The Magic of Sign in With Apple, Apple Pay, and 5G Connectivity

Monday, February 22, 2021

Quick anecdote from a fun weekend: My wife and I dropped off our little ones on Saturday and drove into Winnipeg for a belated Valentine’s Day. We drove down to The Forks with the hopes of skating on the river on the most beautiful day we’ve seen all winter. Naturally though, everyone else in Winnipeg was thinking the same as us.

We drove up, found a parking spot, and I hopped in line to pay for parking. The lineup was 10 families long and each family was taking between 3 and 4 minutes to authorize their credit card for payment.

It was 2:00PM and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

I could feel some deep frustrations setting in.

One (older) couple lines up behind me and I overhear them talking about “Pay By Phone”. The gentlemen steps outside the line, looks at his phone, taps a few buttons, looks at his wife, nods, and they walk down to The Forks together.

So, I quickly googled “Pay By Phone” and “The Forks” and “Parking”. The search result was lightning quick thanks to Winnipeg’s “5G” network.

I downloaded the PayByPhone app in under 10 seconds.

I was met with a “Sign in with Apple” badge, which allowed me to create a new PayByPhone account without sharing my Apple ID or email address and with the security of Face ID.

I added my vehicle into the profile — a 15 second process.

I noted the number on the PayByPhone kiosk, added it into the app, and subsequently paid with Apple Pay.

I walked back to the vehicle in under 5 minutes, grabbed my skates and winter gear, and headed down for an hour of blissful skating on the river with my lovely wife.

You can laugh at the fact I didn’t know PayByPhone existed. Or you can see the brilliance of the transaction:

  • I downloaded the app in under 10 seconds.
  • I created an account without sharing my email address and with the security of Face ID.
  • I paid for parking with the security of Apple Pay and Face ID.
  • I skipped the 45 minute wait.

This was a moment of pure and utter technological convenience — one that feels increasingly difficult to experience as technology and expectations rise each day.

Forevermore, I’m sure I’ll be disappointed when I pull into a parking lot only to find I have to wait in line to pay for parking.

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My iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air Home Screens for 2021

Monday, February 15, 2021

Despite my needs never really changing, you can always bank on me flipping, upgrading, and changing my computer devices. One year, I’ll be convinced I no longer need a laptop and I’ll burn everything for an iMac. The next, I’ll be convinced the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the optimum size, or I’ll be willing to put up with the largest iPhone Pro Max because “science”.

It’d be embarrassing if I was embarrassed about it.

And despite the changes, I do think I’ve found the best devices, sizes, and workflows for me.

They’ll likely change again in the summer.

Here’s where we’re at in the middle of February 2021 — sure to change by the end of March and likely to be completely revamped by the end of the year.

MacBook Air M1 — Silver, 8-Core CPU/7-Core GPU, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD

This MacBook Air is probably my favourite Mac of all-time. It’s light, nimble, wonderfully powerful, and has the best keyboard of any Mac ever. Battery life is, of course, insane. And I simply can’t tell when an app is running via emulation or running natively on the M1 chip.

The screen could get brighter, the ports could be spread apart on both sides of the chassis, and despite everyone’s claims, it does run into RAM limitations when you really get going.

But for my household’s current needs, this computer is absolutely slick.

Especially considering it was $1,100 CAD.

Here’s my current home screen:

MacBook Air M1 2021

The wallpaper is from the Aqueux package everyone was talking about a few weeks ago — I’m absolutely in love with these wallpapers.

Apps I’m using pretty regularly include:

  • Finder
  • iStatistica Pro — Thanks to some recommendations inside a Slack I’m part of, iStatistica is essentially a prettier version of Activity Monitor.
  • Safari
  • Messages
  • Mail — I use Microsoft Outlook at the office, but I don’t really want a multi-gigabyte email client hogging lots of extra space on this smaller Mac.
  • HEY — My appreciation for HEY was at a peak a few weeks after signing up, but my appreciation hasn’t waned too much since then. I’m finding some hiccups here and there, but I’m willing to put up with them considering the opinionated design.
  • Microsoft Excel — I’ve been working more in Google Sheets recently…why do people put up with Sheets’ horrid spreadsheet environment?
  • Microsoft Word — I’ve been working more in Google Docs recently…why do people put with Docs’ horrid word processor environment?
  • Craft — Normally, I download the latest and prettiest writing app, use it for a few weeks, and then set it aside. Craft has been the exact opposite — I downloaded it, hardly used it, and find myself using the app for more and more as time goes on.
  • Keep It — I keep lots of stuff in Keep It. Guess it makes sense. It’s a bit buggy on iOS devices, but runs nice and smooth on the Mac.
  • Things 3 — This app is now a classic on my Macs — the only way this app comes off my Mac is if it stagnates and Cultured Code no longer develops it.
  • Adobe Lightroom — Lightroom was updated for the M1 Mac faster than any other photo editing app out there, and I couldn’t be happier. This app runs smoother on the M1 MacBook Air than on my 2019 iMac with 24GB RAM.
  • Tweetbot — Since forever, though I’m hoping the subscription fee on iOS can spill over to the Mac version of this app in the near future.

