iOS 11 Beta 1 and the iPad Pro

I took the unrecommended step of installing the iOS 11 beta on my iPad Pro last night.  I normally wait till the 3rd or 4th beta before taking a look at whats new. This time things are different.  I could not wait to give the dramatic changes to the OS a try.

A small disclaimer first, do not try this at home, i'm what you call a professional. This is an early beta and I have already experienced a few unexplainable crashes. It was entirely likely that my iPad could have turned into an unresponsive block of aluminum. There were multiple reports of developers being unable to use their devices after the install.


Here are some of my initial impressions.


The iCloud Drive app is now a part of a new application called Files. This is a major change by Apple that will vastly improve productivity on iOS.  It's still an early beta though and there are some issues with knowing where a file you save is going.  I did not see a way to control where saved files go first? I also do not understand how the new "On my iPad" section works. Hopefully this will become clear as new functionality is completed and bugs are fixed.

The Dock

Big changes to the dock, functionality was intuitive. Seems to work very well without any apparent bugs.  One of those changes that seems obvious after you see it.  I could see some variation of this coming to the iPhone in the future.

Multitasking Improvements

This works in conjunction with the new Dock, but it took me a bit to figure out how to use the new multitasking gestures. I ended up having to Google it. Overall I think these changes make it easier to use multitasking on the iPad. However, I think there may be some ways to make things easier to discover, maybe a tutorial video that you can watch when you first update?

Drag and Drop

This is another tent-pole feature that should have been here from day one. This will help to increase the number of people who are able to use an iPad as their primary computing device. Works like you would expect, drag selected text, images, etc... The applications have to support it, but I'm sure every app will as soon as possible.

Apple Pencil

I don't have the new iPad Pro yet, so I can't see how the new refresh rates impact drawing and writing responsiveness yet.  The new markup features in the Notes app and in multiple other locations are big improvement. I'm sure these changes will make the Apple Pencil a required accessory for anyone trying get work done on the iPad. It's not just for people that want to draw or take a few hand written notes.   

Being able to search for hand written notes is a game changer for me, and may drive me back to the notes app from Notability.  I hope they are able to take advantage of some of these features.

I can't wait to explore the other changes in iOS 11. I was already using my iPad daily. These changes make it an even more important tool for me.  Now, if they can figure out how I can to desktop style development tasks on an iPad without feeling like I have one hand tied behind my back...

The Element

Since I switched to the Fostex T50RP headphones, I have been having an issue with my "at work" DAC / AMP the Aune X1S. The Aune is just not powerful enough for the T50s.  These are seriously power hungry headphones and maxing an AMP out is never a good idea.  The Aune is great amp/DAC combo, but not for this usage.

So, I switched to JDS Labs The Element. More than capable of powering any pair of headphones you throw at it. There is something addicting about the large volume knob on top of The Element.  It's a good feel interface that is superbly made.  I also love that the DAC remains active with the power switch off.  So my externally powered speakers can make use of it when I'm not using the headphones, and I do not have to unplug them.

Here is a review of The Element by user ZeosPantera. This should cover what I have not.

I'm starting to agree

I have been doing more JavaScript programming over the last few years that I would ever have imagined.  Node JS and React have really changed the way I think about programming.  I can honestly say I would prefer to create a web application with NodeJS, SailsJS, EJS, and React over Java, Spring, and JSP.   Know there are other options and variations on these. But, the JavaScript based stacks is just more enjoyable, and more importantly quicker for me.   Realizing and acclimating to this new reality is an on going process.

I was just sent these two articles today. I should have already been aware of.  If you haven't read them yet, give them some attention, there are some interesting ideas to mull over.

The Two Pillars of JavaScript - PT 1,  and PT2.

Chromebook Solution

I decided to get another Chromebook to "play" with.  The first one I had was impressive, but I gave that one away.  When I heard that google was bringing Android apps to the Chromebook platform I decided to give it another go.

