WWDC 2023 keynote: My next-day lukewarm takes

Everyone is talking about the Apple Vision Pro and will keep talking about it…until the end of the week.

Here’s my list summary after watching the WWDC keynote:

  • MacBook Air 15 inch: Appears to be exactly that, the same M2 Air but with a bigger display. Price is reasonable! Keeping the M1 Air in the mine-up when it’s only $100 less than the M2 version is odd. Apple does this sort of thing a lot. Apple is odd.
  • Mac Studio with M2: Nice to see this new product getting updated. No price change on the default config, but it should still come with a 1 TB SSD standard.
  • Mac Pro: WTF LOL etc. After being very late in completing their transition to Apple Silicon because of the Mac Pro, what they released is kind of baffling. First, they re-use the Intel case from 2019. OK, no real issue there, but in terms of specs, this is a Studio with some PCI slots, a few more Thunderbolt ports and it costs…$3000 more. Also, unlike the Intel version, you can’t have separate graphics (integrated on the SoC, like the Studio) and ram is limited to 192 GB instead of 1.5 TB (!). In several important ways, this is worse than the Intel Mac Pro and unless you absolutely need PCI slots for…something (other than graphics cards), it’s a terrible value and not really expandable in the way a traditional desktop PC is. Apple should just kill the Pro, they have basically been botching it for a decade now.
  • iPadOS: The pattern is now clear: This gets one or two token new features, then last year’s leftovers from the iPhone. Apple can and should do better.
  • Speaking of better: They didn’t really show it, but Stage Manager sounds like it’s close to the state it should have been when they introduced it a year ago.
  • iOS: Some nice little things, nothing really outstanding. I think it’s due for a major redesign, but Apple is probably too conservative now to do that.
  • watchOS got a new widgets interface that look interesting. I’m not sure about devoting a button to Control Centre, considering how seldom I used it when I had various Apple Watches.
  • macOS: I had to actually edit this back in, after forgetting about the Mac completely (I am even typing this on a Mac, ironically). Again, a few nice little things added (widgets again, so Dashboard has been sort-of revived), but nothing remarkable.
  • The Home app was not mentioned and remains bad.
  • You can now say Siri instead of Hey Siri. But is Siri itself any better? They didn’t really say!
  • The Journal app1Cleverly called Journal (iPhone only) sounds kind of creepy, drawing from other apps on your phone to suggest/cajole. I don’t need my phone watching me and making suggestions on what to do or write about.
  • Craig is the only one who seems natural at presenting and obviously loves the meme-generating moments. He also has a boffo announcer-style voice.
  • The Vision Pro headset is even more expensive than the rumours suggested, at $3500. This is ultra-niche territory, and I have a hard time thinking how Apple could scale this down to something “affordable” for a non-pro version. And Apple’s idea of affordable is probably $2000, anyway.
  • The fake eyes on the Vision Pro are super creepy.
  • Apple showed nothing that came even close to a killer app for the thing. In fact, they didn’t show ANYTHING that was compelling, just “all the stuff you normally do, but now in 3D floating in front of you!” Some have suggested watching movies/TV will be the killer app, but for $3500? No.
  • The Vision Pro has two hours of battery life, which means you could watch the first two-thirds of the regular version of The Fellowship of the Ring before it dies.
  • The media is saying it’s the best VR headset out there. I mean, for $3500, it kind of better be.
  • The stuff with Bob Iger was cringy and fake. And that sweater looked weird, not causal.
  • But hey, you can now have Snoopy on your watch face.

I think Vision Pro is going to amount to a whole lot of nothing2Yes, I am ready to be openly mocked if I turn out to be completely wrong about this. It’s vastly too expensive and inessential. When Apple can shrink this down to a pair of discreet-looking glasses and cut the price by $2000, then, maybe it will become a thing. And w’re probably 10 years out from that.

Overall, lots of nice little updates and tweaks, the new hardware is fine, if unexciting (save for the Mac Pro, which they should have just sent off to join AirPower in the Apple graveyard), and the Vision Pro is, I think, going to be the first major new Apple product to not really have much impact.

EDIT: Honeybog in the comments on Ars Technica actually says some things about the Vision Pro that make sense to me. I’ve almost changed my mind. What he said is below. The Ars article is here.