Special Mention: NotePlan 3 — I purchased this M1 MacBook Air to move my 2019 iMac to the accounting office and I’ve been using NotePlan 3 on the iMac more than any other app (other than Excel, of course). NotePlan 3 is basically a perfect bullet journaling app, especially now that it has back-linking capabilities. I’m super impressed with this app.

iPad Pro 11-inch 2020 — Silver, 256GB

I’ve used every iPad size since they debuted in 2010. More than once, if I may. I’ve settled on the 11-inch size and I don’t think I’ll ever change.

I was always afraid of the size of a physical keyboard for the 11-inch iPad Pro, but the 11-inch iPad Magic Keyboard feels fantastic. I noted earlier that the keyboard in the M1 MacBook Air is the best Mac keyboard ever made — the iPad Magic Keyboard is the best keyboard ever made, period.

It’ll be interesting to see what Apple debuts at the end of March — perhaps I’ll be upgrading again.

Here’s my current home screen:

iPad Pro

The wallpaper is also Aqueux — “Aqua”, to be precise. I wish custom wallpapers could be auto-switched for Night Mode like on the Mac.

I use some of these apps a lot more than others, but I like having a full home screen:

  • Moolah — This is a special launcher shortcut I’ve created that provides the option to choose one of five different financial apps. Quick, easy, and saves lots of home screen space.
  • App Store
  • Testflight
  • Calcbot — There are loads of great calculator apps out there, but I like the simplicity and speed of Calcbot on the iPad. Split Screen and Slide Over support are killer for a calculator app.
  • Music — I don’t listen to much music, but I’ve picked up the habit a bit more now that I have a set of AirPods Pro.
  • CARROT Weather — The latest update to CARROT is fantastic. However, I prefer this app on the iPhone to the iPad.
  • News
  • Stocks — There really aren’t too many good stock-tracking apps for iOS devices. (This app should be called “Shares”, not “Stocks”).
  • Unread 2 — The latest Reeder update is really, really nice, but there’s something about Unread on the iPad. I converted to this RSS app a year ago and I am more in love with it today than I was back then.
  • Goodlinks — My read-it-later, save-it-for-later app. It’s super simple. Not perfect, but it works.
  • Disney+ — I’m not sure who uses Disney+ more — my 3-year-old daughter or myself.
  • Edit — Kyle Dreger’s app is still my go-to choice for ultra-simple, ultra-utilitarian text input. If I need to draft an email, I’ll likely do it in Edit.
  • PDF Expert — I’m living inside PDF Expert for my studies right now. This is the best PDF app on the iPad, for sure.
  • Day One — As always. I find myself typing less and adding media more into my Day One these days. It’s especially perfect for capturing first steps and first quotes of our little ones.
  • Photos
  • Adobe Lightroom — I use Lightroom on the iPad more than on the Mac. It’s faster on iPad, it’s easier to use on iPad, and has Apple Pencil support on iPad.
  • iA Writer — Though I’ve been doing more writing in Craft these days, I use iA Writer to edit and work on Markdown files shared in Github with our editor at The Sweet Setup.
  • Working Copy — For sharing and syncing Markdown files with our editor at The Sweet Setup. Working Copy is a phenomenal app — one of the most unheralded power-user apps on the iPad.
  • Keep It — A bit buggy, but good for saving webpages as PDFs if I come across something I want to save forever.
  • Craft — My favourite part about Craft on the iPad: The ability to insert a drawing with the Apple Pencil inline, as its own block, in the blink of an eye.
  • Microsoft Word — Mostly for previewing school documents at this point. I’m not as fond about writing inside Word on the iPad as I probably should be.
  • Microsoft Excel — Mostly for previewing school spreadsheets at this point. The lack of keyboard shortcuts is a bit of a dealbreaker.
  • Slack — For communicating with friends and colleagues.
  • NotionThe Sweet Setup has moved to Notion. I think I’m only starting to get a glimpse of the power of this app.
  • Mail — For work email.
  • 1Password — Our office moved to 1Password (finally!) and now every single password is saved, unguessable, and hidden behind the best password manager out there.
  • Tweetbot — I subscribed for a year of the latest Tweetbot service. Let’s see where it goes.
  • Shortcuts — I should go through and cull a bunch of my now-unused shortcuts. This app can store cruft if you don’t keep track of it.
  • Messages — I prefer Signal these days.
  • Safari
  • Things 3 — As above. But I also find myself often grabbing the Apple Pencil and just Scribbling in my to-do list. It’s kind of fun.
  • HEY — The HEY iPad email app has come further than any other email app on iPad in the last year. The rate of development has been great and I can’t wait to see what the team brings next.
  • Files — Finder on the iPad is the best.