I got the Acer Convertible Chromebook R11. It's plastic, small, cheap, and more importantly it feels fast and responsive.  I'm not sure I'll use it in tablet mode much, but having the touch screen will be nice when the Google Play Store is added.

For many people a Chromebook would be all the computer they need.  Email, browsing, social apps, messaging, and basic productivity tools are all available. With increased security and the ability to reset the device at anytime and you have a nearly perfect machine for most normal computer users.

If you are a developer who needs more out of a machine then you still have options on the Chromebook.  You can put it in "Developer mode" get to a shell and install linux via crouton.  It can really be fun to embrace the limitations of this platform and try to get work done with different tools and in different ways.  Limited memory and storage are probably the biggest problems you will have to deal with.

Overall, I'm really happy with this device.  I'll keep it to goof around with and to take on trips when I don't want to risk taking my macbook.  I would also highly recommend this or another version of Chromebook to anyone looking for a new computer for normal daily use.  they are simple, fast, and easy.

Headphone Wishlist

Not saying I'm going to buy these anytime soon, but if money were no object these would be on the top of my list.

  • Sennheiser HD 800 S: I have always loved the clean Sennheiser sound, and these are some of their best.
  • Mr Speakers Ether C: Closed Planar Magnetic. These would be a replacement for the Alpha Dogs. They would also probably be the only headphones I would need.
  • Stax SR-009: Electro Static headphones often called "The Best Headphones".  You could also say the most expensive.  They even require a special amp to play them. 
  • Sennheiser Orpheus: I would just like to hear these. I'm not sure I would ever buy them, even if money were no object.

Headphones - cont.

Well, I was dead wrong about the Fostex T50RP not needing more power.  They will play to an ok volume without a better amp, but they sound much better when given more power.  At work I'm using the Aune X1S and I have to crank it pretty high.  At home I'm using the Schiit Modi 2 Uber, and the Schiit Magni 2 Uber.  The Magni 2 Uber has a gain switch, and the high setting is more than equal to the task.

Now I need to re-rip most of my CD collection. Too many ripped at too low a bit rate.

Headphone Obsessed

I've been obsessed with Headphones lately.  I'm a huge fan of Sennheiser.  I like the clean sound their headphones reproduce.  I recently discovered a few new sources of information, which have reignited my interest in trying different brands and types of headphones.
You can spend any amount of money on audio equipment $20, $100, $200, $500, $1500, $10000, $50000.  Generally speaking the more you spend the better things sound, but you have to go higher and higher in price to get smaller and smaller improvements in quality.  And, don't even get me started on tube amps, and Hi res music.  I'm not sure my ears can tell the differences between 44 khz and 192 khz audio.  I've taken the audio tests, and unless a track is encoded poorly, it is very difficult for me to tell the difference.  You have to listen for very specific cues to tell the differences between low and high quality mp3s even.  My ears are old and abused.

While consuming all this new information I kept seeing buzz about Planar Magnetic headphones, basically the cheaper cousins of Electrostatic headphones. Planar headphones provide a clean crisp wall of sound, they don't require special amplifiers to drive them, though they often require more power than your smartphone may be able to provide.  They are better suited to home / work listening.

One of the many companies making Planar Magnetic headphones is Fostex, a Japanese company that has been around for years.  They make a line of headphones that have been long loved by the modding community. 
  • T20RP Mk3 Open
  • T40RP Mk3 Closed
  • T50RP Mk3 Semi-Open
I purchased the T50RP Mk3 from Amazon.  I also ordered a closed pair of modded Fostex from Mr Speakers.  I love my Alpha Dogs, they are the most comfortable headphones I have every worn.  But, the cheaper un-modded headphones sound better to me.  I have not received the replacement ear pads I have ordered for them yet, which should make them more comfortable for extended listening.  I also replaced the cable they came with.  This review by Zeos provides a better description of these than mine.

