Monday, July 16, 2018


The white Apple HomePod is a mainstay in our household.

No new Apple product has garnered as much conversation in my home as the HomePod. Whether this is due to its elegant, approachable design or its still-whimsical “Hey Siri” jump-off, HomePod has started more conversations and finished off with more “I want one of those!” than any Apple product I’ve previously purchased.

I imagine there’ll be a few “mehs” as this post rolls through RSS, for two reasons:

  1. I don’t have anything majorly new to say.
  2. The HomePod was launched in the United States back in 2017.

It’s the second point that is a particular sticking point; for every outspoken individual shouting for more government regulation is one soft-spoken individual who has to wait more than six months (or even years!) for the latest innovation to roll out in their home country. For whatever reason, HomePod only launched in Canada about a month ago.

That six months did more harm than good to the HomePod. Complaints roared about how poor Siri can’t keep up with relative conversations and how she can’t seem to keep two timers going at once. She also can’t distinguish two voices, thereby locking the HomePod into a single Apple ID from the start.

To an extent, these complaints are warranted.

But I’ll be darned if I didn’t think these folks were missing the point.

HomePod is a speaker. And a really, really good speaker at that. She plays music unlike any other device on Planet Earth, and her ground-breaking bass has ushered in new sounds to songs I’ve heard since I was five years old. I’ve listened to Streets probably three or four times a week for the last five straight years and there are certain parts of Adam Clayton’s bass guitar I didn’t know existed until about a month ago.

Another potentially unpopular stance: I’m not sure why anyone would bother with the space grey HomePod. The cocoon-shaped mesh exterior of the white HomePod fits into 99% of today’s modern interior decorating, ensuring your speaker design will blend into the background as easily as its interaction method. Plus, Siri’s rainbow-dancing figurine in the invisible up-top display comes to life in a more vibrant way on the white HomePod. “White” is undoubtedly superior in this Apple arena.

HomePod Siri

Firing up Siri’s rainbow personality is a joy that never gets old. Too bad it’s so difficult to photograph.

HomePod Touchscreen

It takes a little practice to understand what multiple taps can do on HomePod’s touchscreen, but learning all the maneuvers is quite the activity.

That onboard touchscreen is something to behold (and something very difficult to photograph). The way the rainbow lights up when you address Siri is quite the sight, and putting your finger to Siri’s bellybutton ushers in an aura of technological personality we’ve only dreamed of. I particularly love the way that rainbow dances as Siri sends out a comical quip before her “Dance Party” playlist fires up.

HomePod Cord

The HomePod’s power cord is a woven cord that is the most durable cord I’ve ever seen come out of Cupertino. Apparently it’s removable, but I’d never be brave enough to give it a shot.

HomePod Underside

HomePod’s underside also had a range of complaints in its early days, as it would leave a white ring of residue on furniture after playing music. I haven’t noticed the white ring of death on my furniture, so maybe Apple has fixed up this issue.

The “+” and “-“ buttons are a tad boring to be the only interactive buttons to press when the music is playing — a circular rainbow grooving to the beat could be far more entertaining. I think it’d be cool if there was a setting inside the Home app that allowed Siri to dance to the music like everyone else in the house.

This is what everyone has been doing in my house since HomePod debuted a month ago: dancing. The ultimate litmus test in our house is whether Jaclyn ultimately falls prey to the allure of the latest Apple product. I figured it would take but a week for her to give in to temptation and ask Siri to tell her the weather, play her a chill song, or set a timer as she baked cookies in the afternoon. Like most things, I was right.1 Jaclyn had HomePod fired up the very first day after it was setup in the living room, and it played music throughout that evening as we sat on the deck drinking wine.

As the majority of folks who read The Newsprint are situated within the United States, there’s very little new here.

  • HomePod isn’t the greatest smart assistant.
  • HomePod has unbeatable sound.
  • HomePod has a great design.

In my eyes, these pitfalls are what makes the HomePod one of my favourite Apple products in the last few years. I feel the majority of these complaints are myopic — Apple has always excelled in the music industry, and HomePod is first and foremost a testament to this dominance.

But it was also myopic on Apple’s part to make HomePod a competitor with other, tinny-sounding smart assistants.