I wasn’t very enthusiastic about Apple getting into AR/VR, but one thing that really impressed me with that keynote presentation was how thoroughly they made a case for using these, which is something no other company has been able to do beyond gaming. Facebook’s most compelling case was what if your employer subjected you to living in a world that was part 2006 Wii graphics and part 1984.

In some ways, Apple being able to make a case for why this space should exist is a bigger deal than the technology behind it or how many they sell.

It made me want to work on my Macbook on a plane and not have the person next to me or behind me viewing my screen.

It made me want to have a workspace with adjustable windows, have a standing desk just by standing, not have to deal with monitors.

It made me want to watch a movie on this.

It really made me want to smoke some pot, put on some music, and look through old travel photos with this.

I don’t want any of these things for $3,500, but I don’t think that matters. Apple managed to make the first non-gaming compelling case for these, and I don’t see that genie getting put back in the bottle. It’s too expensive for most people, but I think the fact that they started with “Pro” tells you everything you need to know about how this is going to get segmented. Apple is clearly starting at the high end, because they can’t afford a flop, but I have no doubt we’ll see a version below $2,000 (I think the sweet spot is $1,200) within a year or two.

How not to write a newsletter for customers of your product

UPDATE, June 1, 2023: Here's a link to the original post on Mastodon by Matt Birchler that started this. If you can't follow the link, he's updated his original post to confirm from a member of the Ulysses team that this was indeed a joke and is riffing off a previous newsletter in which Fehn had raised the ire of Musk fans by criticizing Musk:

Me just opening my newsletter for updates from my writing app:

Editing for visibility: I’m choosing to assume this is a joke that didn’t land. The Ulysses newsletter has gone off the rails recently though, so it’s all just weird.

Edit 2: got confirmation this is a joke. Apparently the Elon trolls came for Marcus recently, and this was a sarcastic response to them. Sounds like many readers didn’t have that context, and this read like a normal Elon Stan letting their freak flag fly ?

This is why you don't try to be funny in a company newsletter!

I begrudgingly use Ulysses. It’s a fine app–in some ways even a great app–but I was not pleased when it went to a subscription model and mused at the time that they would have trouble adding genuinely useful features to “justify” the sub. And I think that happened.

But this post isn’t about the subscription model Ulysses uses. It’s their choice to charge a sub, just as it’s my choice to pay for it. I grumble, but for now, I pay, as I’ve yet to find another program that does everything that Ulysses does in a way I like. What this post is about is the Ulysses newsletter the company sends out periodically to its customers. More specifically, it’s about the current newsletter May 2023), which I think is attempting some ill-advised humour that may result in them actually losing customers.

I think it’s safe to say that most people don’t love email, they tolerate it. And when it comes to newsletters, I’d also reckon a lot of people may sign up for one (no harm, no foul), but then unsubscribe when they realize the newsletter isn’t providing enough value. I have culled a lot of newsletters in the past year for this very reason!

The current newsletter, which was sent out today, is written by Ulysses GmbH & Co. founder and creative director, Marcus Fehn. He is German. Is this important? Maybe, if you think some of what I’m about to highlight can be explained by differences in language, culture and things getting lost in translation.

Hello, fabulous subscriber of our newsletter,

This is Marcus from Ulysses, and I’m about to tell you something newsworthy. But first I need to make a statement:

**I love Elon Musk**. Elon is one of my favorite people on Earth, on the Moon, and of course on Mars. He’s a great innovator, probably a fantastic lover and an overall nice guy. I wish I was as smart as him. Or just 1% as smart as him. I also love Twitter and what he has done with it. Twitter was great before Elon, and it’s much better now. It’s a haven for free speech, a civilized marketplace of ideas, and it should be the blueprint for all social media apps going forward. I also applaud it for teaching kids how to behave in public.

