commenters like you or I might think, Amazon keeps making money.

I don’t need numbers to know Amazon is a success. Who am I going to compare them to? What other company is there that does even most of what Amazon does? Digital music and video stores, hard goods, streaming, ebooks, fast shipping? The numbers are of no use to me (or you) because we have no benchmark.

Let’s face it, we all know what’s going to happen. Thos numbers are going to be stacked up against Apple’s. Nobody is beating Apple on numbers. They’re a dynasty. They are the New York Yankees, Manchester United and Michael Schumacher. They don’t always win but over the piece they come out on top.

Unlike sport though, there is no definitive end point in this ‘competition’. There’s no score and there’s very little rules. Amazon is choosing to keep it’s numbers a secret and that means nobody knows how good or how poor they are so that judgement call is taken out of it.

If a company is doing poorly then people who are aware of it are less likely to buy from them. Success breeds success. It’s nice to know you’re part of a crowd. Safety in numbers. Amazon doesn’t play that game. They just make products and if you like them, buy them. It’s actually pretty simple and I applaud them for it. There’s no rule that says you must release numbers.

Amazon makes hardware whilst still selling other peoples too and that’s again unique. If you go to an Apple store you can only buy an iPad. If you go to Amazon you can buy an iPad, or a Fire, or a Galaxy Tab the list goes on and on. I don’t see Best Buy or PC World breaking out quarterly numbers for which Tablets they sold and how many? Why should Amazon? They are a retailer first and foremost and this is what retailers have done for years. They compete alongside the products they sell. Amazon is just doing it better than anyone else.

Thoughts on entry level Macs

Yesterday I bought a Mac Mini, thereby ending months of being iPad only.

I went for the base model because I think that’s specced high enough for my needs. I would have preferred to have had an SSD but the expense wasn’t worth it at this time. I might upgrade in the future.

It cost me £500 and I hooked it up to my existing 1920x1080 monitor and bought a cheap keyboard and mouse and I was off to the races.

In the build up to buying mine I saw a lot of discussion that Apple should kill it because it doesn’t sell very well (I've never seen sales figures for it). There was similar discussion last year about the Mac Pro and we know how that turned out.

The Apple store went down this morning and I waited with bated breath to discover whether I needed to find a reason to return this one and get a new one.

Alas, there was no update (there was a new iMac which I’ll get to in a minute). The last update was in 2012 in fact. This Mac is the oldest in the range by a large margin. But what could Apple do to update it?

Haswell processors? Maybe, but the main gains there are battery life and the Mac Mini doesn’t run on batteries.

Better Graphics? This is a possibility, the current model has Intel 4000 so that could do with a bump.

More Ram? Apple doesn’t give you any more RAM than you need. If you want more, then you’re paying for it.

SSD? Again, another expense Apple would rather pass on to the user.

I think Apple is waiting for something more substantial before releasing an update. Making it worth it for consumers across the board. A spec bump for a spec bumps sake isn’t Apple’s style. They need a marketable feature out of it.

So would they just kill it? No, in my opinion. Why keep it around?. It’s currently the cheapest way to buy an OS X machine by over £200 with the next cheapest being the 11 inch MacBook Air. The Mac Mini is a really great entry point. People will say the Air and the new iMac are ‘better’ options but they need a larger initial outlay.

The new iMac is a strange beast as well. 8GB of RAM is plentiful but the dual core 1.4ghz processor is getting a lot of stick. It's turbo boosted to 2.7ghz though so I'll wait and see what the benchmarks say before passing judgement.

The mini has other use cases as well. It can be used a server (Apple sells a server configuration) and many people use it as a media machine. A 21 inch iMac isn’t going to fit in a TV cabinet and a Macbook Air isn’t really fit for that purpose either.

It’s size is it’s main selling point but it’s “Bring your own peripherals” philosophy is probably second. My own plan is to upgrade each of the various parts of my setup individually when I have the time and the funds to do so. I now get to hand pick my Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers, Monitor(s) and Webcam. An iMac and an Air doesn’t offer that. Sure I can add all of these things in but I am ostensibly paying twice.

I for one am glad the Mac Mini is still around and I hope it gets that long awaited update and I hope it lives on for a while yet.

Long live the Mac Mini

Why is anger the default mood on the internet?

Often times when I'm perusing my twitter feed I see references to anger or rage. These are normally in the context of trivial matters, like technology. I think because of its character limit, Twitter is prone to hyperbole. It fosters it. You need to make your opinion known quickly and in a very succinct way.