If HomePod stuck to its guns and focused on what it does best, it’d be a must-have product in every Apple guru’s home.

As it stands, that unbearable expectation gap will leave many thinking the HomePod is a jack of all trades and master of none.

HomePod Finale

Apple’s HomePod has generated the most amount of interest of any prior Apple product in my home, and my wife uses it more than any other Apple product aside from her iPhone. The complaints are warranted, but I’m happy with HomePod being a simple speaker capable of knocking my socks off when the next wannabe U2 album debuts.

Fortunately, the Jac in my house had very little in the way of expectations. Which means the HomePod has mastered music and found a permanent spot in our home.

  1. Please, please, please sense the sarcasm in my prose! 

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How I use Day One — and an aside about the differences between Bear and Day One

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I was tasked with writing an article on how I use Day One to journal. As I brainstormed for a unique angle, I realized I use Day One in about as generic a way as possible: journal entries with attached photos of my six-month-old daughter, quick journal entries to capture my travels, or lengthier journal entries when inspiration really hits.

There’s nothing too exciting about my Day One usage.

So I figured it’d be more interesting to delve further into how Day One fits into my little “information workflow” instead. By and large, that workflow revolves around and within Bear. Day One is an end game for bits and pieces of the information I consume on a daily basis, but tons and tons of other stuff flows throw Bear to get to Day One.

Here’s the workflow:

Thanks to the wonderful implementation of URL schemes across the board for the most powerful apps on macOS and iOS, this entire workflow can be connected and quickly referenced, no matter the topic.

For a deeper understanding, head over to The Sweet Setup.

While you’re there, be sure to check out our revamped Day One in Depth course. Day One in Depth was originally an eBook, but Shawn and the rest of the team have rebuilt the eBook from the ground up as a course. The value in these courses — especially if you’re new to the app — is invaluable. Give it a quick peek if you’re looking to improve your journaling habit, looking for inspiration, or looking to get more out of one of the best apps in App Store history.

Little Venice and a Cruise Ship

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Here’s another recent Instagram post. I shared a photo or two of Little Venice in the past (like this one and this one), but I feel the latest edit is this landscape at its best. Little Venice was extremely windy when we visited, so the waves crashed up against these buildings pretty frequently throughout the evening. In many ways, I think Little Venice is more beautiful than the actual Venice.

Little Venice, Mykonos

Pro Set V - Pastel - Key West IV + Flare. Sony a7II + Sony 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar. Click here for high res.

If you’re lucky enough to have Mykonos as a pit stop on your itinerary this summer, be sure to check out the Petasos Beach Resort & Spa. It’s a lot more expensive today to stay at the resort than when we stayed, but it’s such a wonderful resort. Worth every penny.

Notting Hill's Rainbow

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rebecca Lily launched her fifth Pro Set a few weeks ago, kicking me off on a tear of re-editing old photos. I’ve applauded Rebecca Lily’s work quite often in the past — both on here and on Instagram — and Pro Set V is no different.

The jumpstart of inspiration has mostly been manifested on my Instagram feed, however. Instagram has evolved over the years, largely becoming a stage for advertising, sponsorship, and other blights, but there’s still quite a large contingent of genuinely great photography. The creativity on display is nothing short of extraordinary. As a result, I still enjoy dipping my toe in from time to time.

Instagram can’t have all the love though. Here’s one of my favourite re-edits using Rebecca Lily’s Pro Set V.

Notting Hill Rainbow

Pro Set V - Color - 88. Sony a7II + Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8. Click here for high res.

Notting Hill is known across the world for its remarkable gallery of colour and vibrancy. I’d never have the guts to paint my home these colours, but these homes sure have a way of catching your attention.

National Geographic's May 2018 Cover: Planet or Plastic?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I'm Going Back to the Good Ol’ Fashioned Wired Apple Keyboard

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

I heaped all sorts of praise on Apple’s Magic Keyboard and Trackpad 2 when they launched at the end of 2015. Everyone adored the prior Apple Wireless Keyboard (for the most part, me too), but the Magic Keyboard seemed to surpass all expectations. Apparently I went this far in my praise:

Don’t need a keypad? The Magic Keyboard is getting close to being the perfect keyboard for everything else.