iPhone 12 mini - Blue, 128GB

Straight up, I have a love/hate relationship with small iPhones at this point. This iPhone 12 mini is a dream come true in so many ways.

The mini is easily pocketable in any pocket, including any front jeans pocket (which is increasingly difficult as I upgrade my wardrobe). I love being able to use the iPhone with one hand again. And the biggest feature in my mind: It’s easier to shoot photos, be they selfies or photos with big winter mitts on your hands, with a small iPhone.

But then, when it comes time to actually use apps on the iPhone 12 mini, I quickly become frustrated. I hate typing on this iPhone — I hate typing on this iPhone more than any other iPhone I’ve ever had. I have completely stopped editing photos on this iPhone. And yes, the battery life is poor.

I’m likely to get a bigger iPhone next time around. Shucks.

Here’s my iPhone 12 mini home screen(s):

iPhone 12 mini

The wallpaper is — you guessed it — Aqueux.

Nearly all these apps are the same as on the iPad, but I use some in different ways.

  • Calcbot — This may rank in my top 5 most-used apps list.
  • Moolah — Exactly the same as my iPad — for launching financial and banking apps.
  • Music
  • CARROT Weather — This has instantly become one of my favourite iPhone apps period. I really, really want to subscribe just for that radar widget.
  • 1Password — I find I save more new logins in 1Password on iPhone than any other device. Interesting behaviour.
  • News
  • Unread 2 — This app is better on the iPad, but the one-handed sloppy swiping is alive and well, especially on this smaller iPhone.
  • Things 3
  • Day One — I probably create more audio posts these days than actual text posts. It’s so easy to whip out this small iPhone and capture our little ones saying silly things.
  • Adobe Lightroom CC — At this point, I simply will not edit any photos on the iPhone. This app is here simply for exporting photos from my Lightroom library.
  • Photos — I really, really like the Photos widget in the Stack at the top of my home screen.
  • Instagram — Why did Facebook get rid of that awesome classic Instagram icon?
  • Tweetbot
  • Microsoft Outlook — I quite prefer the swiping features of Outlook on the iPhone. I should probably download it for the iPad.
  • Slack
  • WhatsApp — The major group module I’m working in for school right now is corresponded through WhatsApp. I cringe at the privacy issues, but I am happily surprised with how easy it is to video conference with a group.
  • Messages
  • Safari
  • Signal — If I could move all my messaging to Signal, I would. It’s simple, utilitarian, and awesomely privacy-focused. One of my favourite apps of 2021 so far.
  • Phone

And on the second home screen:

  • HEY Widget — My personal email doesn’t live on my first home screen on the iPhone because I love this huge HEY Widget Stack I’ve created. I ripped this directly off Matt Birchler.
  • Deliveries — In the age of COVID, this app has been invaluable.
  • Keep It — I save iPhone screenshots inside Keep It more than any other kind of media.
  • Goodlinks
  • Unfold — When it’s not -40C outside (which has been more than 3 weeks at this point), it’s fun to create Instagram Stories after running around in the outdoors.
  • Squaready Pro — For putting nice white borders around Instagram photos.
  • Craft
  • Cardhop — This is the best contacts management app for iPhone, iPad, and the Mac, in my opinion. I add more contacts on the iPhone than any other device, so it’s actually visible here.
  • Shortcuts

And that’s that — all my current apps and home screens for the February month of 2021. Every now and then, these change. But as a whole, I change these home screens less and less all the time. This is likely because I have other things to put my head into than the latest and greatest app, but also because there are less groundbreaking apps hitting the App Store.