Marcus Fehn, Ulysses founder and creative director

There is some debate on Mastodon on whether the above is:

  • Very obviously a joke and meant to be funny (the haha kind of funny)
  • Meant to be sincere praise of Musk and Twitter

There is no debate, however, on this being a baffling and just plain odd way to start out a newsletter to customers of a subscription-based markdown writing app. If it’s a joke (and I think it is), it’s executed just clumsily enough to make people think it might be legit. You could argue that just makes it more like satire, which is like funny jokes for sophisticates. Or grumps. (I like satire.) But even as satire, this is a completely tone-deaf way to start a newsletter. As a Ulysses user, I don’t care what Fehn thinks about Musk or Twitter, unless it somehow impacts Ulysses. I get that Fehn may have opinions or just likes writing things, but starting a company-based newsletter with this is bad form all around. This is why blogs exist, Marcus!

The rest of the newsletter continues in a jokey manner, with Fehn talking about 20 years of Ulysses and “20 years of hate mail, but that’s a different story” and that he’s visiting San Francisco and will be “the one in the bullet-proof vest, just in case.” I think he’s just trying hard (too hard?) to be funny, and a lot of it comes off flat or weird. The newsletter does exude with his personality, but that again is debatable on whether it’s a plus or minus.

For me, the whole thing is weird and off-putting, and it’s made me once again start looking for alternatives to Ulysses, preferably something that works on both Windows and Macs. And isn’t Scrivener. 😛

The Arc browser

Image of Arc from The Sweet Setup

I started trying out the Arc browser a few weeks ago (it is currently Mac-only, though a Windows version is expected by year’s end), and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it.

I’ve been using it more, though, because WordPress on my own blog is choking in Firefox. I’ve checked and this appears to be an issue specific to the Mac version of Firefox, so I’m not sure how or if I can fix this.

Unlike other browsers like Vivaldi, which do basically the same stuff as most browsers, but allow for greater customization, Arc tries to do some things differently. For example, there are no tabs. Well, there are, but they are in a sidebar that houses other things, and unless you pin a tab to the top, where it changes to a small icon, it will be gone the next day. All open tabs get purged every night in an attempt to avoid going tab-crazy or something. I imagine this would drive the “100 Chrome tabs open, I don’t care if it’s murdering my computer and draining all resources” people up the wall, probably a deal-breaker. But I am not one of these people.

Still, it feels a bit disjointed to move between the pinned tabs at the top and ones below that look more like vertical tabs. There’s also no way of knowing which tabs are open, other than the pinned tab you are currently looking at will have its icon highlighted. But maybe it doesn’t matter, because you just click an icon and if the tab is already open, it’s there waiting for you. Arc seems designed around removing visual clutter–probably not a bad thing.

You can also “boost” a site, which is a weird way to describe being able to customize a site through a few simple GUI controls that let you alter the fonts, colours and also “zap” elements, in much the way the uBlock Origin extension lets you use a picker to remove items from a page. All of this works well, though the font choices tend toward being fruity and not so practical. I guess they were going for whimsy or something. Speaking of extensions, you can also install any extension from the Chrome web store, since Arc runs on Chromium. I’ve not encountered any issues with the new extensions I’ve tried so far.

There’s lots of other stuff I’ve either not looked at or have only glanced at, so can’t really comment on. You can create “spaces” like some other browsers, making it easy to segregate work and home browsing, for example. You can create easels, which are free-form pages where you can enter text, make basic shapes, add images and then share them, because why not?

As I poke around more, I’ll come back with another post to say whether I’ve become an Arc convert or decided to just put up with the buggy yet familiar Mac version of Firefox. Change is hard, but I give credit to the team behind Arc for trying some genuinely new things with the browser.

Thinking about how I use social media: A sequel of sorts

close up photography of smartphone icons
Really, I just like the Google+ icon. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As I do periodically, I had a thought. This one was about social media. There is a lot of analysis out there concerning social media. I’ve posted a bunch about it myself, including just last month. A recent U.S. surgeon general’s report on social media said it’s pretty much bad for kids, but with a few positives, which sounds like a precursor to government action of some sort. But maybe not.

Last year, I wrote about how I use social media. It hasn’t really changed in the past six months, though I do check in on Mastodon a bit more now, and check in on Instagram and Facebook less, especially since I no longer have a regular routine for doing so. I used to check them before bed on my iPad, but the blue light issue turned out to be a real thing, so I stopped with the late night internet socializing.