That’s about as definitive as I could have been.

Of course, Apple listened to me and launched a Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad about a year and a bit later, ensuring I had to stand by my definitive words and purchase yet another keyboard.1

Since then, I’ve been using the Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad as much as humanly possible, both because it largely inhabits everything I thought I wanted in a keyboard, and because I want to use my MacBook Pro’s keyboard sparingly to ensure it still has resale value in a few years.2

My peak experience with the Magic Keyboard was on day one. Ever since, day by day, that experience has diminished. Slowly. But surely.

Apple Magic Keyboard - Warping

I know I heaped my share of praise on the Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, but this warping is simply inexcusable. Plus, the four padded feet on the bottom — despite being newer and, theoretically, “better designed” — don’t adhere to my desk to prevent the keyboard from slipping around when typing.

Apple Wired Keyboard - No Warping

Despite being older than any other item on my desk, the Apple Wired Keyboard with Numeric Keyboard continues to putter along and is completely warp-free.

For one, my Magic Keyboard has suffered from that warping everyone talked about a few months ago. Does it inhibit the ability to type? No, not directly. But it drives me nuts every time I look at it.

Second, the Magic Keyboard has four feet on the bottom to give it some sort of friction with the desk. My current desk is on the shinier, more slippery side, so this is working against the Magic Keyboard from the start. However, those feet have tended to collect dust — dust which needs to be rubbed off, otherwise the Magic Keyboard slides all over the desk when typing. I suppose I could purchase a leather desk mat to keep the keyboard from sliding around. But I shouldn’t have to.

Third, I’ve begun to notice the impact Apple’s butterfly mechanism keys are having on my fingers and wrists. Like everyone else, when I get on a roll, it becomes easy to hammer down on a key just a little too hard. Do that hundreds and thousands of times and you’re left with sore fingers and wrists. In my cold basement, I feel like that impact is only exacerbated.

Add up one, two, and three, and you have a bent keyboard that slides around and causes typing fatigue after an hour or so. I don’t have to stand for that.

Jaclyn and I began our spring cleaning this past weekend. As we went through one of the rooms, I found my old trusty Wired Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad. It still has the old font Apple had on its previous generation keyboards. The function key row is a half-key size. There’s still that little “Dashboard” icon on the F4 key. I had to grab a small flathead screwdriver to lift the period/full stop key and I blew a crumb out from underneath to get the key working again. And, almost unbearably, I had to plug it in via a USB-C to USB-A adapter to the back of the LG UltraFine Display.

But with every keystroke, I feel like I’m strumming an old guitar. My fingers don’t hurt. The keyboard isn’t sliding everywhere. The keyboard isn’t bent.

And much to Apple’s chagrin, I haven’t randomly made incorrect keystrokes because of “less accurate, old-generation key mechanisms.” It’s all marketing hullabaloo.

If there is one product category Apple continues to dish out flop after flop, it’s keyboards. Butterfly Keyboard Numero Uno on the original 12-inch MacBook was horrible — I jammed up that keyboard in just one week of testing. Butterfly Keyboard Number Two (in the current MacBook Pros) doesn’t jam as quickly, but it’s pretty terrible — I know at least a few people who have had their entire keyboard replaced. And while the smaller Magic Keyboard is mostly praised, I know I’m not the only person to complain about warping on the larger Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad.

Also, what’s with Apple charging extra money for the space grey Magic Keyboard? Slow golf clap Apple — I hope that extra $10 flows right to your bottom line.

Go to eBay, search for an old Wired Apple Keyboard, and strum away to your heart’s content. Or, as I’m thinking about doing this weekend, take a long hard look at the Microsoft Surface Ergonomic Keyboard — it may not work 100% perfectly with macOS, but with an app like Karabiner, this ergo keyboard may be a top choice.

  1. Just last week, I was tempted to pick up the Space Grey model (because wow!). But then I remembered… no. Just. No. 

  2. Can I get an eye roll? Because my eyes nearly rolled to the back of my sockets. I can’t believe my MacBook Pro is going to be considered a lemon because of a crummy keyboard.