I’m excited for March — I’m sure Apple will have me upgrading more than one device in a few weeks.

My First Impressions of the Keychron K3 Keyboard with Orange Optical Switches

Monday, January 25, 2021

Keychron K3

I’ve had a few bad experiences with Keychron keyboards in recent memory, but the K3 has completely redeemed the rest of the company.

Back in early-and-mid 2020, I went on a bit of a mechanical keyboard buying splurge. There’s quite a lot of talk about the depth of the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole in my parts, so I had to have some background knowledge to join in the conversation.

I started with the Vortex ViBE — an odd-layout keyboard with a full numeric keypad, but no actual arrow keys. The hybrid layout (keypad, but no arrow keys or function row) was quite a neat experience — the ViBE had a smaller footprint than most other mechanical keyboards with a numerical keypad. I also quite like the ViBE’s Cherry MX Brown switches, though I do find their actuation force to be a bit on the light side.

Over time though, the odd hybrid layout got to me. I particularly dislike the need to change layers to switch between arrow keys and the keypad. Inside an app like Microsoft Excel, this is treacherous.

My discontent led to another mechanical keyboard purchase: the Keychron K1 V4. The K1 promises a full keyboard layout with arrow keys and a number pad and a thin, low-profile build that is far less hard on your wrists. I ordered one of these with the Gateron Brown switches, which were significantly mushier than the Cherry MX Browns on the ViBE, but usable for my everyday work.

The kicker though: the K1 was faulty. It did this weird thing when I hit the “+” button on the keypad. Keychron ended up sending me a replacement — a K1 V4 with Gateron Red Switches (by my request).

I hate Gateron Red low-profile switches. Not for me. End of story.

Naturally then, I was on the hunt for yet another mechanical keyboard. I had tried tactile Brown switches, linear Red switches (though apparently the low-profile Reds are significantly different than full-sized Red switches), and it was time to try something new.

So I took a gamble and ordered the 75% Keychron K3, the world’s first hot-swappable, low-profile optical switches ever in a wireless keyboard. This time around, I opted for the Orange optical switches — the loudest, highest-force switch Keychron offers in any of its low-profile keyboards.

Thus far, I’m impressed — this is my favourite mechanical keyboard in my arsenal.

The keyboard is thin and light — small enough to warrant Keychron offering a travel pouch for the keyboard. Though I don’t see myself opting to carry this thing with me everywhere I go, I could see the consideration.

I personally find the lightness to tend on the “cheap feeling” side. It’s not a big deal — the keyboard simply sits on the desk and the feet keep it pretty stationary — but I think this thing would break over my knee if I, you know, got really mad at a video game or something.

The Orange optical switches are the best — they are loud, ultra-clicky, and nice and hard to press. When I get going on a roll, I can’t feel my fingers bottoming out at the base of the keyboard. This is a far cry improvement over the Brown and Red low-profile Gateron switches I tried earlier in the K1. No keyboard I’ve tried matches this “It-just-doesn’t-bottom-out” effect.

The switches aren’t too loud, but they are loud. I find the sound to be a bit higher-pitched than I anticipated, replicating long fingernails tapping on a metal surface rather than that Tommy Gun sound of old. I don’t think I’d get in trouble if I used this in the office all day.

I’m not a very big fan of the 75% layout, mind you. I like having the function row on a mechanical keyboard, as I use the F-keys quite often for various tasks. But I have to become accustomed to having the right shift key inset from the edge of the keyboard and having the backspace/delete key inset from the top right corner.

That said, every single keyboard on Planet Earth should have a built-in dedicated screenshot key. Keychron has absolutely nailed the secondary functions of its F-key row.

I opted for the simpler white-backlit K3 option. It’s cheaper and I find RGB-backlighting to be gaudy. It’s great to have a backlit external keyboard.

I haven’t had a chance to put the K3’s entire battery life to the test. It does, however, charge via USB-C — a seeming match-made-in-heaven with the M1 MacBook Air.