Now that the routine has been broken, it’s made me take another look at the two main sites I use to visit every day (if however briefly, much of the time) and think, “What am I really getting out of these?” Let’s have a look!


  • I get to see Nic’s birb photos, which are spiffy and nice. But although IG was created around posting photos, they actually look better on Facebook.
  • Tim posts sketches he’s started doing recently, including ones from a high school yearbook he found from 1960. These are great, and he only posts them on IG.
  • A gaming friend in Santa Cruz, Mike, posts occasionally, sometimes about surfing, sometimes local scenery (Santa Cruz is a pretty seaside town), and he has a dry sense of humour. He has his IG posts automagically repost to FB.
  • A metric ton of ads and reels, which I do not want to see. The reels (short videos) are especially obnoxious. I think I watched one about an airplane that was flying or doing some other airplane-like thing (keep in mind that on IG these videos autoplay as they scroll into view), and now IG is constantly shoving airplane videos into my face, no matter how many times I click on NEVER SHOW ME THIS AGAIN YOU GODLESS MONSTERS.

That’s pretty much it!


  • Mike’s posts on FB are the same as the ones on IG
  • Nic’s are also mostly reposts from IG, though he posts memes as well
  • Tim tends to post more personal stuff on FB, like photos of the family, but also memes and weird/kitschy stuff
  • A few other friends and relatives post nearly 100% memes or content they’ve seen elsewhere
  • FB also has reels, but they mercifully do not autoplay (yet). I keep hiding them, they keep showing up.
  • FB also has a metric ton of ads, and these do autoplay. I hate all of them.

To give you an idea of the ratio of ads to “content”:

On IG, it feels like about 50% ads, 30% content and 20% short videos (I’m not calling them “reels” anymore–take that, Zuckerberg!). It’s pretty awful. The one small mercy is the feed is actually in chronological order, and there’s a link to go to older posts if you missed something.

On FB, it’s about 45% ads, 45% “content” and 10% short videos or “People you may know” which also keeps popping up no matter how often I tell it to go away. Also, FB has this weird thing where it randomly starts shuffling stuff around. Old posts will suddenly come back, even though nothing has changed (no new comments/edits), while new stuff will get buried. I’ve sat back and watched the scroll bar in the browser jerk up and down for 10–15 seconds as it spazzes out. It’s both annoying and weird, but not the good kind of weird.

On balance, the only things I find especially worthwhile are:

  • Nic’s photos
  • Tim’s sketches
  • Mike’s photos

These three things form a tiny slice of what I actually see in the feeds, which are mostly ads and “hilarious” memes being reposted for the ten thousandth time (that day).

Can I go without these things I enjoy? Probably. Am I considering pulling the plug on the sites for a while as an experiment? Definitely.

I’ll probably decide in a few days whether to try it out. If I do, I’ll post my findings when the experiment ends.


Redesign hell ~or~ How not to change your blog after 18 years

I started this blog in February 2005, which means it’s 18 years old. In Canada, that means my blog can drive, vote in federal elections and join the army. It has to wait a bit longer before it can gamble.

But I don’t have to wait, and gamble I did!

Since WordPress has no easy way to work in a staged environment, when you want to make changes, you either have to go through the rigmarole of setting up a local server, or just make changes on your live site and hope for the best.

Which is what I’ve been doing the last few days.

What I have learned:

  • After 18 years, my site has accumulated a lot of legacy cruft
  • This cruft can do interesting and/or alarming things when you poke at it
  • Different parts connect in unexpected ways. Imagine if your elbows connected to your knees, it’s kind of like that.
  • Things that should work logically will often defy logic
  • Sometimes it turns out to be user error
  • More than a few times, really
  • But not always!
  • Planning ahead is a good thing to do
  • I should have planned ahead, which I did not do
  • But even just starting on this journey, I have cleaned up a lot of that cruft:
    • Old, inactive widgets have been purged
    • Outdated links and thingies have been removed
    • Legacy stuff has been converted over to blocks where possible
    • I’ve backed up all the weird CSS changes that are in Simple CSS
    • I’ve documented every weird thing I’m likely to forget
  • I’ve experimented with colours, but right now it’s just a sedate green/grey combo
  • I will actually need to figure out what I want to show up front and what will be tucked away

Currently, the site looks a lot more green. I added some nice rounded corners on the individual posts because round corners are the new hot thing. But it’s otherwise pretty stripped down and ready for more serious remodelling. This stuff takes a lot of time, so I’m not sure how quickly it will happen, but at least I’ve started.

