What’s in my bag – June 2017 edition

A few quick notes:

  • Laptop stand – Ergonomics are important. After years of using a laptop at a desk and bending my neck, I decided to elevate the laptop and buy a keyboard and mouse. It’s made a huge difference! This stand will elevate the laptop up to 11 inches off the desk.
  • iPad stand – The main thing I use the iPad for is sketching. After looking around a ton (and reading reviews from Ben Brooks) I decided to grab this stand. It’s perfect. It tilts the screen up a few inches and offers a great angle for using the Apple Pencil.
  • iPhone stand – Sometimes I prefer to use my iPhone for video calls. This stand works pretty well to elevate my iPhone off the desk so I can actually look into the screen when I’m on video calls.

AirPods

I’ve been curious about AirPods since they came out. I finally got my own (Father’s day gift from my wife) and have been using them all day. I love them! My previous favorite headphones were the Jabra Move Wireless (recommended by The Wirecutter).

  • The fit – I’ve never had a problem with Apple earbuds. As such these fit just fine. They don’t fall out of my ears and I’ve been walking around all day wearing them.
  • Volume – This one annoys me a bit. I love that I can double tap to pause/play, and I am glad I was able to disable Siri (I’ve had a love/hate relationship with her for years), but not being able to change the volume without talking or using my iPhone is annoying. As someone who is constantly changing between audiobooks, podcasts, and quiet/loud music, I need to be able to manage the volume. Even with an audiobook the environment I’m in will dictate how loud or quiet it needs to be. This means I’m usually raising or lowering the volume by  one or two notches every few minutes. Having to talk to Siri or use my phone to do this feels like a waste. I would love to have some way to do be able to touch the AirPods and have the volume go up and down.
  • Size – I love how they just get lost in my ears. I barely notice them. This is a huge win.
  • Auto pause – Being able to quickly pull one out and have the music stop is great. The Jabra didn’t have this feature and I’ve have to remember to press the pause button or risk having my audiobook go forward a few minutes without me.

In short I’m liking these already and plan to use these exclusively.

Deep Work – Social media break

Last month I finished reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work.

One of the things I decided to try as a result is a 30 day social media fast. On June 22 that time will be up and I’ll log back into each of my social media accounts.

Here’s a few things I’ve noticed:

  • Habit breaking – For most of the past decade I’ve had the habit of regularly checking my social feeds. At first it was Facebook (and for a while Path), then it grew to include Twitter and Instagram. I’ve now gone nearly a month without pulling to refresh. That feels freeing! I’m curious if the habit will come back quickly.
  • Awareness – I’m missing out on things that are happening with my friends and family. By default any interesting activities that people are doing will make their way onto a social network. My wife has asked me several times if I knew about something that happened in one of our friend’s lives. There’s been a few small things I just didn’t know about until she told me.
  • Facebook is big – Facebook, and everything it owns controls a lot of the internet’s time and attention. It’s been fun to know I could completely disconnect from it and the world would still continue. For a fun experiment checkout this article.

Before this I’d been working to reduce the reach of social media in my life. I unfollowed everyone on Twitter. That effectively made me stop using the service.

Facebook was a little harder, unless I want to delete my account it doesn’t make sense to unfriend everyone I know. Instead I unsubscribed from everyone on my friends list. This meant if I wanted to see an update I’d have to go to each friend’s profile. That quickly limited how much time I was willing to spend.

Overall I’m really happy with the experiment. I’m not sure of my next steps though. The main reason I want to use Instagram and Facebook is to share photos of my kids. Without that I have little reason to use them. I’ve been thinking about switching to some form of a blog and posting more curated photos of our lives. Not sure yet.

iPad Pro 10.5″ designer mini-review part 2

This is a 3 part mini-review of the new iPad Pro 10.5″. Read part 1 and part 3.

Another day, still trying to test out the new screen and see if it will work for what I need.

My biggest challenge is that I’m coming down from a larger screen. There’s a huge gap between 12.9″ and 10.5″. Over the past 6 months I’ve grown accustomed to the large real estate for sketching wireframes.

Here’s one example of how I like to use it using Fifty Three’s Paper app. I think I just need to keep playing with it for the next few days and see how it feels. I have a feeling that once I get over the feeling of losing so much space, I can then re-normalize mysel and see what makes the most sense.

So, purely looking at things from the perspective of which is better for sketching/wireframing interfaces, I’ve assembled a pros and cons list:

Pros

  • Easier to carry around – I actually find myself being ok with transporting this around the house. With the larger iPad I’d rarely move it. It belonged on a desk. This one truly feels portable, like I’d carry it with me wherever I go and be ok with using it away from a desk.

Cons

  • Sketching feels more cramped – The larger screen feels like I’m sketching on a full size piece of paper. With the 10.5″ screen I have to zoom in and out more.

This doesn’t account for the question of whether the iPad Pro could/should become my primary machine. I’m still on the fence about whether a 10.5″ screen could do that. I have more confidence that the larger one could.

I’m hoping I’ll have more clarity by next week.

Drawing and sketching apps for iPad

After nearly six months of using the iPad as a sketching machine, I’ve settled on my favorite sketching app.

I’ve tried every single one I could get my hands on, probably close to a dozen of the most popular ones (Everything from Adobe, Linea, anything from Autodesk, anything that shows up in the App Store with the word sketch, and anything I could find from searching for drawing app reviews).

In the end the one that won was the simplest. Paper from FifyThree just works for me. It only has a few drawing tools, and it’s surprising robust for appearing to have so few options. Here’s a few things I like about it:

  • Constraint in pen sizes – I’m forced to choose from a thick marker or a thin pen for my lines. And that’s it. I can’t change the opacity or thickness of the pen tool, so I’ve learned to work with it. In fact, I’ve used it so much that I know exactly what’s going to come out of the pen line. At first I thought it’d be too constricting and I tried a bunch of other apps. But at the end of the day the constraints won.
  • Simple copy and paste – Thanks to a new update, and signing up as a patron, it now supports copy and paste. Yay!

I also love the watercolor brush, fill tool and scissors.

At the end of the day I’ve grown very fond of the app, and consider it the best for what I do every day, which is sketching and wireframes. Here’s a quick sketchnote I did a few months back.