I've been of the opinion recently that a lot of the problems in the technology arena are actually caused by the readers, not the writers. A few times I've written something or tweeted something and a reader has extrapolated a mood from the content. A mood that isn't there.

A pet hate of mine is that I can be discussing something and will be told to "calm down". I'm rarely anything but calm when discussing things on the internet. The reality is that I'm typically sat in my favourite chair with a cup of tea. I disagree with people, but I can't remember the last time someone made me angry. I've usually blocked someone or ended the conversation before it gets to that stage. Even when I swear I'm not angry. Perhaps my default mood can be best described as "Scottish".

Sometimes I'll see a lot of tweets about a subject. I read them all individually as if they came from each person. I try not to group them all together because these things aren't organised.

What will happen though, is that people will see 10 or even 100 tweets about a subject that is contentious. This will then be categorised as "outrage" or "anger". Is it though? Are these people actually angry? Disgruntled maybe, even befuddled but angry? Ask yourself how often you get truly angry about these things. I bet it's not very often and I bet the majority of people are the same.

This individuality gets lost a lot I think. Take the recent Beats acquisition; I saw a lot of pontificating about the volume of pieces that were written about this. The tech press isn't co-ordinated though. No segment of the press is. If something is news-worthy it is invariably reported by the majority of outlets. Newspapers, sports channels, gaming websites, political sites, they all exist individually. Just as you exist as an individual.

What happens when a negative story is published by multiple outlets or a subject is tweeted about is that this gets categorised as "anger or outrage". People then start dismissing its validity. There's a threshold between a news story breaking and people getting bored of hearing about it. Then once this threshold has been reached and surpassed people stop paying attention. Apathy sets in. We get bored.

We then start looking for the next big story. It breaks and we immediately pick a side. Because you have to. People will be talking about something else soon. I get the impression sometimes people don't even read the stories, they just form an opinion from tweets. People don't say "I don't understand" or "I have no opinion" any more.

Earlier this week several people tweeted the quote "Google can periodically turn on mic, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, & similar features on all your current & future devices". It's a scary quote. Creepy if you like. Until you read the article and find the sentence actually says

"When Nearby is turned on for your account, Google can periodically turn on mic, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, & similar features on all your current & future devices"

See? It relates to an as yet unreleased app that will be opt in. Not quite enough to give everyone piece of mind but not as bad as the original quote would have you believe.

Here's 2 personal examples: I tweeted last week asking why I should be scared of Google. I wanted to understand what it is that makes people so paranoid or defensive because I don't feel that way. I disagree with some of what Google does and I like other things. Nobody gave me a clear reason to be scared though. Usually I just see the word privacy thrown around. It's the new "terrorism" for me. It's a scary word people hide behind.

Secondly I'm currently wondering why it's a problem that Chrome and Safari are hiding the URL until it's clicked. So far the responses are generally categorised in the "because people are angry" camp.

I don't think they are angry but I do think they are negative for negativities sake because is the easiest opinion to have. It's much easier to be a bad person than a good person and it's much easier to be negative than it is to be positive. We all aspire to be better but we all take the easy way out.

You don't have to pick a side though. You can be ambivalent. You don't have to say "I don't care" or "I don't know" you can say "I don't have enough info to form an opinion".

People paint themselves into a corner all too often and get stuck with a label, some don't even realise it but we all know them. They don't want to look like flip-floppers or be perceived as weak minded.

You don't have to retweet every positive Apple story and hammer on about every negative Samsung story. You don't gain anything from it. You don't need to boil everything down to a pre-determined narrative. Samsung doesn't always copy Apple. Not everything Google does is creepy. Not everything Apple does is brilliant.

The internet is place of exaggeration. Always has been. But it doesn't always have to be. You can be better than that.

We all complain about a lack of nuance but we don't do anything about it. We all spread the hyperbole. I'm going to try and be better from now on. I'm going to take my time in forming opinions and then I'm going to write them here in long form. I'll still tweet of course but for complex issues longform still has a place.

Steve Jobs didn't want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers. I don't want to see us descend into a nation of tweeters.

Bully Bloggers

In the last few months I've noticed a worrying trend in the tech industry that isn't as prevalent in the other industry's I cover: Personalised attacks.

This involves not just dismantling or commenting on someone's work but going a step further to make it personal.

Typically it will conform to the following formula: Part 1 is either a legitimate issue with something the victim said. This is going to happen a lot. Nerds have always had a tendency to disagree.

Part 2 is invoked by a small subset of industry commenters and that involves tailoring their commentary to the person they disagree with and making it personal. This takes many forms.