I find my wrists to tend on the tired side after a strong 5-minutes of solid typing. After 5 straight minutes, I find myself needing a slight 10-second break to recoup before restarting. I really wish the custom K3 wooden wrist rest shipped to Canada. If anyone has one, wants to get rid of it, and is willing to ship it to me, get in touch.

At this point, I haven’t attempted to remove any of the hot swappable optical switches. Knowing I can remove and replace them with a different optical switch set is a total selling feature in my mind — I’m much more likely to purchase a set of Blue clicky switches to compare to the Orange switches than I am to buy an entirely new keyboard just to compare.

And of course, I really miss the numeric keypad.

This isn’t meant to be a full-fledged review, by any means. I’ve had the keyboard for four days and spent a lot of time writing this weekend, so I figured I’d share some thoughts. The Keychron K3 has been quite the hot commodity during its Kickstarter campaign and initial launch, so the more information circulating the web, the better.

Plus, I haven’t found too much information about the Orange optical switches thus far. I wonder if it was shipped slightly later than the other options.

Long story short, I have a new favourite mechanical keyboard in the house. It’s louder than I care to admit, but I am to the point of no longer caring — I can type faster, with more accuracy, and significantly more joy than ever before.

So far, I highly recommend the Keychron K3.

This is a referral code to get 10% off the Keychron K3, if you feel like being awesome.

The iPad Magic Keyboard and M1 MacBook Air Keyboard Feel Different

Sunday, January 17, 2021

M1 MacBook Air Keyboard

Though I’m normally good at buying and returning devices I don’t need, the M1 MacBook Air had me smitten from the start. It’s not a perfect experience, but I’m very impressed nonetheless.

There’s no new revelation, or scandal, or noteworthy story to be told today — do not take my point as a source of complaint or controversy. I’m merely surprised by how different the new scissor-mechanism keyboard on the M1 MacBook Air feels in relation to the scissor-mechanism keys on the iPad Magic Keyboard.

Now, my sources are hardly apples to apples — I have an 11-inch iPad Magic Keyboard to compare to the M1 MacBook Air. The iPad Magic Keyboard is smaller and more compact, but not to the point of causing accuracy issues when typing. If my eye is correct, the majority of the layout differences between the smaller iPad Magic Keyboard and the full-size M1 MacBook Air keyboard are in the smaller function and control buttons situated around the main QWERTY keys.

The M1 scissor keyboard feels, to my fingertips, spongier. I feel like there’s more travel with the M1 keyboard, more overall tolerance in the keys (they seem to wobble more, especially the space bar), and they return slower and with a lower thud.

The iPad Magic Keyboard, in comparison, feels bouncier. The key doesn’t feel like it’s traveling as far, and it certainly does so with less key wobble. I’m also surprised by how different they sound — where the M1 has that deep, thud-thud-thud sound, the iPad Magic Keyboard has a higher pitched key sound and is noticeably louder.

Again, no controversy to report today other than a simple observation. I’m finding I have to slightly relearn how to type on this M1 MacBook Air and I’m certainly noticing more errors when typing on the Air.

Backed into a corner, if you made me choose one over the other, I’d choose the iPad Magic Keyboard.

On Having Great Neighbours

Thursday, November 12, 2020

We are lucky enough to have amazing neighbours in every direction surrounding our home. There are neighbours who are older and who act as a second set of grandparents. There are neighbours who have kids the same age as our own. And there are neighbours who have older kids who are willing to put up with our little ones’ shenanigans for a fun evening on the driveway.

The little girl here is the same age as our oldest, and this has to be one of the greatest blessings in disguise. These two girls are going to grow up not knowing any other life than having a next door neighbour as a best friend.1

Having the neighbourhood watch-dog also happens to be a blessing in disguise.

For the full photoset of this beautiful family, check out my portfolio page right here.

  1. Assuming nobody moves away. I moved enough friends and family over the summer to know it won’t be us moving away anytime soon. 

"Go after a market with strong demand."

Sunday, October 11, 2020

I’m quickly growing fond of Justin Jackson’s business writing. This latest piece has a few nice tips and learning points for those looking for clarity. I thought the breakdown of this list was great:

When I talk about a “market” I’m describing the sum of demand for a particular thing:

  1. Number of potential customers
  2. How much they spend
  3. The frequency at which they buy
  4. Their willingness to pay

Seems obvious, but if it were obvious, we’d all be millionaires.