However, I don't agree these are as difficult to power as he implies. They do take more power than normal cheap headphones.  But, at home I use an Aune XS1 with no trouble, and at work I use the USB powered SMSL M2.  My phone can power them to an ok listening level, but not really enough to make them loud.

Other than comfort, which you can modify, the T50RP MK3 are nearly perfect headphones. If you need fully closed headphones, the T40RP should be great.  If money were no object I would seriously consider getting a pair of Fostex TH900. Hopefully I'll be able to listen to these some day.

Oh and if you want to see something completely insane check out Sennheiser's Project Orpheus. $55,000 for Electrostatic Headphones and Amp.  Welcome to crazy town.

Sony PlayStation Network Account Frustration

Some how I managed to end up with a PSN master account with my real name as my console id. This is the public name that shows up in online games.  I don't remember setting it this way, but I can imagine thinking that I would be able to change it later.

You can't change it!  They do not allow any mechanism for changing it.  WTF!

This is the kind of thing that keeps me from ever using a service again.  I'm trying to be more reasonable than that, I just spent over $100 dollars on a PlayStation Plus membership and a new game that I can't return.

Sony has apparently said they don't want people changing their ID to prevent trolling.  But couldn't they just put a time limit on name changes. Talk about bad user experience.

So I'm having to now create a Sub Account, meant for minors, so I can use a different ID. Now's the time where I point out that Trolls could do the exact same thing.  I don't want multiple accounts where I have to lie about age.

Crazy decisions by dumb companies.

While attempting to fix all this I wiped my PS4 and now have to reinstall everything.  That was my mistake, I should have gone online first, before trying anything I could do to find what should be an obvious feature.

I now need to apologize to my wife for yelling like a madman at the PS4 last night. I haven't been that angry in a long time.

NodeJS, SailsJS, ReactJS, EJS - JS all the way down

Started a new GitHub project with a generic random name.

Say hello to creepy-squeegee.

There really isn't much to see there yet, and what is there will be changing dramatically.  I needed a place to put some training material and thought it would be good to share it.

The purpose of this app is to consolidate several code samples related to Client and Server web technologies.  Focusing mainly on Node.js, Sails.js, and React.

Feedback welcome.

Apple Watch Cont.

How are you liking it?

I'm enjoying wearing a watch again, way more than I thought I would. I have spent a bunch of time tweaking notifications to reduce distractions. I'm currently seeing:
  • Activity - more on that later.
  • Calendar
  • Email - Work and VIP
  • Maps
  • Messages
  • Passbook and Apple Pay
  • Phone Calls - I have not had a phone call on the watch yet.
  • Reminders
  • Dark Sky
  • Pedometer 
  • Slack
  • Trello
  • Twitter - DMs only
  • Paper - Facebook messages only
I'm not sure if occasionally looking at my watch is less distracting that using my phone, but I feel like I'm spending less time messing with my phone when I should be talking to people. 

I do seem to notice alerts on the watch more than on my phone.  I hate being late to meetings or really any event.  The watch really helps me know when I'm supposed to be somewhere.

I have not had anyone ask me about the watch in public. I have also not noticed anyone else wearing one.  They seem to be very rare, and I have been preoccupied with looking at peoples wrists.  The only place I have noticed them was at the Apple Store, and that really does not count.

Just Keep Moving

The activity app has been good for me.  I was already using the Step counter in my iPhone, but the watches constant nagging and reminders has really helped me be conscious of my sloth like life.  I get excited when I get one of the goofy awards on the watch.  I try to actually move around when the watch tells me to Stand, and I'm trying to exercise more to get all the rings in the activity app.

Watch Faces

For work I'm using the Modular Watch Face.  Lots of information with a prominent calendar display. I love having the timer on the watch face so I can quickly setup a timer for hot tea.

On the weekends I tend to prefer the Utility face, or the Mickey face.  I leave the Calendar display off to avoid the "No More Events" text.