It could be a comment about their age, whereby the inference is that because the victim hasn't been on the planet for an undefined number of years, their opinion or work is devalued somehow.

Another common form of attack is the persons location. This works best if they are not in the US because that's the perceived centre of the tech industry. If you're anywhere else your opinion is devalued somehow.

There's many different forms and I'm sure you'll have seen them all. It's bullying. These people pick fights and then get personal either directly or in a thinly veiled subtweet or in a public conversation with other people.

They actually go out of their way to pick these fights as well. They'll take disproportionate offence to a word used, or a source cited, then spend the rest of the conversation doing their utmost to make you feel bad. I don't want to have conversations where the person on the other end is made to feel bad. Do you?

Ultimately the person debating the issues are irrelevant. Their character doesn't need to be questioned. Name calling, ageist or borderline racist remarks aren't needed or wanted.

I'm not entirely innocent but the more I speak to many journalists and bloggers the more I realise how much comments like these hurt them.

I don't mean passing comments made by just any Tom, Dick or Harry but the same people over and over again. You start to recognise the same names time and time again and their comments leave unseen marks.

My advice is when you come across these people, unfollow and block. Arguing with them achieves nothing. They are motivated by their supporters and by following them and engaging you are inadvertently encouraging them. You can do better.

Why the best Twitter app for me is the official one.

For this weeks column I thought I'd write about something that sort of snuck up on me. A few weeks ago I went back to using the official Twitter apps on a whim and I realised I haven't stopped using them. I haven't wanted to. It turns out they are a hell of a lot better than they used to be and have added some pretty cool features.

The main reason I gave them a try was the notifications tab. The official apps (and the website) show not only who mentions me but also who favourites and retweets my tweets. It's not limited to just my tweets either but tweets I am mentioned in. I can also see if someone went on to retweet something I put in their timeline when I retweeted it. There's a wealth of information in here. Other apps try to emulate this feature in various guises but can only go so far. Mainly because they all use hacky ways of doing it as there is no official API yet.

I also found myself using the activity and discover tabs a lot as well. This is where I can see what other people in my timeline are upto. In the activity tab I can see who they followed, tweets they faved etc and in the discover tab I can get suggestions of new people to follow. Both are great when I've caught up on your timeline but I've still got time to kill.

This might be a bit controversial but one of my favourite Twitter features is the "blue lines". I wrote a while ago that I was modifying my timeline in Tweetbot to try and minimise the amount of discussions I was reading that didn't interest me. Little did I know the official apps were doing this all along!

When a conversation is happening on Twitter, the official app takes the tweets and bundles them all up into a nice little package, denoted by the blue lines. This means that even if a conversation is 100 tweets long then it's only taking up the space of 2-3 tweets in your timeline. If you want to read the conversation you can, just tap it and it will expand and show you the entire conversation in order.

Twitter might not have position sync (and to be honest the apps that do are always flaky in my usage) but they do have notifications sync, which to me is far more important. When someone mentions me I get a notification on my iPad and my iPhone. As soon as I read the tweet on one device, the notification disappears from the other, just like it does with iMessage. It's not just in the app, it disappears from the lock screen.

This has become one of those "I can't believe I ever lived without it" features for me now. In fact, it makes the situation with emails not being marked as read on multiple devices in Mail.app even more frustrating.

Search is another strong feature in the official app. When you perform a search you can funnel the results into "Top Tweets" or "All Tweets" so you can only see what's popular without being overwhelmed with spam and/or noise. You can also limit the search to tweets containing pictures, videos or search for people.

Speaking of pictures. Recent pictures uploaded to Twitter are easy to find on the profile screen for a user. This proved useful when I was looking for a screen shot someone sent me a few weeks ago. It took me about 30 seconds to find it in their gallery whereas it would have taken me much longer if I had to scroll through their entire timeline or my mentions feed.

Twitter cards are an often underrated feature as well. They show everything from picture previews to inline YouTube and Vine videos, as well as article snippets. A great example of a good Twitter card is the ability to set a recording on my Sky+ box right from my twitter timeline.

There are other little flourishes as well. Being able to mute someone is a welcome addition for those that don't have the balls to unfollow someone. There are cool animations when someone mentions you whilst you are in the app and the notifications are actionable.

I see the official apps getting a lot of stick. There are even people out there who abuse other users for using them. Questioning their credentials or their financial motivations. That of course is silly, people are free to use whatever app they wish. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's bad.

I'm going to be sticking with the official apps for a while I think. They offer features that 3rd party apps just can't. Sorry Tapbots but you just lost a formerly loyal customer.