Microsoft decides Windows users want ads everywhere, all the time

I’d been using my Mac for the past few days and didn’t realize Microsoft had updated the weather app in Windows 11. This is actually a surprisingly comprehensive and handsome-looking app, showing the kind of taste that Steve Jobs said Microsoft never had.

The updated version of the app is terrible. It’s pretty much exactly what Steve Jobs said about Microsoft having no taste–cluttered, ugly, and on top of that, it now has a large ad stuffed into it. It’s a built-in app, so it would be nice to escape ads while I’m using it. What next? Calculator sponsored by Crest? Terminal with a 10-second rolling ad before you can type anything?

Fortunately, I used my internet smarts to do the following:

  • Uninstall the odious new app
  • Download the old version and re-install it
  • Disable auto-updates in the Microsoft Store, hopefully insuring the new app will not come back on its own
  • Provide feedback through Microsoft’s handy Feedback Hub to tell them to stop stuffing ads into every corner of Windows

It’s like Microsoft has resigned itself to most people just switching to Macs, so they’re going to squeeze the remaining few for everything they’ve got with ads and monetization.

Bah. Bad Microsoft!

Here’s a shot of the new version:

Tanks for the updated app! (ho ho)

And here’s the lovingly restored old version:

Yes, it’s looking to be a tad warm this weekend

I’m posting from Linux, woo (woo?)

Today I did a cray-cray thing: I installed Linux Mint on my Windows PC, giving it 500 GB of space on my primary drive, with Windows getting the rest.

So far it has gone pretty smoothly. I haven’t had to use the terminal once!

I’m not sure why I installed it, I think I just wanted to try something different. It did drive home how much of what you do on a computer is done through a web browser, and it doesn’t really matter much what the OS is behind it.

Supposedly Linux is faster than Windows, or use less resources or something. I’ll keep trying it for a bit, and if I love it, I will marry it! Well, no. But I’ll keep it. If in the end I feel it offers little over what I’m getting with Windows 11, I’ll probably reclaim the space back to Windows.

For now, though, I’m a triple OS guy on the desktop. Such a nerd. Or idiot. We’ll find out soon enough.

A tale of failure and corruption

Tonight, I downloaded all 862 photos I took on Saturday from onedrive.com to my Mac. When I tried to unzip the resultant file, I got an Error 79 message. I know, you’re thinking, “Oh, Error 79! Right. What is that?” It basically means you have a corrupt archive, but go ahead and try a dozen typical troubleshooting steps, anyway, because surely one of these steps will fix it.


Undaunted, I then set up networking between my Mac and PC (the latter of which hosts the photos locally) and used that to access the files on the Mac as if they had been there all along.

I love technology1I mean, I do. In the olden days with a film camera I wouldn’t have had this issue because I would have taken 36 photos in total, and they would have been picked up in an envelope at a local drugstore a week after dropping the roll of film off. And if the photos all sucked? Too bad. Book another trip and try again! So this is still better, even if it had to fail utterly first..

Computer ads (and stores) of yore

From the December 1997 issue of The Computer Paper, a free publication that was all over the place in Metro Vancouver way back when:

To me, a rotary phone is ancient tech, but I remember using them. And now we’ll have people who will remember ancient tech as having to buy software to get on the internet.

Actually, I guess that still includes me, because I actually did this myself (I went with iStar).

(BTW, netcom.ca is a broken link now, and www.netcom.ca has an expired certificate that has nothing to do with what the site was back in the days of parachute pants.)

While marvelling over having to install a browser just to get on the internet and then doing so at a maximum speed of 56 Kbps (I only ever have a 33.3 Kbps modem before going to broadband), I am mostly struck by the list of retailers at the bottom of the ad where this software (remember when software came in boxes?) was sold and how most are long-vanished, proof that even tech is not immune to getting steamrolled through evolving times:

  • Future Shop: Bought out by Best Buy, shuttered for good in 2015
  • RadioShack: Effectively killed in 2005 when it became The Source and turned into a kind of Best Buy Mini (it’s now owned by Bell, boo hiss)
  • London Drugs: Still going, but computers were only ever part of their business. Fun Fact: I worked in the computer department of LD from 1999 to 2001. I was there for the launch of Windows Me. We got free copies. I ran it on my home PC for two weeks before going back to Windows 2000.
  • Staples: Still going, will probably scrape by as long as the paperless office remains a fantasy
  • Doppler Computer Superstores: I had to check to see if they actually had more than one store (the one I know was in Vancouver, across from a Wendy’s that’s still there) and I think this was the only one. The building is long gone now, but you can see it in this reddit post. I bought my first two CD-ROM games there: Myst (of course) and a disc of shovelware games. I remember the spinning racks of shovelware. You might find a low budget gem if you looked long enough, but it was mostly junk. Still, CD-ROMs seemed very futuristic in the early 90s.
  • Computer City Canada: There were seven Computer city stores in Canada and more than 60 in the U.S. before the entire chain went kaput in 1998. Fun Fact: I worked at the brand-new Coquitlam store during the launch of Windows 95, which was a very big deal at the time. We had two Compaq PCs set up running Win95, one with 4 MB of ram and the other with 8 MB, to show how much better Windows 95 was with more memory (some things never change).

And while I’m waxing nostalgic, here are some of the other stores I used to haunt regularly when shopping for computers or software that are all gone now, and mostly forgotten:

  • CompuCentre: These were in malls, and they quietly vanished without me even noticing. I’d buy the odd game here.
  • ATIC Computers: Still around, actually! I bought multiple PCs from them in the 90s. They were cheap, which was the main appeal, as I was poor.
  • Wizard Computers: I mainly went here to get software for my Atari ST. I remember buying Dungeon Master at this store, which was on Fraser Street.
  • MicroConcept Systems: Like ATIC, but not as cheap. Ran huge, multipage ads, had a business division, then shuttered.
  • NCIX: Ho ho, the store that spawned Linus Tech Tips and is probably most famous (or infamous) for going bankrupt, then auctioning off a bunch of equipment that still contained user data. Oops. I bought stuff here for years and remember the early days of Linus making videos for them.
  • Egghead Software: I bought OS/2 at the Broadway store. I barely remember running OS/2. I was a Windows guy, ultimately.
  • Software Superstore: True to its name, this massive store in Richmond sold software for every major platform (this was when there were more than two). My biggest single-day haul was picking up both Populous and SimCity for my Amiga 500. At the time, this would have cost $100 and would be apparently about $180 today. Considering some games are now costing $90, it seems both weird that prices have pretty much stayed the same and also that $90 feels like way too much to pay for a single computer game (thank you, Steam sales and indie devs!)

On one hand, I miss picking up software from these stores, because there is something about getting something tangible, something physical, that can’t be replicated with downloads. But there’s no denying the way software works now is way better. Still, it would be fun to zap back in time for a day and be able to check all these places out circa 1992.

Why am I using two to-do apps?

person marking check on opened book
Maybe pen and paper would be better–no crashes, no bugs! Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Question: Do I find to-do apps helpful?
Answer: Yes!

Question: Do I need to use two to-do apps?
Answer: No!

Question: Why am I using two to-do apps?
Answer: Because I am dumb?

I’ve been using TickTick since late 2021 and started using Microsoft To Do last year. To Do has the advantage of being completely free. TickTick does have a free version (I’ve been using it since fall 2023 after previously paying for a year).

Ideally, I just pick the one that works better for me and chuck the other. Easy-peasy!

My task list needs are not complex, so both work well to cover what I require. In the end, I think, as weird and superficial as it may seem, the best way to pick is aesthetics and UI.

Which app looks better?

To Do offers a variety of backgrounds per list, helping to make each list visually distinctive.

TickTick offers better-looking text, square checkboxes instead of circles, uses colour effectively, and lets you apply labels to tasks. The free version doesn’t let you use the calendar view (which I never ended up using), and seems to offer some limits on the mobile version, which I also don’t use.

So TickTick it is. I’ll try using just it for the next few weeks and see how it goes. If I switch again, I promise to feel both bad and dumb.